MONSERRATE ON THE HILL
One of our final stops in Bogotá was one that almost all tourists visit, the Cerro de Monserrate, even if they are just spending a few days in the Colombian capital. In the Cordillera Oriental (Eastern Mountain range), high above Bogotá, rests a church that is visible from most areas of the city. The church is a favorite destination for tourists and locals alike as it easily accessible and it provides a spectacular view of the city of Bogotá. The elevation of Monserrate, 3,127 meters above sea level (m.a.s.l.), isn’t quite as high as that of the monument of the Virgin of Guadalupe at 3,317 m.a.s.l. (see our previous post about this marvel), but the view from the grounds of the church is nonetheless breathtaking.
There are a few different ways that you can get to the church of Monserrate, depending on your physical condition, your amount of daring, the time of day and the size of your wallet. The two most popular ways are to take the Teleférico or the Funícular. The Teleférico is a cable car that usually runs only during the evening hours and it brings you all the way up the mountain to the Monserrate sanctuary. Choosing this method you will be dangling from a cable while you ascend the mountain. This seems like a great deal of fun for most, but may not be for everyone. The Funícular is a bit similar to the Teleférico in that you are brought up to Monserrate by mechanical means. However, this mode of transport is actually a small train that operates on a nearly vertical track ascending up the side of the mountain at a relatively slow speed. The Funícular usually rides only during morning and afternoon hours. It is a railcar that holds approximately 40-50 passengers and has windows all around providing scary, yet amazing views during the ascent. On the Funícular ride, the railcar passes through a tunnel that is carved out of the side of the mountain. The ride through the tunnel is pretty spectacular. The third route up to Monserrate, and the cheapest since it is free, is taking the long, winding trail up the side of the mountain by foot.
The trail up the side of the mountain is only advisable during weekend, daytime hours, as the larger crowds of people help to increase the safety of this route. We were told that on weekdays, when the trail is less crowded, muggings have been known to occur. We visited Monserrate on a Wednesday afternoon, so we chose to avoid taking the hike up the mountain. Also, to our disappointment, the Teleférico was undergoing its scheduled maintenance and would not be open for passengers for several weeks. Therefore, the choice to ride the Funícular up to Monserrate was practically made for us. We took an Uber to the Funícular station, located several kilometers from our apartment in Bogotá. The Uber driver, Yilver, was very friendly and he picked us up in his Chevy Aveo. The ride cost us 8,800 COP, just less than three US dollars.
During the maintenance of the Teleférico, the Funícular, which normally only runs mornings and afternoons, ran day and night. The prices of the Teleférico and Funícular are identical, running at 10,000 COP per person, per direction, costing a total of 40,000 COP for round trip rides for both of us. That was equivalent to roughly $13.50 in USD, making it one of the more expensive excursions we did in Bogotá. The Funícular was quite fun for us, affording us the opportunity to take a nearly vertical train ride up through a tunnel on the side of the mountain, which was worth cost of the ride on its own.
The Cerro de Monserrate (Hill of Monserrate) was not only home to the church that is visible from most locations in Bogotá, but it also featured amazing landscaping, many different varieties of flora, several souvenir shops, a plethora of vendors selling typical Colombian foods, fountains, gardens, lookouts, a series of paths that displayed the Stations of the Cross and expensive restaurants overlooking the city. While the church and its accompanying chapels were quite beautiful, they paled in comparison to many of the more elaborate and ornate churches that we have seen scattered throughout Bogotá. Truthfully, after seeing so many churches in Bogotá, the Santuario del Señor de Monserrate seemed quite plain and uninteresting. However, the exciting ride up the mountain, the breathtaking views from the church, and the beauty of the area surrounding the church certainly made our journey to Monserrate a quite amazing and unforgettable experience.
Some of the amazing views of Bogotá from Cerro de Monserrate:
Some of the other interesting places surrounding the Santuario del Señor de Monserrate:
After our visit to Monserrate, we decided to walk all the way back to our apartment. On the way back home we encountered a falafel vendor in the plaza by Universidad de los Andes:
While we sat scarfing down our falafels we saw a police officer let this young gentlemen ride on his Segway! Adorable!
Stay tuned for more adventures from SAK and JAC!!!