03 October 2017

Why You Should Visit Bogotá, Colombia in August

Posted in Blog

August is an exciting month to visit and explore Bogotá, Colombia. That’s when the capital city celebrates its birthday!

On August 6th, Bogotá turns 479 years old.  In honour of the milestone, the local government organises various events that delight locals and tourists alike. The celebrations usually take place during the second week of August and are part of the Summer Festival, which has taken place in Bogotá since 1997.

History of Bogota, Colombia
Storytellers in the Chorro de Quevedo, in La Candelaria

But, what exactly happened on that 6th of August almost 500 years ago? If you're travelling in Bogotá, this short account may help you understand more about the history of the city.

The Founding of Bogotá

The founding of Bogotá has two key moments. The first one happened on August 6th, 1538 when the Spanish explorer and conquistador Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada established a camp called Our Lady of Hope, in what today is known as the Chorro de Quevedo in the neighbourhood La Candelaria. The second one, 8 months later on April 27th, 1539, when the Spanish authorities legally recognised the foundation of the city. During this legal establishment, the name of the city was changed to Santafe.

History of Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria – Chorro de Quevedo, which may have been the point where Bogotá was founded in 1538.

Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada arrived to this region of Colombia with the royal command to find the mythical treasure of El Dorado. He travelled from Santa Marta (in the Caribbean coast) to the centre of the country with approximately 500 men, only few of these men survived the long journey. When they arrived to what today is Bogota, they confronted one of the large confederations of indigenous Muiscas inhabiting the area, killed the chief commander called the "Zipa" and other natives who opposed them. The surviving Muiscas were captured by the Spaniards and, ordered to build a new camp or villa in the conquered land.

History of Bogota, Colombia
Callejon de la brujas near the Plaza Chorro de Quevedo

The new villa started with 12 cabins and a modest chapel. Although there is no record of the city's creation on August 6th, 1538, the accepted version of the story says that on this day, Fray Domingo de las Casas celebrated the first mass in the chapel erected in the centre of the villa, formally founding the city.

The name of Bogotá (or Santa Fe de Bogotá) was not official during the colonial era, but its use became common by the need to distinguish this Santafe from other cities with the same name, being Bogotá the Indian name of the region, they decided to call it Santafe de Bogotá.

Only until 1819, when the Republic of Colombia was created, the name of the city is replaced by just Bogotá.

History of Bogota, Colombia
Ermita de San Miguel del Príncipe (Hermitage of St Michael of the Prince) in the Plaza Chorro de Quevedo

As we said before, this is just a very short summary of only one part of the history of Bogotá. Enjoy the celebrations if you happen to travel to this amazing city in August. For more information on the fascinating history of Colombia’s capital, be sure to sign up for our Historic City Tour

Pin for later! 

Travel to Bogota, Colombia

The Uncover Colombia Team