Bogotá’s IDT offers historic tours of city’s Cementerio Central

The tomb of German industrialist Leo Kopp inside Cementerio Central/Richard Emblin.

October is the month reserved for your favorite ghouls and ghosts, costume shopping in Chapinero’s bustling retail sector- as well as late-night revelry in two of Bogotá’s favorite night spots and watering holes: Teatron and Andrés D.C.

With the festive spirit of Halloween upon us, Bogotá’s District Institute of Tourism (IDT) has reopened the historic area of the Central Cemetery – Cementerio Central – to visitors, with guided tours that recount the history of this famous landmark, and resting place of presidents, revolutionaries, martyrs, industry tycoons and nation builders.

Among the many illustrious inhabitants who occupy the central corridor of the Cementerio is one of the country’s founding fathers and first constitutionally-elected President, General Francisco de Paula Santander (1792-1840); Army General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla who served as President from 1953 to 1057; Liberal presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán who was assassinated in 1989 by the Medellín drugs cartel; publisher Eduardo Santos; 19th Century poet and literary bard José Asunción Silva; astronomer Julio Garavito; children’s author and dramaturgist Rafael Pombo; industrialist Leo Kopp; among many others.

Ornate neo-Gothic mausoleums inside Cementerio Central/Richard Emblin

The first tours were conducted between November and December 2021, at the height of the pandemic and with social distancing between visitors. As the city emerged from quarantine, the institute hosted 160 tours attracting more than 3,000 guests. This year, IDT wants to surpass this number. “It’s a way of making visible our patrimony, culture, and architecture of his iconic cemetery,” highlights the IDT’s director Andrés Clavijo Rangel. “It also supports the economic reactivation of the area and city-at-large.”

The return of these enchanting tours to a landmark declared National Monument in 1984, and where visitors can learn about “who-is-who” in a cemetery founded in 1836, is also a family-geared experience.

Regardless of the hour in which one schedules a visit to the Cementerio – afternoon or evening – the opportunity of being surrounded by impressive stone and bronze sculptures, neo-Gothic mausoleums, curious details at every turn, and stunning views of the city’s financial center comes highly recommended!  The IDT guides are dressed in historic attire adding extra color to a carefully crafted tour that will surpass your expectations – and knowledge – of Bogotá.

While these tours delve into the lives of the cemetery’s most famous men and women, many who reside outside this necropolis claim strange sounds emanate from the metal stairwell that leads to the basement, where dozens of bodies are buried. Tomb 666 belonging to “Dolores” is believed to have supernatural powers; and if you whisper in the ear of the penseur-like statue of Leo Kopp, the beer magnate will turn around your financial fortunes.

IDT’s tours are hosted by guides dressed in 19th Century outfits/Richard Emblin

From its white column rotunda, to chapel and more recently constructed sections, ghost sightings have not ceased, making the Cementerio central among the “most haunted” in the country. But don’t tell that to the children in the tour. As all tours also are conducted in Spanish, best organize a group with bilingual friends.

The tours are taking place from October 6 to December 20 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday: at 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm, respectively. On Sunday, tours take place at 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Other recommendations: keep cellphones well-charged to reserve transportation when leaving the cemetery.

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The entrance to Bogotá’s historic Cementerio Central/Richard Emblin.