Hiking the Cerro de Monserrate, Bogota

Hiking the Cerro de Monserrate, Bogota

Walking around Bogota, you can’t miss spotting the Cerro de Monserrate, the large hill that rises above downtown Bogota. With its church perched on top of it, the highest point in Bogota stands out.

Monserrate is one of Bogota’s most popular tourist attractions because, as you can imagine, from its peak at 3200 metres above sea level, you get amazing views of the city below. Given its height, a hike to the top is not for the faint-hearted. But if you enjoy a challenge and a good hike, you should give it a try.

Spot Monserrate on the right with its church on the top

The hill of Monserrate is not just a tourist attraction but it is also a sacred hill for the indigenous Muiscas. It was a pilgrimage site for them well before the Spanish conquered them. On the top, you not only find a church built in the 17th century but a shrine, a handicraft market, restaurants and other tourist facilities.

The start of the hike

Why hike the Cerro de Monserrate?

Well, because if like us, you are travelling on a budget, hiking is free. Not only that but it’s great exercise. Many local people actually do it as a way to keep fit. I suppose it’s cheaper than going to the gym! Conquering the climb to Monserrate is also a great achievement, especially if you are not used to hiking at altitude.

How long you take to reach the peak is not important, just as long as you make it to the top! Apart from the effort, the hike itself is pretty straightforward and the path is well marked. You can’t get lost. If you do the hike early on a weekday, it will be very peaceful with barely anyone around. It’s a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

The map of the trail

Is climbing Monserrate safe? 

YES! 

Bogota does not have the best reputation for safety, so we were a little concerned about this hike. However, we spoke to tour guides and locals who lived in Bogota. All assured us that the hike was now ok to do. So we gave it a try. I only took my phone to use as a camera and a few Pesos just in case!

As soon as we started the hike, our minds were put at ease. Firstly, there were police at the entrance randomly checking peoples’ bags. Then there were more police every couple of hundred metres along the path, making sure everything was ok. With the level of police presence, I pretty much doubt there are many thieves around.

Even early on a weekday, there are always people around so it doesn’t feel like you are completely alone. I would be more worried about visiting on the weekend when it’s crowded because a lot of petty theft happens in crowded areas. 

If you are still worried, you can take a guided hike to the top. You can find one on Airbnb Experiences.

Views along the way

How long does it take?

Well, that all depends on you. It’s not a race! We took one hour to reach the top, then we hung around for a while enjoying the views and checking out the handicrafts market and the church. Of course, you’ve got to take a few photos from up the top. I think we made it up to the top and back down within two and a half hours. 

The church at the top
Incredible views

Is it hard? 

It’s not easy unless you are super fit! The hike is a steep 2.4-kilometre trail and you will gain 1,968 ft in elevation along the way. They say there are 1800 steps, although to be honest, I stopped counting pretty quickly! Of course, the fact that you are at high altitude makes everything harder. But although challenging, it’s not impossible to do and it’s definitely a good challenge if you like hiking. One thing I appreciated was that the steps were not steep, unlike the ones you can find on some hikes. It made it easier for short-legged people like us and stopped me from being in a lot of pain the next day!

We’ve made it!

What if you can’t hike? 

Don’t worry, you don’t have to hike to the top to enjoy the views. The funicular and cable car can take get you there a lot faster.

Funicular

The funicular is open every day and costs 21,000 COP for a return journey or 12,000 COP one way. On Sundays, the cost is cheaper at 12,000 COP return or 6,500 COP one way.

Cable car

The cable car is also open every day except for Monday holidays. It costs the same as the funicular.

Hanging at the top!

What are the opening hours of the hiking trail? 

The trail is open from 5 am to 1 pm.

The top

Tips for a stress-free hike up Monserrate

  • Make sure you put on some sunblock. The UV will get you even on a cloudy day and at high altitude, it’s even worse. Take the bottle of sunblock with you; you may sweat a lot which means you will need to re-apply more often. 
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses, you will need them.
  • Bring lots of water. You will drink plenty of it. There are locals selling drinks along the way if you run out but expect steeper prices.
  • Start early. The trail opens at 5 am but you should wait until at least sunrise to begin. I wouldn’t start in the dark for security reasons but earlier is better to avoid the heat and the crowds. Around 7 am is a good time to commence your climb.
  • Don’t visit on a Sunday morning unless you want to share the journey with thousands of others. Sunday is very busy because people attend ceremonies in the church at the top.
  • Take enough cash with you to buy extra drinks if required and enough for a one-way ticket on the cable car/funicular in case you decide you’ve had enough walking and don’t want to hike back down.
  • Wear layers. You might be cold when you start but believe me it won’t take you very long to warm up.
  • Take your time. You are at high altitude and your body may react strangely. There is no rush to get to the top unless you are trying to break some kind of record. Take your time, stop for photos, short breaks and enjoy!
  • Although we saw people doing the hike barefooted, I would recommend wearing some good walking shoes. Leave the sandals at home.

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