Bogota, Colombia's cosmopolitan capital, is a many headed hydra of a city. Although it can appear to be permanently draped in a drizzly, overcast grey, when these high altitude weather patterns clear, they give way to brilliant sunshine and blue skies that illuminate the city's parks, pine forests and diverse architecture, all of which appear to have been poured precariously onto the mountains.
Push unfounded fears for your personal security aside - Bogota has improved beyond belief and the dark days of the 1980s, known for their narco plagued acts of violence, are now history - and allow yourself to engage with the accommodating and well-educated citizens. Rent a bicycle for the Sunday ciclovia – where Bogotanos or Rolos of all social classes enjoy routes that are closed to traffic and given over to cyclists, bladers and dog-walkers – and explore the city's myriad fascinating barrios (districts) whose architecture ranges from colonial Spanish to Renaissance French, Republican, suburban English and ultra-modern contemporary Colombian.
Devote your energies also to Bogota's fine museums and colonial Candelaria district during daylight hours and then stock your wallet with plentiful cash before heading out to dine at one of Rosales' first rate restaurants. After a hearty feed of local ajiaco soup or something more international, head out with the beautiful people to the Zona Rosa or any of Bogota's fathomless choice of nightclubs, bohemian dives, salsatecas, lounges and bars.
For the more sedate, Bogota is far more than simply rumba and disco-light driven early mornings: world class thespians descend on the city for the biannual Iboamerican Theatre Festival and Colombians are justifiably proud of their independent arts scene, opera season and open-air concerts.
With some 8 million inhabitants - and more arriving on a daily basis, driven in by Colombia's internal conflict, which continues in various parts of the countryside - there is a visible wealth divide, most notably between the gated communities in the north and the invasiones of unplanned dwellings on unstable ground in the south. Extreme wealth borders absolute misery and the city's government needs to address this as it works towards further promoting the capital as a destination for tourists as well as business travelers.
Bogota's transport system, so lauded in the foreign press, is currently undergoing a massive transformation and for this reason the city seems to be up on bricks, while its revolutionary Transmilenio bendy bus system (based on that of Curitiba, Brazil) is extended and overhauled. This has resulted in huge traffic and fluidity problems.
With all of the various considerations required for a visit to the Athens of South America, it is comforting to know that Bogota's hotel, hostel and guesthouse options continue to grow, allowing travelers of every means to enjoy the city.
And if you need a break from the city, just a few hours drive away are scenic national parks such as Iguaque and Chingaza, which offer plenty of hiking trails and idyllic yet chic colonial towns.
Carrera 4 No 58-58
Cll 81 # 13-05
Cra 6A# 117-32
Cra 12 A 83-48