Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, is a deceptively green city. Her avenues and streets may suffer from a lack of vegetation and precious little boscage, but one glance up at the pine-covered Cerros Orientales (Eastern Mountains), which create both a natural barrier at this side of the city and an imposing landmark, reminds visitors that the concrete and brick of the urban jungle aren’t far removed from the real jungle.
For those seeking fresh air and outdoor activities, Bogotá does not disappoint. Here are a few favorite places to experience:
Parque Simón Bólivar
Often cited as Bogotá’s answer to New York’s Central Park, this 990-acre expanse of land includes a lake, cycling and running trails, the Virgilio Barco library, a UNESCO World Heritage Center, a space for open air concerts (Pearl Jam has played here) — all in the heart of the city.
On weekdays, runners can enjoy miles of uninterrupted freedom, but, try this on a weekend and you’ll end up tangled up in and tripping over hundreds, if not thousands, of local families enjoying the space and picnicking in the verdant environs of the city’s most iconic park.
Located in a well-heeled uptown neighborhood, the Virrey Park is the go-to place for office workers to enjoy their lunch outside. And while it appears that this park links the highway Carrera Septima to the Autopista Norte in a long stretch of tree-lined green running down from the mountains in the east to flatter lands in Bogotá’s west, it represents something of a natural corridor for city wildlife.
No fewer than 60 species of birds, both endemic and migratory, have been spotted here enjoying the protection of some 100 tree species. Should you visit on a Sunday, you’ll be in good company as dog walkers, yoga enthusiasts, and young families frequent this space in droves.
Bordered on each side by imposing British-style brick buildings and the futuristic new constructions of the Javeriana University, the Parque Nacional Enrique Olaya Herrera, known as Parque Nacional, is a standout in a city of parks since it includes the slopes of the Cerros Orientales, reaching altitudes of 10,300 feet, within its confines.
Lower down at street level in the park and among monuments dedicated to famous Colombians, you’ll find a children’s’ theater, field hockey and tennis courts, and even some soccer fields where, once a week, a blind football league plays their games.
No list of Bogotá’s parks would be complete without mentioning the wetlands (humedales) found within the city’s limits. These can be visited as if they were public parks. There are 15 protected wetlands in Bogotá, representing much of the watershed area for the Bogotá River.
Collectively, these wetlands have significant environmental importance as delicate ecosystems hosting more than 70 species of birds, as well as various types of mammals and reptiles.
Two particularly good options to visit while in Bogotá are the Humedal La Conejera and the Humedal de Córdoba, both of which are routinely visited and coveted by national and international birdwatchers due to their proliferation of migratory birds.