Why Should Everyone Visit Bogota?

Bogota, Colombia, is a city of contrasts. It's a place where the rich and poor live side by side in the same neighborhoods, where the country's past and future collide and where people from all over the world come to make their fortunes.

The city's history is as fascinating as its present. It was founded in 1538 by Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada, who named it "Santa Fe de Bogota." The name means "holy faith," and it was given in honor of Saint James, the patron saint of Spain [source: Bogota Tourism]. In 1621, the city was officially named "Bogota" [source: Bogota Tourism].

Bogota is also known as "the city of eternal spring." The average temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius), with an average rainfall of 12 inches (30 centimeters) per year [source: Bogota Tourism]. Because of its elevation -- it's more than 8,000 feet (2,440 meters) above sea level -- it doesn't get as hot or cold as other cities at that altitude.

Bogota has a population of more than 8 million people [source: Bogota Tourism]. It's one of the most populous cities in South America. The majority of its residents are mestizo -- people who are half European and half Native American -- but there are also large populations of Europeans and people from other parts of Colombia.

The city has a long history with foreigners. In fact, it was one of the first cities in South America to be settled by Europeans. It was originally populated by indigenous groups like the Muisca and Quimbaya tribes. When Spanish explorers arrived in 1538, they found that these groups had already developed a sophisticated culture with their own religion and political system based on gold [source: Bogota Tourism].

The Spanish conquistadors were drawn to this area because they believed that El Dorado -- an ancient civilization made up entirely of gold -- existed somewhere nearby. They were disappointed to find that this civilization didn't exist but they did discover that there were vast quantities of gold in Colombia [source: UNESCO].

Colombia has been home to many different cultures over the years. The Muisca tribe was one of them; they were farmers who lived on farms called "bohíos." They grew crops like corn and potatoes, raised llamas for meat and wool and hunted wild animals for food [source: UNESCO]. They also mined gold for religious purposes; they believed that gold had magical powers that could protect them from harm [source: UNESCO]. The Spanish conquistadors took advantage of this belief when they arrived on their quest for El Dorado; they traded trinkets made out of silver for large quantities of gold from the Muisca tribe [source: Bogota Tourism].

Today, you can visit some sites where you can learn about these ancient cultures. For example, you can visit Museo del Oro (the Gold Museum) which displays more than 5,000 pieces made out or gold from all over Colombia [source: Museo del Oro].

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