As this past Monday was a holiday here in Colombia (as it seems every other weekend is sometimes!) I decided not to sit around sleeping off the inevitable novelty-Sunday-party hangover, but do some research for this blog instead (so professional!), and enjoy a day at one of Bogota’s most beautiful tourist attractions; the José Celestino Mutis Botanical Gardens (Calle 63 # 68-95).
Located right next to Parque Simon Bolivar, Bogota’s premier green space, the gardens are a fantastic resource, and are Colombia’s largest botanical gardens. They feature plants from every altitude, region and climate in Colombia; and if you read this blog even a little bit, you’ll know that that’s a lot of altitudes, regions and climates (we do tend to go on about that a bit…hey, it’s relevant!).
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: who is José Celestino Mutis, I hear you cry?! Well, I can tell you…José Celestino Mutis was born in Spain in 1732, and in 1783, he headed a Royal Botanical Expedition to the Kingdom of New Granada (including the now-Colombia). They discovered and described over 6,600 new species of flora, making it one of the 18th centuries’ most important scientific expeditions. He went on to reside in Bogota, where Alexander von Humboldt visited him in 1801, and where he died, aged 76, in 1808. Mutis is therefore known as one of the most important scientists in the history of the Americas. Fun fact: as well as this garden, he has given his name to an airport in Bahia Solano (in the Choco) and a species of orchid (mutisia), and his image appeared on the old Spanish 2,000 peseta banknotes.
But I digress; back to the Botanical Gardens! Perfect for a half-day visit on a sunny morning or afternoon (perhaps combined with Parque Simon Bolivar or Salitre Magico theme park for a full day-out), they are full to bursting with examples of Colombia’s stunning flora, both in outdoor and indoor displays. The garden is largely divided into regions, with the paramo area a personal highlight. Another highlight is the extensive greenhouse network in the center of the gardens; full of more humid climate plants, including a beautiful rainforest room, complete with Reina Victoria waterlilies.
It’s not just plants either; I spent a good amount of time observing the many lovely bird species that call this garden home. Bursting, as it is, with exotic flowers and trees, means that the garden attracts an impressive array of hummingbirds, flowerpiercers and tanagers. Their bright colors and beautiful song gives an added dimension to your surroundings; it often genuinely feels like you’ve escaped the city (no mean feat for a city as expansive as Bogota). The only real clue is that the gardens lie on the flyover of the El Dorado airport (although you quickly learn to forget about this).
With special events regularly scheduled, such as the orchid exhibition that was going on during my visit (check their website for updates), and an excellent selection of activities for kids, as well as a nice cafe, the gardens are a good addition to any visitor’s Bogota itinerary. And at a cost of just 10.000 COP for adults and 7.000 for children, it’s an inexpensive day-out at that!
So, grab your binoculars and best horticultural field-guide and head over. Or, to be fair, you could just grab an ice-cream and have a nice stroll. Both are equally acceptable! Just go and take a look at the José Celestino Mutis Botanical Gardens next time you find yourself in Bogota, it’s well-worth it!