The sanctuary of Monserrate in the eastern hills of Bogotá can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. It is located at 3,172 meters above sea level, at the top of Monserrate or Cerro de Las Nieves. Devotees walk up an almost two mile path to this traditional site of religious pilgrimage, which began in 1620 with the shrine of Our Lady of Monserrate. The basilica houses the image of the Fallen Lord of Monserrate, an effigy of Christ which, according to the faithful, performs miracles, and at the top visitors can walk the Stations of the Cross.
History of the most visited Sanctuary in Bogotá
The history of this sacred place dates back almost 500 years, when Bogotá was founded, and is now an icon of the city.
The mountain was originally named Cerro de Las Nieves, it was baptized by the Muiscas for its frequent cloudiness. Years later, a monastery dedicated to the Virgin of Montserrat was founded there, and a path was created from the church of Las Nieves to the top of the hill with small chapels for the pilgrims. The first religious festivity that had a pilgrimage to this hill was the festivity of the Holy Cross.
At the top of this hill is the shrine of the fallen Lord of Monserrate, made in 1640 by the artist Pedro de Lugo Albarracín. For many faithful Catholics, this statue of the Lord is miraculous and represents a special encounter with God. Hence why every weekend many Colombians and foreigners make the climb up the hill. Faith is the driving force behind why this place receives many visitors.
Building of the sanctuary was completed in 1920. It has a funicular and a cable car to bring visitors to the top, especially those who prefer to get there faster. However, the pedestrian path is ideal for enjoying nature, the vestiges of the indigenous path, exercising, browsing interesting handicrafts and interacting with the rich culture of this country.
Find out more: Religious tourism, holy Week in Mompox
How to get to the top of Monserrate?
Monserrate is located in downtown Bogotá, very close to the historic center of Bogotá, on Carrera 2da. Este No. 21 - 48, Paseo de Bolívar. If you want to climb the hill there are three options where you can enjoy a different beautiful view of the city, because on the way you can see the whole capital of Colombia.
Walk along the pedestrian path
If you want some exercise, have a penance or simply prefer to experience the hill on foot, you’ll have to take the opening and closing times of the Monserrate trail into account. It's open every day, except Tuesdays, from 5:00 am to 1:00 pm to go up and from 5:00 am to 4:00 pm to go down. Therefore, it's important to keep an estimate of your time there. The journey itself takes about 50 minutes to complete. This option is free of charge.
Going up in the funicular
If you prefer comfort, or for health reasons it's difficult to climb stairs, you can use the Monserrate funicular, which is open Monday to Friday from 6:30 am to 11:45 am and on Saturdays until 4:30 pm. The funicular ride comes at a cost of 12,000 COP one way and 21,000 COP two ways. On Sundays and holidays until 6:30 pm, it costs 6,500 COP one way and 12,000 COP two ways. However, if you are over 62 years of age, the cost for the two trips is 17,000 COP from Monday to Saturday, and on Sundays 10,000 COP, upon presentation of your identity card.
Getting on the cable car
Another perfect option for those who prefer to save time on the way up is the Monserrate cable car, which is open Monday to Saturday from 12:00 pm to 11:30 pm, at a cost of 12,000 COP one way and 21,000 COP two ways. On Sundays it opens from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm at a cost of 6,500 COP one way and 12,000 COP two ways. And if you want to go up with your pet, the rental costs 5.000 COP if it is small, and 10.000 COP if it is big.
What to do and see at Monserrate?
If you go up on foot, during the tour you will see a wide range of handicrafts, traditional food, sculptures of the stations of the cross and the chapel of the Virgin of Monserrat. If you go up by funicular or cable car, you will enjoy a beautiful view of the capital and the diversity of flora and fauna on the hill, where more than 80 species of birds live.
Once at the top of the hill there are several activities you can enjoy, such as the main tourist attraction, the Basilica Sanctuary of Monserrate. In this church you can admire beautiful sculptures from the colonial period, among them the important statue of the fallen Lord of Monserrate, which represents Jesus falling for the third time on his way to Calvary. It is said that it is miraculous, that its hair grows and when they try to lower it to the city, its weight increases, becoming an impossible task to achieve.
Behind the sanctuary, there is a large plaza with handicrafts or souvenirs, and next to it several restaurants where you can taste the most varied gastronomy of Bogota, from hot chocolate with tamale and bread to the famous rib broth, changua, ajiaco and much more. Also, adjacent to the Sanctuary, there are two traditional restaurants from the last century that have terraces overlooking the mountain and the city, where you can enjoy typical Colombian food and even international dishes.
Find out more: Bogota, the gastronomic capital
At the top of Monserrate you’ll find beautiful gardens with breathtaking flower arrangements leading to the famous Well of Wishes, where you can make a wish by flipping a coin. Perhaps the most unforgettable feature here is, of course, the viewpoint, where you can take in the Cerro de Guadalupe, the best views of Bogota, picturesque sunsets and then appreciate the capital illuminated at night. You will surely not want to miss this spectacular view.