Even if you’re teaching a few hours away from Colombia’s sprawling capital city, you will undeniably spend a weekend or two there. From pretty much anywhere in the city, you can see Mount Monserrate in Bogotá.
Sitting at 10,341 feet (3,152 meters) above sea level within Bogotá’s valley, Monserrate offers incredible panoramic views. The mountain and the cathedral on top are named after the Monserrat Morena Virgin, a sanctuary near Barcelona, Spain. Catholic pilgrimages to the top of the mountain began in the early 1600s and as a result, a cathedral was built toward the end of the 17th century.
What you’ll see
Because of the elevation, clouds sometimes cover the famous view. If the forecast calls for a cloudy day, it’s best to reach the top early in the morning before fog rolls in. The months where you’re least likely to run into enveloped vistas are December and January, and July and August. However, on clear and sunny days, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a Colombian sunset.
Although tourists often visit Monserrate to see the city from above, there’s also a cathedral at the peak that’s worth a look. The original chapel was destroyed by an earthquake in 1917, so you won’t see the antiquated architecture you might be expecting, but a beautiful reconstructed building instead.
One of the big draws of a visit to the cathedral is the altar statue of El Señor Caído, or the Fallen Christ. This statue was constructed back in the 17th century when the chapel was first built and is believed to bring miracles to those who make the pilgrimage. The Fallen Christ statue still brings crowds of Catholics to Monserrate. In addition to the cathedral and statue, you can check out the stations of the cross at the top of Monserrate. Despite its religious affiliation, you don’t have to be Catholic to explore everything Monserrate has to offer.
Catholic mass is still held every Sunday at Mount Monserrate in Bogota. You might want to plan your visit for another day of the week if you aren’t interested in attending, because there are large crowds of locals and tourists there for church services. Mount Monserrate is particularly interesting to me for that reason: It’s rare to find a popular site that attracts locals, other than the vendors that cater to tourists.
Nearby, you’ll find stands for souvenirs and handcrafted goods, as well as a few restaurants. As you can guess, the eateries at the very top are more expensive than other culinary options, but you might want to pay extra for the view.
How to get there
There are three ways to reach the top of Mount Monserrate, Bogota.
If you have the time and the energy, hiking to the top is awesome. Hiking is sort of a bold word here, because it’s more like climbing a huge stone staircase. This 2-mile trek takes about an hour going up, but a bit less time on the way down. It’s a great way to experience the view because you can stop and check out the city from all heights. If it’s too cloudy for impressive vistas at the very top, you’re able to snap a few photos from the highest points that still have visibility on your climb up or down.
Ride the Funicular
You can also take the Funicular, a train car that makes you feel like you’re going straight up the mountainside on a slow rollercoaster. This isn’t recommended for people who are afraid of heights, as the floor of the car shows you the landscape directly below.
Take the cable car
Perhaps the most popular way to experience the ascent to Mount Monserrate in Bogotá is the Teleférico or cable car. About 40 people can fit in one car and it only takes four minutes to reach the top. This will allow you to spend more time at the peak if you’re running on a tight schedule. The Teleférico opened in the 1950s and continues to transport interested tourists and locals alike, nearly 70 years later.
Pack your weekend bag and book a bus or train ticket to Bogotá to explore Mount Monserrate and the other incredible sites of Colombia’s capital city. The best part about teaching English abroad is the ability to travel during weekends and short school breaks, and if you’re teaching in Colombia this is a spot you should definitely add to your list of must-see places. After a week of educating young minds, you deserve to indulge in a cultural experience that includes fantastic panoramic vistas.
You might also like:
- Is it Safe to Teach English in Colombia?
- Colombia Weekend Escape: Santa Marta’s Rich History and Jaw Dropping Landscapes
- 7 Reasons to Love Teaching English in Colombia
Words by Christine Hayes.