Bogota, Colombia: One day, three ways

The writer was a guest of LAN Airlines and the South America Travel Centre.

$ PENNY PINCH

Despite Colombia being the third largest exporter of coffee in the world, finding a decent cup is surprisingly tricky. Start your day with a warm palo de queso (cheese stick pastry) and expertly made latte ($6) at Arte y Pasion Cafe (arteypasioncafe.com), at the rear of a small colonial arcade in the heart of the city. Nearby Santander Park could easily be mistaken for the set of a 1950s movie with shoe shiners and men wearing suits and hats conversing beneath the statue of Francisco de Paula Santander. From there, stroll through the upper section of La Candelaria, a once crime-ridden area now gentrified with street art, murals and cafes. Try a traditional lunch of rice, chicken, pork, egg and vegetables wrapped in a palm leaf ($3) at La Puerta Falsa (lapuertafalsa.com), then check into Hotel Casa Galeria offering eight rooms facing an internal flower-filled courtyard (rooms from $56, hotelcasagaleria.com).

TOTAL: $65

$$ EASY DOES IT

Explore the city's art and culture starting at the Gold Museum (banrepcultural.org/museo-del-oro; entry $2) in Calle 16, which traces the history of the precious metal and how it shaped Colombia. Be sure to have a San Alberto coffee in the ground-floor cafe ($3.50). A 10-minute stroll will bring you to the Botero Museum (banrepcultural.org/museo-botero; free entry), on Calle 11 in the La Candelaria district. Set in a two-storey colonial mansion, it contains famed Colombian artist Fernando Botero's outrageous, Renaissance-inspired paintings and more than 80 works by other artists, including Matisse, Renoir, and Picasso. A short stroll uphill takes you to a charming traditional eatery, El Son de Los Grillos. Try the hearty ajiaco, a chicken soup (from $6). Afterwards turn right, head down hill and check into the elegant Hotel de Opera (rooms from $163 including breakfast; hotelopera.com.co).

TOTAL: $174.50

$$$ SPLASH OUT

Head out of town with Metropolitan Touring to the town of Zipaquira, where the astonishing Salt Cathedral under the Halite Mountains is a monumental architectural masterpiece built by the miners' own hands (a full-day tour is $235 a person, southamericatravelcentre. com.au). The tour includes a lunch stop at Sanalejo in the Cajica region for arguably Colombia's best empanadas, served creole-style stuffed with potato and ground beef, coal-fire steak and a glass of South American red wine (restaurantesanalejo.net). Back in Bogota, explore the salubrious La Cabrera neighbourhood with its mix of boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and bars. Spend the night at the chic B.O.G Hotel (rooms from $199 including breakfast, boghotel.com). Order a martini ($16) in the bar, then stroll to the raucous, sprawling Andres Carne de Res ($50) for a fun-filled night of music and fine meat.

TOTAL: $500

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