Guadalupe Sanctuary and its Charms
Updated: Jun 23, 2020
Monserrate sanctuary is probably one of the most popular, if not the most popular attraction for visitors to Bogotá. Guadalupe Sanctuary, however, has largely been ignored. Curious visitors sometimes ask about the statue that can be seen at the top of the mountain, but few ever ask how to get there and even fewer ever make their up way to the top.
The hill upon which it lies was better know to indigenous people as "Grandmother's Foot", while its neighboring twin (Monserrate) was called "Grandfather's Foot". Both were considered to be sacred places by the Muisca people, which is one of the primary reasons that the Spanish chose these hills for their religious sanctuaries. The first hermitage was built in 1653 but was destroyed various times by earthquakes. The most recent church was built in 1967 and is the one you can see today. There is also a smaller side chapel worth taking a look at.
Sunday is the best day to visit the sanctuary and the only day you will be able to find public transport to take you to the top. Blue buses leave every 15 minutes from the empty lot across from Parque Tercer Milenio (on the south side). While Monserrate is considered to be quite touristic, Guadalupe is actually more of a pilgrimage site. The experience is quite authentic. On the weekends you will find vendors selling delicious strawberries with cream, arepas, picadas and an assortment of religious souvenirs. During mass, the crowd is often so large that people spill out of the doorway.
The view is definitely one of the highlights. Situated at 3,300 meters above sea level, it's much higher than Monserrate and offers great views of both Monserrate and the city down below. If you're looking for some adventure, you can also try to make your way through some of the forest trails, accessible from the main parking lot. Although it's comprised mostly of non-native pine trees, the forest behind the viewpoint is actually quite enchanting. The pine needles leave little room for native species to grow, but do provide a thriving environment for mushrooms of all kinds. It's unlike any other forest I've experienced around Bogotá...and I've been through a lot of forests!
Another point worth noting is that at certain times of the year you will find thousands of moths in and around the sanctuary. If you happen to catch this phenomenon, it's an incredible site and absolutely worth the experience.