Colombia: Main Sights
Main Sights in Colombia: There are a number of UN World Heritage Sites in Colombia, attracting tourists from all over the world. Apart from these, the country is home to a number of religious landmarks that attracts tourists in great numbers, especially during festival time. From history to art to culture to the outdoors, Colombia attractions are plentiful.
Museo del Oro (The Gold Museum, Bogota)
The Museo del Oro or the Gold Museum, is located in the heart of the capital of Bogota, and is the most stunning gold museum in the world. The collection in Bogota is set out in the country's most modern museums. The collection has some of the best pieces found in the new world from many different Pre-Hispanic cultures such as the Incas, Tairona, Uraba, Choco, Muisca, Tumaco, and others. There is one room where the staff will close you in and turn off the highlights. Music begins to play. Then in the complete dark soft lights appear that highlight different pieces along the walls. Then comes the signature piece on the floor: that of a small boat with figurines from the Muisca culture; one of the most cherished pieces in the collection. The museum has a collection of 50,000 pieces. On the first floor is the museum's main entrance, the shop and a restaurant, The Gold Museum Restaurant and Café. The Gold Museum is noted as one of the best museum features found anywhere, making it one of the most visited attractions in Bogota. The entrance fee to the museum is COP2000 (US.50). Entry is free on Sundays. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 9:00am to 7:00pm and on Sunday from 10:00am to 5:00pm.
Zipaquira Salt Cathedral
The hauntingly beautiful underground salt cathedral at Zipaquirá is one of Colombia's most fascinating attractions. The cathedral was born from an old salt mine, dug straight into a mountainside. Opened in 1995, it is 75m (246ft) long and 18m (59ft) high, and can accommodate a staggering 8400 people. The cathedral is all underground and built below a salt mountain, and thus made completely of salt. It contains amazing statues and architecture, and houses the biggest underground cross in the world. In terms of architectural design, style, ambience and originality, it is one of the most exquisite cathedrals in the entire world! Mass is held each Sunday, as is the occasional concert. It is about 50 kilometers from Bogota, but easily accessed by direct buses, which leave frequently from the north of the city.
Cerro de Monserrate
The church is built atop the mountain of Cerro de Monserrate is an important Colombian landmark. The white church built on the mountain summit, 3,200 meters high, dominates the cityscape. Pilgrims, devoted to the Señor Caído (a statue of Christ inside the church), visit to pay their dues for the idol's generosity. The mountaintop also offers the best panoramic view of Bogotá. There is a handicrafts market, good cafés and a couple of excellent restaurants with both traditional and international menus, which stay open until midnight. You can get to the top by funicular or by cable car. On Sunday it's a popular local pilgrimage to the church on the summit, which displays a statue of the Señor Caído (Fallen Christ), to which many miracles have been attributed. It's also busy from dawn till about 09:00 every morning.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
The Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas is the greatest and strongest fortress ever built by the Spaniards in their colonies. Among its parts stand out the main entrance, the weapons plaza, a watchtower, the residence of the Spaniard, the kitchen, a Santa Bárbara, the artillery tent, a water tender, several underground galleries, artillery emplacements and some gunpowder stores. A complex system of tunnels connected strategic points of the fortress to distribute provisions and to facilitate evacuation. The tunnels were constructed in such a way that sounds reverberate all the way along them, making it possible to hear the slightest sound of the approaching enemy's feet, and also making it easy for internal communication. Some of the tunnels are lit and are open to visitors - a walk not to be missed. Take a guide if you want to learn more about the curious inventions of Antonio de Arévalo, the military engineer who directed the fortress's construction. The fortress is just a 20-minute walk from the old town. You can take a local bus from the Parque del Centenario. There is a statue of Blas de Lezo in front of the fortress. The entrance fee to the fort is COP1,000 (US).
Gorgona National Park
Gorgona is an island 27kms off Colombia’s pacific coast where tropical rainforest meets sea. Best known for the yearly visit hunchback whales pay its shores from August to October accompanied by their newborn, the island is also a snorkeling and diving paradise, as is its amazing rainforest, isolated for thousands of years from the mainland, and the many animals and plants that inhabit it. It’s a place for anyone who can appreciate nature, likes to walk, listen to the ocean, and is willing to unplug totally from the hustle bustle of city life. The island is covered with tropical forest, which includes 46 species of reptile, 18 of these snakes, bats, sloths, monkeys, tortoises, as well as the abundant marine life in its waters which can be seen snorkeling from the beach or diving. The ocean is roamed by sea turtles, whales, whale sharks, whitetip sharks and a lot of other fish species. Male humpback whales can be seen breaching while the females and their offspring come close to the island at the surface to breath. The island has accommodation for tourists and can accommodate up to 80 travelers at a time.
Tierradentro and San Agustin
San Agustin and Tierradentro are one of the most important archaeological sites in South America. The Tierradentro Archaeological Park, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, is located in the northeastern region of the Department of Cauca, not far from the border with the Department of Huila, amid mountains and primary vegetation, and covering an extension of 2,085 square kilometers. The Tierradentro region is world famous for its abundant archaeological vestiges that include underground graves and stone statues similar to the ones in San Agustin. The main sites in the Tierradentro Archaeological Park include the Alto de Segovia is the largest area in the park with over 30 of the largest and deepest tombs located here. The El Tablon has 11 statues in standing human forms that have been classified in two groups: small, plain statues that imitate naked humans, with very few adornments, and masculine and feminine statues over two meters tall. The Alto del Aguacate has seventy tombs built side by side in an artificially flattened hill. A combination of sculpture and painting in which circular cavities were filled with paint was used to decorate the tombs. The San Agustin Archaeological Park is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America stands in a wild, spectacular landscape. Gods and mythical animals are skillfully represented in styles ranging from abstract to realist. These works of art display the creativity and imagination of a northern Andean culture that flourished from the 1st to the 8th century.
Iglesia de San Ignacio
San Ignacio church was built by the Jesuits and inspired by the Church of San Jesus in Rome. It was one of the most important churches in colonial times and also one of the most beautifully decorated. The church was designed by Coluccini and has magnificent retable’s, tall naves, delightful Baroque altars, and a Renaissance-style dome. The church also has a large number of paintings by well-known colonial artists and outstanding carvings by Pedro Laboria, the great Spanish sculptor. The church is one of Bogotá’s most lavishly decorated churches and as befitting a large colonial relic it contains a magnificent wealth of art. The church is open from 9:00am to 6:00pm, Monday to Friday, and from 9:00am to 12:00pm on weekends.
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