Even though Colombia is near the equator, Bogota, at 2,500 meters (8,360 feet) above sea level, can get downright chilly. Nighttime temperatures can go down into the mid-40’s (that’s a chilly 7 degrees Celsius), and indoor heating is rare. And on days when the sun doesn’t come out from behind the clouds, it can feel downright cold.
I always find myself looking for good ways to warm up in Bogota. Here are a few of my favorites (and since I’m a foodie, expect them to involve food).
Of course, in this coffee producing country, there are coffee houses on almost every corner of the city, and usually several down the block, too. Juan Valdez is one of the most famous ones, but there are many other coffee houses that have comforting lattes and cozy armchairs and sofas to enjoy them on, such as Oma, Amor Perfecto, Diletto…and thousands of other places.
2. A Ride on the Transmilenio
Transmilenio is the immense bus system that crosses Bogota. Normally it’s the quickest way to get around the city, but at rush hour the buses get packed beyond what you can imagine. So after 5 minutes of being nearly cheek-to-cheek with other passengers, you’ll no longer feel the slightest bit cold.
3. Chocolate santafereño
Thick, rich hot chocolatehas been a classic in Bogota for centuries. The unusual thing here is that cheese is often served with the hot chocolate – for dunking. So yes, go ahead and drop the cheese into the chocolate and when it’s hot and gooey – fish it out and eat it. Whether you want it with the cheese or not, good hot chocolate can be had all through the city, but famous places to have it are at La Puerta Falsa in the historic La Candelaria and not to far from there at La Florida Bakery.
Ajiaco is a soup made with chicken, corn on the cob, three different types of Colombian potatoes, and an herb called guasca, that, frankly, you’ll just have to come to Colombia to taste. On the side you’ll get a dish with avocado, rice, capers and cream (the last two go into the soup). It’s creamy, thick, and delicious – and is a comforting way to warm up on a cool Bogota evening.
5. Ride the Ciclovia
Ciclovía is the extensive cycling route covering about 70 miles and taking you from one end of Bogota to the other end. This isn’t just for bicycling – on Sundays whole families keep warm while jogging, rollerblading or just moving any way they can.
6. Walk to top of Monserrate
Yes, it’s quite a hike up that symbol of Bogota, Mt. Monserrate. But when you get to the top you’ll be warm even on the coolest morning. If you’re not up for the climb to the top (at 3,152 meters, or 10,341 feet, above the sea level), take the cable car up and walk around. To beat the cold, get a canelazo, a cinnamon drink made with aguardiente.
Tea in Bogota takes on a fresh attitude. Aromatica is a hot drink made with fresh fruit and herbs and often sweetened with panela, a type of raw sugar. Mint aromatica is very common, as well as frutos rojos, a berry tea.
Tamales are meat stews encased in corn dough, then wrapped in plantain leaves and boiled. If you order one at any of the many bakeries or restaurants around the city, you’ll get a steaming hot package ready to be unwrapped, and guaranteed to warm you up.
9. Outdoor heating
Bogotanos love to eat outdoors, and most restaurants have year-round outdoor seating. But what to do when the temperatures plummet? Heating elements are the answer, and you’ll find electric heaters hanging from the walls or ceilings or ingenious standing gas heaters with flames of fire that drive away the cold.
Beer is popular in Colombia, so you can choose from a variety of Colombian brands like Poker, Club Colombia, Bavaria. Artisan beers are a bit more common, and aficionados can go to any of Bogota Beer Company’s many pubs to pick one up, or try the newly opened Chelarte. For imported beers from Europe, go to El Monje– with 174 different types, you’re sure to find the one to warm you up!
So tell me – what’s your favorite way to keep warm in Bogota?