Everyone loves a “what to do” story. January is also a month many relocate to Colombia’s capital. As the year begins, The City Paper asked some writers to recommend unique places in Bogotá.

Botanical Gardens

Avenida 63 No. 68-95

By Anna Vogt

Longing for some green and quiet in the midst of concrete and brick? Bogotá’s Jardín Botanico José Celestino Mutis is a beautiful oasis where one can forget — for a few brief hours at least — that this city of 8 million exists.

Jardin Botanico
Bogotá’s botanical gardens are a plant-based tour through Colombia’s incredible biodiversity. (Photo by Richard Emblin)

The first noticeable difference when entering the 47-acre green space is the air. Instead of diesel, it’s clean and fresh, encouraging a leisurely pace to explore the diversity of Colombia’s plant life.

Spend one or two hours strolling the well-marked trails that wind through the garden, stopping to admire the waterfall and climbing to the various lookout points throughout the property.

While walking, pay attention to how the vegetation changes to mimic the different climate zones of the country, from paramó to cloud forest to desert. Although the largest section of the garden is dedicated to the Savannah region surrounding Bogotá, there are ample examples of regional variety, including a temperature-controlled Tropicarium.

Each room of the greenhouse represents a different tropical region, from the Amazon to coffee-growing Andean valleys.

Even though it is possible to spend hours looking at plants and reading about their origins and characteristics on the abundant plaques placed around the garden, there are also opportunities for those who just want to relax and “smell the roses.”

In fact, the central rose garden is a beautiful space with over 73 varieties scenting the air. For those interested in something more exotic, the orchid house is dedicated to showing off Colombia’s most famous cattleya.

The entrance fee is $2,700 pesos for adults, and the money goes towards upkeep and the garden’s projects around the city, including support for urban orchards to increase the food security of displaced farming families.

Plants are not the only attraction. Check the garden’s website to learn about a range of special events, from philharmonic orchestra concerts to special exhibits and movie nights.

Hungry? Don’t forget to visit the small restaurant located near the entrance for your choice of meat or veggie entrees, prepared with food grown in the garden’s vegetable plots.

So no matter what you choose to do during your time here, don’t forget to stop, take a deep breath, and enjoy some Bogotá calm.

Tejo Club

Carrera 24 No. 76-56

By Jared Wade

Bogotá is all about the game. Throwing the distance, so to speak, with tejo. Even though football is Colombia’s number-one sport, its top pastime is a game few outside this nation have ever seen: tejo.

It’s a contest similar in structure to horseshoes, bocce, and corn hole — but much more explosive.

Tejo
Tejo is one of Colombia’s most unique sports and an authentically fun way to spend an afternoon with friends. (Photo by Flickr user Fabulousfabs)

On each end of the court is a clay pit, set at an angle, with a metal ring in the center. Affixed to the ring are four triangular pieces of paper folded like origami and housing a small quantity of gunpowder.

Teams of two, or more in fun games, throw a metal disc, the titular tejo, weighing up to a kilo from a long distance. The goal is to either toss the tejo in the center of the ring or, better yet, hit the gunpowder and experience the thrill of the explosion.

The Club de Tejo 76 is one of those haunts where old men fill the courts, empty beer bottles pile up quickly and the concrete yellow walls and metal roof ensure each successful throw is heard loud and clear.

The best part? Playing is free as long as your group is paying for beers during the game. Just try to get there early if you go on a weekend, and novices should request the shorter courts upstairs.

Bogotá Thrill Ride

Calle 63 No. 60-80

By Sarah Genner

Salitre Mágico, on the grounds of the Parque Simon Bolívar, has attractions for all ages. If you want a fun day out with your friends, and value for money, I guarantee there’s enough fun at Salitre Mágico to keep you there the whole day.

Salitre Mágico
Salitre Mágico has three roller coasters and tons of other rides for a day of thrills. (Photo by Salitre Mágico)

A colourful spinning wheel and tower rising 38 meters offers a great view of the park. But after a few seconds, you are out of your seat, heart in mouth and plummeting to the bottom.

The combination of fearing certain death from hanging upside down to backwards spinning makes Apocalypse the most high-voltage ride in the park. You can ride it as many times as you want with the Nitro and Super Fun Kit passes.

The park has three roller coasters, with Tornado being the most extreme as it’s the oldest and feels rickety in places. Coupled with the fact you have to ride straddled to a partner with no real harness to keep you in, this roller coaster is high on the fear factor.

Expect some mild bruising of the knees before entering the park’s House of Horrors. Spooky sounds and visions will haunt you, but then again, you can get this experience anytime walking along Caracas Avenue.

Check the park’s website for opening times and admission prices. The Nitro Pass will get you access to most of the rides for $40,000 pesos.