Museo del Oro

Top choice museum in Bogotá

Bogotá's most famous museum and one of the most fascinating in all of South America, the Gold Museum contains more than 55,000 pieces of gold and other materials from all the major pre-Hispanic cultures in Colombia. It's all laid out in logical, thematic rooms over three floors – with descriptions in Spanish and English.

Second-floor exhibits break down findings by region, with descriptions of how pieces were used. There are lots of mixed animals in gold (eg jaguar/frog, human/eagle); and note how female figurines indicate how women of the Zenú in the pre-Columbian north surprisingly played important roles in worship.

The third-floor 'Offering' room exhibits explain how gold was used in ceremonies and rituals. Some displayed tunjos (gold offerings, usually figurines depicting various aspects of social life) were thrown into the Laguna de Guatavita; the most famous one, actually found near the town of Pasca in 1969, is the unlabeled gold boat, called the Balsa Muisca. It's uncertain how old it is, as generally only gold pieces that include other materials can be carbon dated.

There's more to understanding the stories than the descriptions tell, so try taking a free one-hour tour Tuesday through Saturday (in Spanish and English; 11am and 4pm), which varies the part of the museum to be highlighted. Audio guides are available in Spanish, English, French and Portuguese.