For the visitor to Bogotá there is a new way to get to know the city better – on two wheels. The recently opened BiciCafe offers bike rentals and guided tours of the city, all from the base of a cozy café in La Candelaria.
Companies offering bike tours of cities like Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile have been a roaring success and Bicicafe owner Mike hopes to fill a niche in the market for similar services here in Bogotá. “It´s a change from the usual activities, giving tourists and backpackers who have already been out partying and seen lots of museums a chance to see more of the city”.
The tours vary in length, ranging from a short spin round the colonial delights of La Candelaria to a longer journey across the city taking in various notable sights. A typical 3 hour tour saw Juan, Mike´s affable business partner, lead tourists through the winding streets of La Candelaria to the Quinta de Bolívar, once home of the legendary Libertador, then on to the Parque de la Independencia. There the tour paused for a chat with the curators of the park´s small museum and a chance to check out a photo exhibition of old Bogotá.
Throughout the tour native Bogotano Juan explains the history of these sights and adds intriguing snippets of information about the city and its inhabitants. From the Parque de la Independencia the tour makes its way up to the Museo Nacional for a look at its imposing stone facade and varied history (the building was first a prison, then a convent and now a museum) before hitting the quiet back streets of residential neighbourhood La Soledad.
As the leafy streets and dinky little shops make way for the vast Carrera 45 the tour dismounts and enters the campus of the Universidad Nacional, a huge swathe of the West of the city covered in grassy parks and clumps of trees, with the university faculties dotted around in the midst of the greenery.
The central plaza of the university (complete with gigantic painting of Che Guevara on the front of an auditorium) is a hub of student activity, with music blaring out of big speakers and all kinds of local delicacies on sale from little stalls. A group of students are offering free t-shirt printing with images of Che, Fidel Castro and anti-globalisation messages. The idiosyncrasy of the graffiti spattered campus and bohemian atmosphere make for an excellent stop-off on the the tour, showing tourists a different side of Bogotá they might otherwise never have known about.
All participants are provided with helmets and navigate Bogota´s at times frenetic traffic under the watchful eye of one of the BiciCafe guides. Thanks to the city´s extensive network of cycle paths (the ciclorutas stretch across 297km of the capital) it is possible to cycle long distances on these paths and therefore avoid the brunt of the traffic.
The tours vary in price according to length, while bike hire is a reasonable $15,000 for up to 4 hours and $30,000 for a whole day. The client is provided with a helmet, repair kit and map showing the main sights and marking out those neighbourhoods best avoided. BiciCafe also offers bike repair services along with an impressive array of foriegn-language books for sale or swap. The customer can enjoy a light meal while browsing the books, sipping a coffee or just sitting and chatting.
BiciCafé is located on Cr. 13 #13-86 and is open every day from 9am to 6pm. They can be found online at bogotabiketours.com and also on Facebook.