If you trekked up the Cerro de Monserrate in Bogotá early on a Sunday morning, you would find old women kneeling at the base of a white-washed church, or walking the steps with pebbles lodged in their soles for penance. 3,152 meters above sea level, the Monserrate Sanctuary watches over the sprawling city of Bogotá beneath it, from the slums cutting into its mountains to the business-hopping “Wall Street” tucked into the city core.
We had arrived at Monserrate on a foggy day, pulling up at the base of the mountain to see families begin their ascent up its steep, winding stairs. A line of locals stretched from the ticket booths to the cable car, tucked inside a colonial-style building – its size rivaled by the massive cross reaching up next to it. The street was lined with women selling obleas, buttery salted corn, and electric pink cotton candy.
View of Bogotá from the top of Monserrate
Obleas on the street
Vendors, products and customers
Up And Away
We chose to take the funicular up to the top, turning an hour’s walk into a steep, creaking four-minute ride. At the chilly top of the mountain, we were greeted by religious statues and an abundance of colorful flowers, including the borrachera – named for its ability to induce an inebriated state in whoever sniffs its yellow petals.
One of the many statues at the top of Monserrate.
The borrachera flower
Around us, people swarmed towards the white walls of the church, which was so packed that its crowds overflowed from doorways. This is the typical scene of a Sunday at Monserrate, which is easily the most popular pilgrimage site in Bogotá. It is home to “El Senor Caído,” or the Fallen Christ, in the sanctuary tucked behind the church. The sanctuary offered up a wall of thank-yous, engraved in tiles. Before winding back down the mountain, people could also toss a coin in the wishing well.
Wall of thanks
The wishing well
Signs guiding people back to the cable car