Note: my bike tour was free in exchange for this review.
I recently took a fun and informative bike tour of Bogota. Aside from seeing lots of the city, the tour guide explained each site’s significance and historical background. Bike tours are a great way to see a city because you can see more in less time. And it’s exercise.
The business owner Mike is an American expat in South America for years working as a freelance journalist. See his 2007 article in the San Francisco Chronicle on Colombian kidnappings. Juan was my tour guide, a nice guy. He also works for a human rights organization, spending a lot of time in Ciudad Bolivar. He lightly injects his socially-conscious commentary into explanations of the city’s sites and their societal context.
The longest tour they offer is the Simon Bolivar park tour. That park is only a mile or so from my apartment and hosts the annual Rock al Parque, the biggest rock concert in Latin America.
The tour starts at Plaza Bolivar, the city’s central plaza featuring the Presidential Palace, Congress, and Supreme Court. After the plaza we rode west to Parque Tercer Milenio. This park was built in 2003 on what was the city’s most dangerous neighborhood, El Cartucho. The city razed El Cartucho and replaced it with a police station and a big park. The park is now home to displaced Colombians. Thousands of Colombians have been displaced from country pueblos by FARC and paramilitaries, and they come to the city with nothing. They build tents in this park to live in. There’s a huge tent city right out in the open.
Our next stop was the Plaza de Toros – the bullfighting ring in Bogota. Juan explained there are protesters against animal cruelty, and that he’s often among them. Both Juan and Mike are anti-bullfighting. I, on the other hand, am dying to see one 🙂
After the bullring we hit Parque de la Independencia. It’s named Independence Park because Colombia’s liberation from Spain was planned there. The park features a planetarium, the modern art museum, and more.
After these sites, we rode freely up La Septima (Carrera 7) without cars because of Ciclovia. Bicyclists have free reign on that side every week.
Further up La Septima we stopped at Parque Nacional, which had a public aerobics dance. Everybody parked their bikes and Juan kept watch. There was a large stage with instructor, speakers, and a crowd of over 200 people dancing aerobics. Grown men made up about half the crowd. The American girls gushed over how cool this was and how they wish their city had something like it. Juan said something to me like, ‘Isn’t this cool?’ And I said something like: Naw, dawg. In my country don’t no grown-ass man do no cott-damm aerobics class, dude.
We passed Chapinero to stop at a beautiful park around Calle 76. After taking pictures we went to Usaquen. After three months in Bogota I was completely unaware of this upper-class neighborhood featuring an artisan crafts market, bars, and restaurants. We also went to a cemetery.
After Usaquen we headed west to Carrera 11, turning south on the bike path and passing through Zona Rosa. We continued south into Chapinero, turning west at Calle 67. The girls noted how quickly Chapinero turns to shit after crossing Avenida Caracas. Juan warned us we’d be going through a small dope spot, but that it’s relatively safe during the day. I regularly pass through 67 and 24 to go shopping at 7 de Agosto, which is an ugly dope spot. We whizzed past.
We worked our way south to Calle 63, which we took to Simon Bolivar park. It was nice to see grass for miles. And there’s a huge lake.
After hanging out for a while, we started the long trip back to La Candelaria. Nearing downtown, Juan warned that we’d be passing through the Zona de Tolerancia (Santa Fe) – the main red light district of Bogota. It wasn’t dark yet, but a lot of prostitutes were already on display.
We got back to the shop around 6 pm. The tour started around 11 am so everybody was beat.
I highly recommend the tour. See Bogota Bike Tours and Rentals.
I grew up in Belgium riding bicycles everywhere, and I’d love to have one here, but I just don’t know if I want to navigate Cusco traffic on a bike. I don’t want my death certificate to say “killed by a Tico”.
your blog post is very detailed!! … i should be linking your blog to mine! hola from panama city!
p.s. love the shout out we got for gushing over the aerobic exercising in the park. you need to try it out! hehe.
got a good belly laugh out of “killed by tico”
here in my city (cleveland ohio) it’s so easy to ride in the streets. I do it all the time. However I average 20 mph. Downhill I hit 30 mph very often and i go about 25 when i bike with the wind. There is no way I would bike in peru except side streets of miraflores and san isidro
I’m Colombian and I want to take the tour. Even if I know most of the city.
I see quite a few grown ass men getting down in you aerobics pics…..Fucking awesome lol.
Great blog, I’ve spent many hours reading. You have a real knack for story telling.