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What is Monserrate, Bogotá, Colombia?
Also known as el Cerro de Monserrate is one of my favourite spots in the whole of Bogotá! I absolutely love being high above everything and looking down to see how small things really are. Bogotá is already above sea level, so a mountain like Monserrate, is of course even higher above sea level.
Its elevated 10,341 ft (3,152m) above the sea. So, anyone who gets altitude sickness should know this in advance. Depending how badly the altitude affects you, it may cause shortness of breath, tiredness, and even dizziness.
On the mountain, resides a church that was built in the 17th century which also makes it a pilgrim destination.
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History of El Cerro de Monserrate, Bogotá
Monserrate was originally called Cerro de Las Nieves until it was baptised by people of the Muiscas faith. Pilgrimages up the mountain began in 1620 with the commencement of a shrine to Our Lady of Monserrate.
Related: Things to do in Bogotá
Within the Church is el Señor caído de Monserrate (the fallen Lord of Monserrate). This sculpture created in 1640 by Pedro de Lugo Albarracín.
Many trek to see this sculpture as it is believed to be considered a special encounter with God. The devotees therefore hope it will bring tranquillity to their difficulties and provide miracles. Here, they also pray and give thanks for their blessings. The structure of the sanctuary was finished in 1920.
How to get up to Monserrate in Bogotá?
Once you reach to the taquilla (ticket station) in Monserrate, either by bus, Uber or car, you can decide which is the best way to ascend the mountain. Also, bear in mind that you don’t have to ascend and descend the same way. Alternatively, you can book a tour to handle the logistics.
- Hike (free) – this path is 2.4km (1.5miles) which can anywhere from 50-minutes to 3-hours. This depends on your fitness level and comfort with the altitude. Unless you’re trying to beat the Guinness, world record which is 4 minutes and 26 seconds in 2012.
The elevation from the base of the mountain to the top increases by 0.6km (1,968 feet) so if you’re not used to hiking in the altitude, you can get easily winded. The hiking pathway has 1,605 steps that are big, uneven, and steep.
To get to the pathway, you can simply ask the security around. Although, if you’re standing facing the taquilla then it’s up the hill to the left.
- Funicular (train) – the funicular is quite big and holds more people as opposed to the cable car. So generally, there is less of a wait to take the train. The funicular is at a steep gradient. Which felt a bit scary at some points especially on the way down.
Although the roof is glass, it tends to be dirty which doesn’t allow you to see the view as well as expected. However, the levels are at a gradient (like cinema seats) so if it is clean, you would get a good view.
- Teleférico (cable car) – this glass box can hold about 40 people squeezed into it at one point. Because there is only one going up or down at a time, it can have a longer wait period. However, I’d definitely recommend this as the view is quite stunning, just be sure to run to the front for the best view.
Ticket Prices for El Cerro de Monserrate, Bogotá?
To buy tickets, you just have to tell them the number of tickets and if you’d like one-way or two-way. Of course, you can buy a return ticket once you have reached the top but easier to just buy both especially if there’s a line to join on either side.
A one-way ticket or “un solo trayecto” is priced at $13,000 COP (US$3.50). Otherwise, you can buy two-way or “ida y regreso” for $22,000 COP (US$6).
What to do at Monserrate, Bogotá?
- Restaurants – there are some smaller huts with snacks or proper restaurants to sit and have a meal. Casa Santa Clara has traditional Colombian foods like bandeja paisa, tamales, and grilled meats.
Monserrate Parilla is another Colombian restaurant with similar type dishes.
For something different, there is Casa San Isidro which includes French cuisine featuring dishes such as chateaubriand portobello, fetuccini de fruits de mer, and crème brulee.
Monserrate, Bogotá Restaurants’ Schedule
2. Church – this basilica (oblong building for Christian worship) is a symbol of Bogotá which can be seen when you look up at the mountains from various points throughout the city. There are daily Eucharist which as also known as Holy Communion.
Monserrate, Bogotá Eucharist Schedule
3. Sculptures – there are also many sculptures of Jesus Christ throughout Monserrate.
4. Pozo de los deseos (wishing well) – you can also toss a coin into a well and make a wish.
5. View of city – this is the best view you can get of Bogotá. I could spend hours up here just enjoying the view. The teleférico (cable car) or funicular (train) runs until 10pm so you can even get a night view if you’re up for it. Personally, I would not like to be in that area (around the center in general) past dark so I have never experienced it.
6. View of Cerro de Guadalupe – on a mountain peak right at the side of cerro de la Monserrate is this site which holds a 15-meter high statue of Jesus Christ. Guadalupe is a bit higher than Monserrate at 11,023 feet (3,360 meters).
7. Christmas lights – at the end of the year, there is a beautiful Christmas display.
8. Bird watching– In Colombia, there are more species of birds than anywhere else in the world. If you like birds, a trip here may be a great way to spot something rare.
When to Visit Monserrate, Bogotá
I would highly recommend not going at the obvious peak times of weekends and holidays when it us extremely busy. Usually, it can be a long wait on both sides, sometimes even 1 to 2 hours long. And on Sundays the wait time is even more when prices are about 50% of the original.
If you’re watching your budget, have spare time, and don’t mind waiting in line then this is a good option. However, my biggest learning would be not to go on weekends or holidays simply because any visitors I take would not have the extra time to spare.
In terms of timings throughout the year, I’d recommend not going in April or October as these months tend to be pretty rainy.
What to Wear to El Cerro de Monserrate, Bogotá?
Bogotá is usually quite cool due to its location on the Andes mountains. The weather is pretty consistent throughout the year which usually reaches to a high of 17°C / 62°F. Of course, this can vary a few degrees up or down.
Considering Monserrate is on an even higher elevation than Bogotá, it can get even chillier about 13°C / 55°F. So if you’re someone who gets cold easily, it may be best to dress in layers. If the sun is out, it can feel pretty hot so maybe a t-shirt and jeans as the base layer.
On the contrary, it can also rain so I’d suggest a waterproof jacket as well. And as with everywhere in Bogotá, walk with an umbrella. Waiting in line on both sides, have uncovered portions although it is covered as you get closer. Majority of the space at Monserrate itself is open anyway so prepare for anything.
What Else Can You Do Close By?
If you’re not familiar with the area, it can look like there isn’t anything to do as the taquilla is bordered by roads and no other buildings close by. However, if you walk down the hill at the traffic lights (Carrera 1), you will see all the street vendors selling maíz (corn on the cob), and other traditional meals.
Walking further you will reach to Journalists Park which is in the center of the city. There are many places around here including the museums – emerald, oro (gold), and Botero are the popular ones. Or if you don’t want the hassle of having to plan yourself, you can book a tour.
There is also Bolivar plaza which has many street performers and artists on a Sunday afternoon. It is very busy at this time so you have to be exceptionally careful with your belongings.
Is it safe in Bogotá?
A lot of people have the notion that Colombia is not safe, thanks to much of the shows we watch on television.
However, I lived in Bogotá for 3 years and never had a safety issue. I travelled around alone during the day however at night, I would definitely not risk it as a solo female unless it was just around the area where I lived.
Here, I knew the main street and that it was busy enough in the early hours of the night to be safe. The biggest issue, as is with any big city, is pick pocketing. The easiest solution to this is not to have anything in your pockets. I always walked around with a bag, either a backpack or a satchel bag that I would wear to the front.
The backpack I’d only wear to the front if I was in a crowded area, like Bolivar plaza on a Sunday, or the bus. I’ve written about safety in Bogotá in further detail if you want to learn more about it. I know this is a big concern for many.
El Cerro de Monserrate is a must-see if you plan to visit Bogotá. Every time I have visitors, it’s always a spot I take them to, even if they’re not religious. It’s a great way to start the day, have lunch, and have the rest of the afternoon to explore Bogotá’s city center.