Easter season is almost upon us, and as the majority of Colombians identify as Roman Catholic, it’s unsurprising that it’s one of the biggest and most anticipated holidays of the year. During Semana Santa (Holy Week), a good number of people escape to countryside fincas (ranches) or the North coast leaving the streets of Bogotá relatively calm and tranquil.
With a drop in commuter traffic, it’s the perfect time to explore the cultural events taking place around town. From an international book fair and photo exhibition to live music and religious celebrations, here’s what you can do when visiting Bogotá in April.
See what's on in Bogotá in April © Antoine Parisnyc / EyeEm / Getty Images
Understand Colombia’s history through a camera lens
Observe more than 500 photographs, most of them unpublished, at the exhibition titled “The Witness” at the Claustro San Agustín in downtown Bogotá. Captured between 1992 and 2018 by renowned Colombian photojournalist Jesús Abad Colorado, the display narrates the stories, tragedies and events surrounding the armed conflict in Colombia. The show is divided into four spaces accompanied by explanations of what happened during this period in different regions throughout the country.
Date: All month (Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm, free entrance)
Place: Claustro San Agustín – Carrera 8 No. 7 - 21
Check out the Salt Cathedral during Holy Week in Bogotá © Jacqui de Klerk / Lonely Planet
Discover Easter traditions during Holy Week
Even if you don’t make it to the elaborate Holy Week celebrations in Mompox or Popayán, you can still feel the Easter spirit in the city. After watching a dramatic Palm Sunday or Good Friday procession, join thousands of pilgrims as they climb (many on their hands and knees) up to Monserrate to pray at the shrine devoted to El Señor Caido (the Fallen Lord), a very holy site for Colombians. You can also take part in Bogotá’s long-standing tradition of visiting seven religious monuments or churches during Holy Week.
Alternatively, visit the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá to see the beautifully lit chapels and a main altar carved out of the salt mine’s walls. On Easter Sunday, the underground church’s main hall is packed with visitors for a special Easter mass.
Date: 14-21 April
Place: All over the city
Dive into Colombia's literary history at Bogotá's International Book Fair © RAUL ARBOLEDA / Getty Images
Celebrate books and Independence at the Bogotá International Book Fair
True literature lovers who find themselves in the capital in April may want to consider visiting the highly regarded Bogotá International Book Fair. This year is particularly special as Colombia itself is the guest of honor, as it's celebrating 200 years of independence. So aside from buying books and enjoying a host of cultural activities including lectures, music performances and meeting local and international authors, visitors can discover the country’s historic road to freedom through exhibitions and dialogues on the different ideas, social groups and regions that played a role in independence. And of course, there will be plenty of opportunities to sample some traditional Colombian gastronomy.
Date: 25 April-6 May
Place: Corferias – Carrera 37 No. 24-67
Escape to an urban waterfall
Take advantage of a city free of local crowds and hike up to Quebrada Las Delicias, a beautiful waterfall surrounded by lush Andean forest located less than an hour’s walk from Bogotá’s urban streets. The trail begins in Alto Chapinero on Carrera 2 between Calle 61 and 62. For safety reasons, it’s advisable to only walk up between 6:30 am and noon when you will be accompanied by the national police. The path is closed on the first business day of every week for maintenance.
Enjoy the tunes at Teusaquillo Jazz Festival © Massimo Solimene / EyeEm / Getty Images
Chill out at a Jazz Festival
Spend a relaxing afternoon listening to the smooth sounds of jazz at this year’s Teusaquillo Jazz Festival. Returning for a second time, the festival showcases the best local bands of the genre. Highlights include Dinamarca y el Lado Oscuro del Groove, a group whose improvised music will leave you with a feeling that “el lado oscuro” (the dark side) is actually colorful and luminous. Also be sure to check out the Eirrükü Ensamble, an ensemble that evokes the diverse cultural heritage of its members; listeners will be treated to tunes influenced by the Wayuú ethnic group of La Guajira, Cuba and Puerto Rico, among others.
Date: 27 April from noon