Monserrate is one of those iconic tourist sites of a city that when you visit it, you understand why it’s mandatory to go. It is a place where you can appreciate the immensity of the city, buy souvenirs, eat, drink and experience one of the oldest traditions in the capital. This article will tell you why.
When you visit Bogotá, you definitely need to plan a visit to the “Cerro de Monserrate.” Bogotá has a natural eastern border called Cerros Orientales, or the Eastern Hills in English. On one of these hills, near the city center, you can find a beautiful spot, surrounded by nature, where the sanctuary of Señor Caído de Monserrate (Fallen Lord of Monserrate) is located, a place of pilgrimage to the top of the capital that will take your breath away, and I’ll tell you everything you need to know about this place.
1. How to get there
Monserrate is 3152 meters above sea level (Bogotá is at 2,640 meters), but don´t worry, you have different options to get there. First, you will probably need to take a cab or a bus to get there. The address for the entrance is Carrera 2 Este #21 – 48. You can check out this article “Transportation in Bogotá: Basics for Navigating the City!” for more information about transportation in the city, or “How to Get Around Bogotá? The three MUST HAVE Apps!” can also be helpful for your trip to Monserrate.
Once you arrive, you can go up by cable car or funicular railway for an easy and fast ride. The cable car and the funicular both are open from Monday to Sunday (Mon-Sat from 6:30 a.m to 11:30 p.m, and Sunday from 5:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m) and they both cost the same, $10,000 Colombian pesos one way (USD $3.30) ($20,000 COP round trip – USD $6.60). My personal recommendation is that you go up on the funicular railway and then go down on the cable car. This way, you can experience both, and also, the funicular normally has a shorter line to go up.
There is another way to go up: walking, rather hiking, if we’re being honest. A lot of locals hike up to exercise or to follow through on a promise made to the Fallen Lord; some even go up on their knees! By walking, it will take about an hour to get to the top. If you decide to climb, I recommend you wear comfortable clothes, obviously, and not to do it as soon as you get to the city. Bogotá is already pretty high in altitude and of course this hill is even higher, so you can get tired very fast and suffer altitude sickness, so try to first accustom your body to Bogotá and then go for it! You can hike up and then relax on the funicular or cable car going down; you will have earned it! If you decide to walk, it is better not to go alone for security reasons. Go in the morning because the walking path closes at 1 p.m. and take sunscreen, to avoid a red face the rest of your trip.
2. The church
So now, what is all the fuss about this hill, right? First of all, you will be surrounded by nature, you will breathe pure air, and you will be able to see how big and gorgeous Bogotá is with a perfect panoramic view. But, besides this, the main attraction of this hill is its church. The current sanctuary was completed in 1925, but there was a previous hermitage from 1657, so it has been a place of pilgrimage for many years. In this sanctuary, we find the statue of the “Señor Caído de Monserrate,” the image of Jesus when he falls from carrying the cross, where many people will ask for things and give thanks for fulfilled requests. In addition, there is also a replica of the Virgin of Montserrate, identical to the one in the Monastery of Montserrat in Barcelona, Spain.
Over the years, this place has become a popular place for locals and tourists and not just a place for pilgrims, so you will also find an area where you can buy handcrafts and souvenirs from Colombia. To the right side and around the outside of the church, you will see a corridor where you will find an explosion of colors and Colombian souvenirs, from keyrings and magnets to vases, hats, ponchos, and everything you can imagine.
I recommend that if you go with the intention to buy gifts for your loved ones here, take money in cash, since it is uncommon that they will accept cards and there are no ATMs up there. Also, since it can get crowded, try to have your personal objects close to you and be aware of pickpockets.
4. Food and beverages
And, of course, what is a tourist site without being able to taste typical food at the same time, right? Here, you can try snacks, but also sit and enjoy a typical dish, like ajiaco.
There are two restaurants: San Isidro House and Santa Clara House. Santa Clara has a menu of typical Colombian dishes. It’s a beautiful white house where you can try bandeja paisa, seafood dishes from the coast, ajiaco, typical desserts, and many other options from Colombian gastronomy. This restaurant is more for lunch, since it’s open from Monday to Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays until 4 p.m. On Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, they are also open from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. for breakfast. In this restaurant, the average is $57,000 Colombian pesos per person ($18 USD).
Santa Clara also has a cafeteria, called Santa Clara Café, where you can try typical snacks from Bogotá: the “onces santafereñas,” hot chocolate with cheese, pastries, and tamales. You definitely have to try them all. The cafeteria is open is from 10 a.m. to 10 a.m. from Monday to Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
On the other side, the San Isidro House is an amazing colonial house with a more international menu that changes every season. In this restaurant, you can enjoy different meats, seafood, salads, good wines, and many other dishes that will surprise you. It’s the perfect location for a romantic date night with Bogotá at your feet! This restaurant is open Monday to Saturday from 12 m. to 12 p.m. This restaurant is a little bit more expensive than Santa Clara; you can spend an average of $95,000 Colombian pesos per person ($30 USD).
In addition to these restaurants, you will find some simple stalls with typical Colombian snacks, such as breads and empanadas, and hot drinks, such as hot chocolate, fruit infusions, coca tea for altitude sickness, and even canelazo, a hot preparation made with brown sugar, water and typical anise-flavored liqueur, in case you need something stronger for the cold.
© Photograph by lJuan Carlos Pachón
5. Last tips
Since we clearly established that Monserrate is a mandatory place during your trip to Bogotá, here are some last tips. Try to climb wearing warm clothes, the climate in Bogota is quite cool and on the hill it can be colder especially because of the wind. If you come in December, I recommend going up at night, since the Christmas lighting is to die for. Even if you go up on the funicular or cable car, it is better to go in comfortable shoes, because up there you will have to go down, go up, and walk a bit to see everything. And above all, make sure your phone is charged because you will want many photos!
And as a last curious fact, the legend says that if you go up with your partner, your relationship will end soon, so do you dare to go up? (Please do … You will not regret it, and if you end up breaking up, it was not meant to be, don’t blame the hill!).
Would you want to go here? Do you want to know more about touristy places in Bogotá? Share your questions with me and go to our website and find everything you need to know before coming to this amazing city I call home.