I’m over the idea of getting thrills from Bogotá because it feels daring and dangerous to go there. Bogotá is exciting in its own way. Not everyone is bowled over by it instantly, but that’s what I like about it. I’m not much into standard sightseeing and, despite two visits, I still haven’t even been its famous Gold Museum. However, I love the music, the literature and the general creativity of the people, and I am sure the climate (warm to chilly, with regular rain) is conducive to this cultural scene. I also like how the best places you find often feel “local” and “underground”, because tourism is still so nascent. On my recent trip, I was often the only tourist – or one of very few – in most places, which is a huge contrast to Buenos Aires.
I’ve tried to get this point across in a profile of the city published in Saturday’s Guardian. Although it was included in the Gap Year Special – as “the best backpacker city” because this is still where most of its market comes from – it was written to appeal to a wider market. I think Bogotá is finally about to break through into the “city break” territory. It could do with a few more decent hotels (again the contrast here with Buenos Aires is huge), but it’s not far off. And I miss the food already, especially this prawn dish from Mini Mal, as featured in the article.
Proof that it’s “not quite there yet” as an aspirational destination comes from the fact that the few decent hotels it has still mainly cater to the business market (although this doesn’t have to mean sterile and without flair: see the new Hotel Avia 93). However, this means weekenders can cash in as rates drop outside of the working week.
Bogotá is definitely an exciting place to go as a travel writer because it is evolving fast and, generally speaking, poorly covered. I was secretly quite pleased to find the Lonely Planet had missed many of the places that became key to this piece and other pieces I am still writing.
The wider truth is that some major travel sections still refuse to cover Colombia. I’m pleased the Guardian is more open-minded and the interest is certainly there, as I have had more feedback from readers than usual. Let’s face it, a lot of this does come down to its dangerous past. Foreigners are intrigued by it, while locals are grateful to anyone who manages to present it for what it is today and not mention the “c” word every few minutes.
If anyone knows any decent local knowledge websites or blogs that cover Bogotá, please let me know. There must be some. I’m also interested in good hotel tips for future reference. With little information available, I found myself sporadically calling on the taxi driver to pull over whenever a hotel sign caught my eye. That’s how I discovered Alma de Bogotá, which is a great little place and just a stone’s throw from those prawns at Mini Mal.