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These excursions get you out of the city and into unforgettable Colombian experiences.

October 12, 2015

Bogotá is a massive urban center and, while it has plenty of parks and mountain views, it often gives rise to serious traffic and noise fatigue for visitors and locals alike. If you’re in need of some space and fresh air, these trips will get you outside the city for the day, where you can tour a salt cathedral, new sights and a peek at Colombia’s coffee industry.

Zipaquirá's Salt Cathedral

One of the oldest cities in Colombia, this charming locale 30 miles north of the capital has one major attraction that draws tens of thousands of foreigners and Colombians every month: its salt cathedral (pictured). Set nearly 600 feet underground, it’s home to elaborate caverns, tunnels, sculptures, an homage to the stations of the cross, altars, and other religious paraphernalia, all carved from salt. It’s a fascinating sight even for the non-devout. It can be crowded, but guided tours are available and on weekends, you can take the Tren Turístico de la Sabana locomotive, which cruises from Bogotá through the verdant Colombian countryside all the way to Zipaquirá.

Tour a Coffee Plantation

Colombia’s climate and terroir are ideally suited for growing the kind of high-altitude coffee beans that make a connoisseur’s dream. Just a two hours’ drive from the city by Cundinarmaca, there are rolling hills studded with coffee plants that visitors can explore for an afternoon (many companies organize tours that can be completed in a day to the plantation at Fusagasugá). Learn how the beans are grown, how to brew the perfect cup, and then sample the local goods. Don’t forget to stock up on beans for your favorite friends at home.

Lake Guatavita

The perfect antidote to Bogotá’s snarled traffic is this small crater lake about a 90 minutes’ drive northeast from the city. Plus, it’s (bizarrely) the origin of the El Dorado legend. Conquistadors spent centuries trying to empty the lake for its treasure, but today it is a peaceful, verdant spot surrounded by beautiful scenery and enough fresh air to displace every remnant of the capital’s exhaust. Plenty of companies run day trips here; inquire at your hotel.

Nell McShane Wulfhart is based in Uruguay, and writes about South America for Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @nellmwulfhart

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