We’re closing in on Christmas in Colombia (my first) and it’s starting to look like it’s a pretty big deal. We already looked at Medellín’s Christmas Lights, but even I was struck by how early things get going in Bogotá. Lights are adorning the major parks and commercial areas and houses are increasingly likely to have a Christmas tree poking through the window. 12 days of Christmas? Try 12 weeks.
With that said, it’s nice to be getting into the spirit of things and the lights are amazing – and this is just the start. Last year Marcela wrote an article about the Christmas lights in Bogotá, and we’re re-visiting that in anticipation of this year’s extravaganza. Over to you, Marcela:
It’s that time of the year again and I’ve been meaning to relive one of the many special Bogotan traditions: to visit Monserrate the tallest and most well known mountain that frames the city of Bogota. During December visiting Monserrate is especially beautiful because of the Christmas lights that decorate the whole mountain and the church that lies on top of the crater of our now dormant volcano that has become a symbol of our city.
We just got back from a trip to the Galapagos Island and when we left the airport and started heading east I could see from far, far away how amazing Monserrate looked with all its Christmas lights. They made it even easier to spot from almost everywhere in the city.
Next day I didn’t get there at sunset as I suggested in my things to do in Bogota post, but managed to park at around 8:30 after waiting for about 30 min to find parking space. I didn’t realize how popular this little Christmas tour was until we got there to find loads of families, couples and friends queuing to buy their cable car tickets.
We meet a couple of friends, bought our tickets (COL$17000 – US$9) and up we went. The ticket allowed us to go up in the funicular and down on the cable car which are both a great experience and an excellent opportunity to enjoy the best view of Bogota. (UPDATE: You can now walk up some stairs! – Paul) Up there people were happy and all amazed to find thousands of little bulbs in flowers and star shapes and also to find a three Wise Kings beautifully lit up.
There was a wonderful atmosphere with kids running up and down the coble stone pathways and although it was a bit cold that didn’t stop us or everyone else from walking around taking loads of photos and enjoying the beautiful scenery of Bogota at night.
We headed towards the back of the church to where the Monserrate market is. As we approached and started climbing the last set of stairs we were welcomed and enchanted by the delicious aroma of Canelazo. Canelazo is a local cocktail made of melted Panela (natural whole cane sugar in blocks), cinnamon and a shot of Aguardiente – one of our local drinks that is very similar to tequila. A glass of Canelazo will definitely keep you warm… exactly what we needed, what a bliss!!
After having a little chat with the kind man that prepared our canelazos we kept on walking through the market. Here you can find all sorts of Colombian souvenirs, t-shirts, hats and food. Right at the end of the market we were greeted by a very friendly Paisa (paisas are native of Medellin and the Coffee area of Colombia) who invited us to his little restaurant and gave a tester of the food that was being cooked there.
We couldn’t resist and decided to carry on with the Bogotan traditions and have some of the local delicatessen, a must if you visit Monserrate. We ordered Chocolate Caliente (hot chocolate) with cheese, Almojabanas (type of bread made with corn flower and cheese), Tamales (a corn based dough mixed with vegetables and meat, wrapped in plantain leaves and steamed) which not only had a very homey and delicious taste but it happened to be very cheap. The whole meal for the four of us was about COL$36.000- US$18.
Having paid our bill we started heading back to the cable car to go down to Bogota. On our way back we couldn’t help to stop one more for a final shot at Bogota… it’s just too nice.
It was a fantastic night out, catching up with friends and a must if you are planning a trip to Colombia and Bogota or if you are already here and happened to read this post before the 10th January where all the Christmas lights will be out and put away until next year.
Marcela (and Paul)