I don’t know if it’s been obvious in my posts that I didn’t love Bogota. Rodolfo and I certainly don’t regret our time there – especially since I’d gotten an itch to go, and I would have become progressively more obnoxious if we hadn’t just gotten on a damn plane to see it for ourselves – but we don’t have any plans to go back to the city except in transit to other Colombian destinations (or, in my case, for work).
So it may sound strange that we kept finding similarities to Santiago, a city we both really enjoy. Is it a case of (adopted) hometown pride giving Santiago the edge?
Not at all. I actually often lament the fact that Santiago is kind of limited for your average visitor. There are many reasons I like living here – nice neighborhoods in which to sip a coffee, access to beautiful countryside, great wine, increasingly diverse restaurants, among others. But for the most part, those reasons don’t gain Santiago points with tourists.
Yes, they enjoy the natural beauty, but by that point they’ve left Santiago. The wine is a plus wherever you are in Chile, but most tourists visit vineyards outside the city itself. While I enjoy settling in for a coffee in a picturesque barrio, your average visitor on a timetable may not want to waste a precious afternoon just soaking up the atmosphere. And no tourist who’s come for a taste of real Chilean food will be as excited as I am that we now have quality international restaurants – they can get that at home.
I got a similar feeling about Bogota. It seems like a comfortable city for residents with a decent income, despite the safety concerns that are still present. There are quiet neighborhoods, at least one massive park, great public transport, malls with international brands – all things that I’m sure I’d enjoy if I lived there.
But as a tourist, the only thing on that list I’m interested in is the bus system. I don’t care about going to Zara in Bogota when it’s more expensive than the one in Santiago or looking at someone else’s pretty house. Instead I’m focused on the facts that, Andrés aside, no restaurant really impressed me, and after 2.5 days, we’d put a check mark next to all of the must-see sights on our list. End result: we had a fun weekend, but that was enough time for me.
In cities like this, even more than usual, local contacts are key. My Colombian friend Cata isn’t from Bogota but has been to the city many times, and her recommendations were a huge help in planning our itinerary. That inside scoop that gets you a slice of daily life is special anywhere, but it can especially affect your experience in a city that isn’t so easily accessible for a short-term visitor.
I’m not knocking Bogota. I’m not telling you not to go anymore than I would tell you not to come to Santiago. In fact, a big part of why I do Saturday in Santiago is to share some of the best spots in this city with people who might not otherwise find them! But it was interesting to realize that for me at least, it may be a nice place to live, but I wouldn’t want to (re)visit there.
Have you ever felt like this somewhere? Did you feel the same in Bogota or Santiago?
More in this series:
Heading to Bogota with Roomorama
The view from Cerro Monserrate
The marvelous Museo de Oro
The Botero Museum will make you smile
Taking a Bogota bike tour
Andrés Carne de Res: Bogota’s craziest restaurant
The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá