Monserrate Mountain


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Get the best panoramic view of the city from Monserrate Mountain, Bogotá

Translated by Ross Smith — 4 years ago

Original text by Paola Villegas

In Colombia, there are a lot of things to see and to do. Because in each country, the most beautiful landscapes are seen when you go to other places, whereas in the capital, you can enjoy another type of tourism which is less ecological, less showy and a little more expensive, tourism which is more cosmopolitan. When I arrived in Bogotá, I realised that there wouldn't be so many monuments to see because the city is divided between a lot of buildings made from coloured bricks, much like my taste for the city of Washington which is where I used to live in 1999. The city is divided into sections depending on the financial situation of the people living in them. One of the things that can be visited, just like in any other city, is the historical centre of Bogotá, whose hills crown and protect the city, creating a beautiful landscape. However, there is one more attraction over there and it's ideal for anyone who wants to go for a beautiful stroll and see great panoramic views, it's called: "El Santuario de Monserrate"

Get the best panoramic view of the city from Monserrate Mountain, Bogotá

You couldn't be happier once you see the top. This view will be your first once you get to the top. How is that for motivation...?

What is the importance of Monserrate for the Colombians?

Each department is Colombia is known for something in particular. Medellín is known for its famous flowers fair in Santa Elena, Bolivar is known for the emblematic city of Cartagena de Indias and the areas of Caldas, Risaralda and Quindío are famous because they share the zone of Eje Cafetero (the Colombian coffee region), which is the Colombian symbol for the excellence and richness of their coffee. The symbol for excellence in Bogotá is the Santuario de Monserrate which is also known as "El Santuario del Señor Caído de Monserrate", which is characterised by a mountain where people can encounter faith, they can get a little closer to nature, do some exercise and at the same time, get to know more about the Colombian culture.

This place is important for the faithful because it's a place of pilgrimage for the Colombians as much as it is for other people of faith from around the world. Monserrate is to Colombia, what the Camino de Santiago is to Spain.

The most fun: climbing up Monserrate

Going to Monserrate allows you to get close to nature and with yourself, since when there are not many tourists, it's usually empty and quiet. There are three main ways to go up Monserrate: the teleférico (cable car), the funicular and by hiking. Hiking up is quite tiresome and it will take you a lot of time to get to the top, it goes without saying that at the moment, it's closed indefinitely as a preventive act so it'll be better to forget about it.

Get the best panoramic view of the city from Monserrate Mountain, Bogotá

Waiting for the funicular to come back. This is where you'll leave from to go up the mountain.

The funicular has been used by tourists for almost 80 years. The ride up is a little slow but it's deliberately slowed down so you can enjoy and admire the beautiful landscape of Bogotá, both of the city and the countryside. Going accompanied by nature is simply incredible. Its roof is made from glass, so it allows you to admire the evenings, the sky and the forest zone that you're going through with better detail.

Get the best panoramic view of the city from Monserrate Mountain, Bogotá

Once I'd finished the climb up the hill in the funicular, I wanted to take a photo when I got off from where it came out in the back.

Get the best panoramic view of the city from Monserrate Mountain, Bogotá

This is the view you will have from the funicular, a little bit before getting to the top.

I went up the hill using the funicular which was quite fast, even so, I was able to enjoy the beautiful panoramic view. You should make sure that as soon as you enter that you're the first in line so you can have a better place to sit by the windows, although the disadvantage of this is that you will be one of the last to get off the funicular. The funicular isn't for those who are scared of heights, since it's a type of cable car which is suspended by cables at an inclination of 45º - it's quite steep, but you don't feel it. It was the fastest way to get up for me, even so, I was able to enjoy the beautiful landscape.

What sort of price should I expect to pay to go to Monserrate?

If you want to pay a good price, I would recommend that you go on a Sunday when the journey is a lot cheaper than the price from Monday to Saturday. Also, consider that the price during daytime hours is a little cheaper than the price during the night, although only by a few pesos, there's really not much difference.

Cable car/funicular

The cost of 2 journeys bought at the same time is the same as two single journeys, so you don't need to hurry to buy 2 journeys thinking that they will be cheaper. You can expect to spend between $18, 000 Colombian Pesos and $19, 000 Colombian Pesos (about £5 or $6. 50USD) per person on the climb up and the journey back down again, which I, in all honesty, didn't think was that cheap for a trip which lasts around 8 minutes at most. If you're going on a Sunday, it'll cost almost half of this price - around $10, 000 Colombian Pesos (around £2. 70 or $3. 40USD).

The good news is that by paying for the transport up the mountain, you will not need to buy any extra tickets since the entrance fee to the enclosure is included.

What will we find once we reach the top?

Once you're going up, whether in the cable car or funicular, you will be able to see the vast green sheet and forest that cover Bogotá, it's simply beautiful when you finally realise that you're on one of the most gorgeous, green hills which protect the city and which you can admire from the centre of Bogotá. The main landscape is obviously the city of Bogotá, home to almost 8 million people between whom are found Colombians and a lot of tourists. Hiking up is not at all simple, there is a lot of twists and turns and you end up ascending and descending just to get to the top. Before arriving at the famous church of Monserrate, there will be some things which you will find which will make the trip up worthwhile.

Get the best panoramic view of the city from Monserrate Mountain, Bogotá

A few of well looked-after and trimmed trees which you can see at the top.

Get the best panoramic view of the city from Monserrate Mountain, Bogotá

Religious images about Christ's death are not lacking in a place like this.

Get the best panoramic view of the city from Monserrate Mountain, Bogotá

This photo is one of my favourites of the view, because I love the contrast of the flowers and the immense city of Bogotá in the background.

Casa Santa Clara Restaurant

This is an adequate place to have a romantic date or to taste Colombian food whilst enjoying the beautiful landscape at the same time. Let me tell you that at first, the façade doesn't look anything like a restaurant since it's found inside a house which was built in 1924 in Usaquén, a locality in Bogotá, and it was moved to the Cerro de Monserrate (Monserrate hill) around 50 years later.

You want some ideas of what to you can order here?

I'm going to give you so many options that you're not going to know what to order. You can try the "tamales tolimenses", coastal grouper, a barbecue of steaks or the country platter which you can still enjoy even though it's usually served in the Antioquia territory, which doesn't make up part of Bogotá. It consists of a plate of white rice, beef, pork crackling, a fried egg, plantain (which is typical of South American countries), a corn tortilla, beans, tomato and avocado. I think that this calorific, Colombian dish is usually shared between a minimum of two people seeing as it's too much for one person. Thanks to the area where the restaurant is located, expect to pay approximately $55, 000 Colombian Pesos which is about £15 or $18USD - however, this will get you a sufficient plate of food, a drink and a dessert. If you want to have a look at the menu, don't hesitate to visit their webpage which has incredible reviews. An interesting fact - in Madrid, the small dishes which you would eat as a snack or in the afternoon/midday accompanied by a sangria are called tapas, whereas in Colombia, they are known as once santafereñas or simply "onces", whether it's just a few chips or a coffee accompanied by a dessert.

The house which plays host to the restaurant is white with a tiled roof and inside it's fairly elegant. It's an experience which you definitely shouldn't miss - consider it a romantic date or a leisurely trip with your partner or friends.

San Isidro house

Nevertheless, the Santa Clara restaurant will not be the only option you'll have once you get to the top, you can also go to the Casa San Isidro restaurant. The décor is a lot different to the other restaurant, since the façade is from a colonial house from a city in the 19th century.

The menu is different, it's not Colombian, but more French. Walking up these trails is romantic and charming because you can enjoy the seasonal gastronomy and the different events which are offered throughout the year. For example, during Lent, the serve fish based menus, whilst in May and June, you can enjoy the French menu. In September, you can enjoy a delicious lobster and in December, a rich wine or champagne.

What's more recommended is going at night since it's more romantic to enjoy the lights from the city at that time and the funicular/cable car closes at midnight, so there is no way to stay up there. This restaurant has an incredible atmosphere, a guy who plays the piano or a beautiful panoramic view of the city from its terrace.

Artisanal Market

If you haven't yet done your souvenir shopping for your nearest and dearest, this will be the perfect moment to do so. Monserrate has a artisanal market where you can buy traditional things from the country to give as gifts. You will be able to find hundreds of things at a good price, although it is a little more expensive than in the city centre.

Get the best panoramic view of the city from Monserrate Mountain, Bogotá

This is an example of a Wayuu bag that I bought in Medellín. There are a lot of colours and designs that you can choose from. They are beautiful because they have a large variety of colours and they are fairly artisanal, apart from the fact that the quality is incredible.

In this area, you can find the traditional vueltiao hat, shirts or scarves with the Colombian flag on them, a sweater (just in case you've forgotten yours and you're freezing to death) or a Wayuu bag. The bag is a perfect present for any woman since it's a bag handmade by the artisans from the indigenous Wayuú town, who live in the Guajira Peninsula, almost on the border with Venezuela. These artisans have a beautiful legend of a weaving spider called Wale'Kerü who made his art before Spring; this spider taught the villagers how to weave in exchange for clothes and necklaces. Buying a Wayuú bag is not only a traditional souvenir, but it also helps the indigenous community of Colombia. I also have to say that in the airport they sell these artisanal products too, but for 3-5 times more expensive than what you'd find in Bogotá - so take advantage!

The Church of Monserrate

Get the best panoramic view of the city from Monserrate Mountain, Bogotá

This is the outside of the Church of Monserrate.

Finally, after having to choose from 2 restaurant options and the artisanal market, you will find the church of Monserrate. Arriving at the church will fill you with happiness whether you're religious or not, because the landscape will make the whole journey worthwhile. This church was founded in 1640 and from then, it has been the home to all of the millions of pilgrims and travellers who enjoy visiting the sanctuary. If you are a believer, you can attend one of the daily masses which are held at approximately midday, everyday.

Get the best panoramic view of the city from Monserrate Mountain, Bogotá

Here is the interior of the church. A simple style, small and not over-decorated like others that I have seen.

The church inside is quite conservative and has a wide space for a large number of believers, but nor is it a church which is immensely decorated, with a large dome and which has a very wide space, it's tiny and has a very colonial aspect.

Famous events: Easter week

As you can imagine, the busiest time of year to go to this church is during Easter Week, where the inhabitants of Bogotá tend to attend the church religiously from Good Friday. This tradition is very old, since it's there has been a recreation of the stations of the cross since the 19th century.

Additionally, you will see that the symbol of this place is a cross which is in the lower part of the Monserrate hill. This cross commemorates Señor Caído's descent from Monserrate on a day of prayer called "Bogotá ora por la paz de Colombia (Bogota prays for peace in Colombia) which was carried out in 1998, when Colombia was going through a crisis relating to drug trafficking.

Get the best panoramic view of the city from Monserrate Mountain, Bogotá

The cross which commemorates Señor Caído de Monserrate's descent. It's located at the foot of the hill.

Get the best panoramic view of the city from Monserrate Mountain, Bogotá

We even found a llama before going up, even though we didn't go to Peru!

Recommendations

Make sure that you're wearing comfy shoes which allow you to walk around the trails, and if it's a sunny day, wear sun-block because there is no protection from the sun up there.

Bogotá is a cold city thanks to it's altitude above the sea level, however, on arrival at Monserrate, the difference between temperatures is noticeable and you can feel quite cold, remember that it's 3152 metres above sea-level. I recommend that you wear a thick jacket.

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The one who has not gone to the mountain to take a chocolate...

Translated by Evie Quinlan — 3 years ago

Original text by Sherezada Viajera

The one who has not gone to the mountain to take a chocolate...

Monserrate

This is one of the most characteristic tourist places of Bogota (Colombia). It is a mountain located in the eastern hills of the city, it is also located in the eastern mountain range of the three that traverse around the country. It remains near the hill of Guadalupe; called this because in the highest parts there is a statue of the virgin of Guadalupe.

The Monserrate hill in its time was called this because it was similar to a hill in Spain and the Spanish conqueror, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quezada, 'christened' it. It is a place that offers a great variety of activities and it is also a point of reference for Bogota. You can see it from any point in the city so it is easy to locate yourself in terms of it.

First things first, one must say that you can go up Monserrate in three ways and each one has its own charm.

By funicular, which is a train that ascends up the mountain and has a great view of the 'Parque corredor ecológico' (ecological corridor park), a living nature that is very nice. It costs around 6 dollars for a return ticket and it takes about 15 minutes. So yes, the wait is usually quite long as it is the preferred mode of transport.

By cable car, hanging from a cable between Bogota and the hill the same way you can ascend via the funicular. This is the most expensive mode of transport as it costs 10 dollars for a return ticket and from it you can appreciate a great view of the city. During the week it is quick but on the weekends and special dates of pilgrimage it can take up to an hour of waiting as it has a maximum capacity of 12 people and there are only three cars available.

These two modes of transport have the same timetable: they run from 8 am until 6:30 pm. On special dates the cable car is open until midnight but one must find out in advance, buy the return tickets as a single trip is not sold at the bottom of the hill. Also, one must take into account that at some times during the month they do maintenance work on the funicular or cable car so they are not in service. The following page is very useful For this information (click here for information), which is kept up to date.

The one who has not gone to the mountain to take a chocolate...

The third mode of transport is the stairs, which you can walk up by foot. The truth is that I have only gone up the funicular once and once by the cable car in my life. The other times I have always gone by foot because for me it is the best way. Lots of sportsmen also use it for training. There is a mix of sportsmen, pilgrims and ordinary people on the track who want to enjoy the experience.

The one who has not gone to the mountain to take a chocolate...

Whilst you are going up you can enjoy the nature of the natural corridor. Furthermore, during the ascent on the stairs you can find shops with typical foods: tamale (a traditional Mesoamerican dish made of masa or dough, which is steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf), chocolate with arepa (a type of food made of ground maize dough or cooked flour prominent in the cuisine of Colombia and Venezuela), breads, almojábanas(a type of bread made with cuajada cheese and corn flour) and the most traditional of all: a refreshing chicha (a fermented or non-fermented beverage usually derived from grains, maize, or fruit), which is very good at clenching the thirst during the climb.

All of this food is cheap and nutritious, that being said, one must take care if they have a sensitive stomach because it can be quite heavy.

If you are climbing up by foot it is recommended that you follow the marked path for the stone stairs. Lots of people venture off it to enjoy the nature more and can get to know the hills more but it is dangerous since sometimes there are robbers.

You can climb up by foot and then go down in the funicular as you can buy a ticket at the top, but you cannot go down via the cable car since they do not sell a one way ticket.

The Monserrate hill has a very important cathedral for Catholicism. It was built by the Indians who carried stone by stone up the hill on their backs. Inside the cathedral there is a statue of Jesus called 'Señor Caído de Monserrate' (fallen Lord of Monserrate). It is an image of Jesus when falling down for the third time, made out of wood in the 16th century by Pedro Lugo and Albarracín.

There is a special mass that occurs in this cathedral, with the blessing of water and scapulars for the sick as there are a lot of beliefs surrounding Señor Caído de Monserrate. One of these beliefs, which is the one that attributes the healing powers, but only for those who strive, so there are pilgrims or people who climb with their sick parents via the stairs in order to ask for healing from Señor Caído.

Also, you climb the stairs to carry out the promises of those who have been cured by professing some sort of adoration. There is a special pilgrimage that consists of climbing all of the one thousand and thirty four stone steps on your knees, in order to show your gratitude. Another form of pilgrimage was to go down the stairs on your back but this resulted in lots of accidents and the pilgrims sometimes carried people on their backs and there were occasionally bad accidents, therefore, it was prohibited.

The one who has not gone to the mountain to take a chocolate...

There is also an urban myth regarding the statue of Señor Caído de Monserrate, which says that it is impossible to go down with the statue upon your shoulders. There have been various attempts to descend with it upon ones shoulders to place it in other churches, but whoever loads it upon their shoulders complains that the statue weighs more with every step that they take as they move away from the church towards the point of arrival, making it nearly impossible to carry. The last attempt made was in the 80's and was unsuccessful.

There are many things to do up there besides attending mass or seeing the statue of Señor Caído. The preferred plan is always to enjoy the best views of Bogota and on occasions you can enjoy the view of the clusters of clouds that differ over the whole city. It is especially beautiful during the Christmas period as the whole city is illuminated; this period is recommended for amateur and professional photos.

There are also two gastronomic restaurants up there that have terraces looking over the mountains, a wonderful experience. In these restaurants you can order typical food of Bogota and they also offer international food. A special recommendation is the Bogota ajiaco (a soup typically made with chicken, three varieties of potatoes, and the Galinsoga parviflora herb), the 'aguapanela'(an infusion made from panela, which is derived from hardened sugar cane juice) with cheese and the garlic trout; these dishes are delicious. The dishes have an average cost of 20 dollars and it includes tip and service.

However, as you walk down the part behind the church you will arrive at a corridor where there are lots of 'comederos' (canteens), which is the word that is used to define restaurants of a more popular atmosphere. There they make typical dishes like tamale, caldo de costilla (delicious soup made with beef ribs, potatoes, carrots and herbs), changua (a typical hearty breakfast soup), bread with chocolate, chorizo, piglet and much more.

The food is delicious and very cheap at one or two dollars for a dish, even if the tables and chairs are communal. The tables are large planks bordered by equally as big planks where everyone sits down to eat. Therefore, you could end up accompanied by lots of people that you do not know, so for those who love meeting new people or are searching to practise their Spanish, this is the ideal atmosphere.

The most typical food for a climb up Monserrate is chocolate with a tamale or with bread and since it is very cold this is a very good way to acclimatise your body.

If you continue down this corridor you will find a pleasant pedestrian path to walk on for a bit in the middle of a forest. I recommend that you do not go off the path or at least remain very close to it. This area is dangerous because there are dangers of sliding. The ground is very loose sometimes and it is easy to get lost as there are no points of orientation and you can get mugged by some animal.

Personally I love the idea of carrying some food with you to eat and putting together a picnic for the little forest, it is delicious and relaxing.

On this path you can also watch the planes take off and with good cameras you can photograph the process as the Monserrate hill lies just in front of runway number one of the International airport of Dorado (Bogota). Also, for this reason, there have been incidents in the past where the planes have not taken off with sufficient speed or they do not gain enough altitude they have crashed into the mountains. The last accident was in the 90's when a plane of passengers crashed straight into the mountain as it could not gain enough altitude.

On one side of the church you will find an artisan market where you can buy backpacks, hammocks, wooden carvings and lots of different images of Señor Caído de Monserrate, there are cups to drink liquors and many other things. The prices vary, from simple handles of 1 dollar to handmade paintings on canvas and faces carved in wood on request at 100 dollars. That being said, one must negotiate the price as the vendors will usually ask for a lot more money than they are actually worth. I think it is like this in all touristy places.

Perhaps one of the biggest urban legends of Bogota is of a couple who climbs Monserrate together or marry or separate, as it is a good option to break up and also a place where lots of people have proposed. If you are thinking about it, it is an excellent place as it is very romantic.

The last recommendations: one must go with a good coat as it is very cold and there is a lot of wind. During the rainy season if is possible you should wear impermeable clothing as there is nearly always a breeze. Apply sunscreen with a minimum factor of 50 if you are going up via the stairs because although it will be cold the sun will remain strong on the mountain, especially if you are not accustomed to it.

If you do not like crowds avoid going on a Sunday morning as this is the most famous hour of mass, the first two weeks of Christmas, Easter week and new year as these are the periods of the most pilgrimages and there are lots of people.

I only hope that you visit there and you enjoy the activities!

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A panoramic of Bogotá

Translated by Sophie Patman — 3 years ago

Original text by Erik Falcon

Monserrate Hill is one of the main tourist destinations of this city, both because of the panoramic view and because of the sanctuary which is located at the top. It is undoubtedly one of the places you cannot miss. Let's start with what's important:

How to get up?

The place is so touristy that there is a cable car that constantly goes up and down, ticket sales are until 10:30pm and the cable car timetable is from 6:30am until 12:00am. However, there is also a staircase which pilgrims use during religious celebrations, as they say, 'on their knees'. When I went to these stairs they were shut for security reasons, I imagine that there is constant information about when they can be used.

A panoramic of Bogotá

The price varies if you want to go at night, in the day, in the week, on Sundays or during festive periods. Also, there's the option to buy a single or return ticket (which is the only option if the stairs are shut). For this reason, it is better to look on the website (certainly very dynamic and entertaining) and look carefully as to what you prefer.

What is there at the top?

As I did, you may arrive thinking that it is only climbing a hill, taking photos and going down again, but the hill also contains restaurants, a sanctuary and a few food stalls. Let's start with the sanctuary:

A panoramic of Bogotá

It also has a specific timetable and it is best to check the webpage in advance to avoid disappointment. Inside the sanctuary is the image of a black Virgin, or better known as La Moreneta and it is traced back to the Spanish conquest in Bogotá, since the Virgin is the Patroness of Catalonia. In my opinion, the sanctuary was not anything out of the ordinary, maybe because there are many in these countries and as a Latin American I have spent a great deal of my life exploring them.

At the end, after coming out of the sanctuary and walking through the food area, you can find delicious dishes at a good price.

A panoramic of Bogotá

In the photo: Caraijllo (coffee with liquor) and Canelazo (tea with cinnamon liquor)

Something which caught my particular attention is the use of two plastic cups instead of one of polystyrene, and the straw which separates these two glasses so you do not burn ourselves.

A panoramic of Bogotá

In the photo: Chunchullo with creole potato (for the Mexicans like intestine tapas)

For people with more delicate stomachs and palates, there are two restaurants in which you can enjoy a lovely view, but inevitably it costs more. In the gastronomic area, dishes range between 8 thousand and 12 thousand Colombian Pesos.

Finally, this is the panoramic area with very beautiful views.

A panoramic of Bogotá In the photo: a panoramic view of the areas behind the Monserrate Hill. A panoramic of Bogotá

In the photo: a view of Bogotá's skyline with the highest Colombian tower under construction.

Conclusion

The Hill is an unavoidable tourist destination, not only for its beautiful views, but also because it does not have crazy prices that jeopardises the budget of your trip. The ideal time to go would be to watch the sunset, or a bit before to get the best cable car price, eat there, see the sanctuary and see the sunset before going down.

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