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A Destination Guide to Filming in Colombia: Bogotá

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Chapter 5, Bogotá: A Destination Guide to filming in Colombia

Bogota is a monstrous home to almost 10 million people. Perched on an Andean plateau 2,600m above sea level, the city has undergone a renaissance over the past five years and has repositioned itself from forgotten South American capital to a cosmopolitan destination of world-class restaurants, music venues, cafes, and culture. Offering a unique blend of the modern and the traditional, as well as being surrounded by spectacular Andean nature and endemic ecosystems, Bogota is an incredible place for any foreign video production company looking for a cost-efficient and diverse filming destination.

Transport

Bogota's El Dorado International Airport was recently named South America's best airport at the Skytrax Awards. El Dorado's facilities are modern and world-class, and it now counts on direct connections with most of Europe and North America's biggest airports. There are daily flights between Bogota and New York, Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles, London, Madrid and many other large cities across Europe. It is quicker to fly between New York and Bogota than from New York to Los Angeles. Connections between Bogota and the rest of Colombia are also plentiful.

Getting around Bogota in a car is trickier. Traffic conditions in the city are challenging and can often cause delays of up to an hour or more during rush hour and other peak periods. It is essential to factor in traffic delays during the planning stage of any video production in Bogota, and it is best to avoid the hours between 6-8am and 5-7:30 pm.

WhereNext has delivered production services in Bogota since 2013. We work with a professional team of drivers with access to a fleet of vehicles which can comfortably accommodate the needs of a large production team and their equipment. For example, we filmed our Bogota-based production for CAT Footwear over two days in 10 locations, so we have experience in shooting throughout the city in a limited period.

Climate

Bogota is known throughout Colombia as "la nevera" – 'the refrigerator' – although this reputation is a little unfair to a city which has an average temperature of around 14°C. The temperature in Bogota remains relatively consistent throughout the year, although night-time temperatures drop in December and January.

Bogota is also known as a rainy city, although this varies noticeably throughout the year. The wettest months are April, May, October and November (October has the highest rainfall). January, February, July and August are significantly drier. The variation in rainfall between the driest and wettest months is 85mm.

These averages often don't tell the full story in a city which famously sees all types of weather in the course of 24 hours. When filming in Bogota, make sure to pack sunscreen, a jacket, a hat, and an umbrella for the same day's shoot as the weather can change dramatically.

Ciclovía on Seventh Street in Downtown Bogotá

Ciclovía on Seventh Street in Downtown Bogotá

Key Locations

Bogota's oldest neighborhood, the historic district of La Candelaria, is a key location for any video production in the city. With its cobbled streets and centuries-old colonial mansions, La Candelaria is an outstanding visual representation of Colombia's history. The mountain of Monserrate, home to a sacred church and viewpoint, overlooks La Candelaria. You can access this famous pilgrimage site by cable-car and film stunning panoramic views of the city. The snow-capped peaks of the Central Andes are even visible on cloudless days.

To experience contemporary Bogota, a visit to Chapinero and Parque 93 neighborhoods is essential. These chic, modern parts of the city are home to boutique shops, restaurants, bars, and cafés, and are the perfect example of how the city has grown and developed in recent years. On the weekend, a trip to Usaquen Market in the north is ideal for filming traditional Colombian crafts, food, and music, in a lively setting surrounded by beautiful colonial architecture and parks.

Outside the urban area of Bogota, there are many beautiful national parks and natural spaces which you can easily visit for a day of filming. For more information on these destinations, see the section 'Wildlife' below.

Food & Drink

Casa San Isidro Restaurant on top of Monserrate, a hill overlooking the city center of Bogotá

Casa San Isidro Restaurant on top of Monserrate, a hill overlooking the city center of Bogotá

Bogota has gone from the hinterlands of the Latin American gastronomic scene to being named as a foodie capital by many international publications, all in the course of just a few years. The city is home to several world-class restaurants, and 'Leo' recently became the city's first entrant on the "World's 50 Best Restaurants" list, at No. 49. Other top Bogota restaurants include Villanos en Bermudas, El Chato, Harry Sasson, Local by Rausch, and Andres Carne de Res.

However, the city isn't just home to gourmet-style restaurants; the local food culture is strong and diverse. Farmer's markets are a feature of the city, and a video production focused on food cannot miss a visit to Paloquemao Market, the largest in the city. With thousands of stalls selling exotic fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, and meat and fish, Paloquemao is an overwhelming sensorial experience but one of Bogota's most visually stunning food destinations. As part of our Bogota production for CAT Footwear, WhereNext filmed in the market, and we understand the logistics required to shoot in this densely-packed and busy part of the city.

Bogota's nightlife has also diversified in recent years, and there are many unique and creative bars and cafes catering to a modern and hip urban crowd. The Zona T district is the focal point of the nightclub scene, while trendy Quinta Camacho is the epicenter of a burgeoning craft beer and artisanal cocktail trend. The latter neighborhood is also the location of WhereNext’s Colombian office.

Culture

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Bogota is Colombia’s capital city and the hub of Colombian culture. It’a home to several world class museums, including the Gold Museum, National Museum, and the Botero Museum.

Bogota also hosts many international cultural events. The Feria del Libro de Bogota (or FiLBo) is one of Latin America's biggest literary fairs, and The Ibero-American Theater Festival of Bogota is one of the largest performing arts festivals in the world.

Bogota is an essential musical destination in Colombia, and the opportunities for filming live music in the city are many. From huge free concerts such as 'Rock in the Park' and 'Salsa in the Park,' to massive festivals with international headliners such as 'Estereo Picnic,' Bogota hosts many musical events throughout the year. The city is also home to many smaller musical venues which provide stage time to an up-and-coming generation of new Colombian bands and artists. Good examples of these types of music venues are Matik-Matik, Boogaloop Bar, and Latino Power.

Street art is also popular in Bogota. The city has become an international reference point for graffiti culture, and the vast murals of La Candelaria and Calle 26 are now must-visit stops on any trip to the city. There are many local and international artists painting in Bogota, and the graffiti adds an extra visual dimension to the city. WhereNext has worked with Colombian street artists through our client Dictador Art Masters, with whom we are building the world's greatest graffiti museum in the Colombian jungle. We have close contacts with many of these otherwise hard-to-contact and anonymous artists.

Wildlife

In spite of Bogota being a sprawling city of 10 million people, the area surrounding it is surprisingly good for filming wildlife. Two paramo national parks – Sumapaz and Chingaza – overlook the city. Both are home to several endemic bird species, including the endangered Bogota Rail, Green-bearded Helmetcrest, and Apolinar's Wren. Chingaza is also home to a healthy population of Spectacled Bears, along with White-tailed Deer.

Read: 10 Birds You Can Only Film in Colombia

For filming hummingbirds, Bogota is easily one of the top locations in Colombia. The Hummingbird Observatory in La Calera attracts at least ten species of high-altitude hummingbirds, while 'El Jardin Encantado' on the road to the Magdalena Valley has over 50 hummingbird feeders and around ten species. Chicaque Natural Park is home to the endemic Black Inca hummingbird, as well as the striking Golden-bellied Starfrontlet. You can also film Sloths and agoutis in the park.

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Even within urban Bogota, there are several reliable locations for wildlife filming. Monserrate is an excellent location for filming hummingbirds and mountain tanagers, while the various wetlands within the city are home to a variety of species of ducks, rails, and other water birds. The Botanical Gardens are another hotspot for bird photography, with such species as Sparkling Violetear, White-bellied Woodstar, and Yellow-backed Oriole seen regularly.

Filming in Bogota is a unique experience thanks to the city's diverse blend of cultural influences and its unique contrasts between past and present. As the up-and-coming city on the global production map, now is an exciting time to shoot in the Colombian capital. With the US Dollar recently reaching an all-time high against the Colombian Peso, there has never been a better time for filming in Bogotá.

WhereNext opened an office in Bogota in 2013. We are considered to be the No. 1 creative agency and video production company in Colombia. Our extensive network of contacts and knowledge of this city makes us ideally placed to facilitate video production services in Bogota.

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