Expoartesanías: Serious Shopping in Bogotá, Colombia
Colombia currently has an international advertising blitz promoting tourism with the slogan, “Colombia: The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay.”
But in Bogotá during its Expoartesanías in December, a massive annual handicrafts fair sponsored by Artesanías de Colombia, a more appropriate slogan would be “Bogotá: The Only Risk is Wanting to Shop.”
More than 800 vendors representing each of Colombia’s 32 departments are set to participate this year, in addition to craftspeople from countries such as India, Brazil, Guatemala and Iran.
While handicraft markets the world over often mean little more than baskets or kitsch, Expoartesanías, occupying six massive pavilions at the modern Corferias fairgrounds, is beyond comparison.
Considered the best handicraft fair in Latin America, the fair attracts nearly 100,000 visitors each year, many of whom spend multiple days shopping. Some plan well in advance to be there on opening day (December 7) for first dibs, plenty of pesos in hand and sufficiently caffeined up.
There are indigenous artifacts which can’t be found anywhere else like tiples (guitars) from Pasto (in the country’s south), ceremonial rafts from the Vaupés department (bordering Venezuela), carved animals from the jungles of Putumayo (next to Peru), feathered necklaces from the Amazon and carved wood from the Chocó (along the Pacific Coast).
Meanwhile Sylvia Alejandre, an American from Maryland now living in Bogotá, looks forward to the fair each year before returning to the States for the holidays. She says that “the fair is a great one-stop shopping for Christmas presents.”
But if you visit her well-decorated home, it’s apparent that not all of her fair purchases are gifts. “I've bought baskets, wooden objects, molas (colorful , appliqué textile hand-stitched by the Kuna Indians near the Panama border), picture frames, pottery, jewelry and probably a lot of other things I'm forgetting.“
That means cheeses from the Tolima province; luladas, a tangy juice drink from Cali; colorful chontaduro from the Pacific, a fruit that comes from palm trees; beef empanadas and plantain chips from the Atlantic Coast and obleas, wafers filled with caramel sauce to satisfy those with a sweet tooth.
Then there is coffee, the essential fair beverage. Its unmistakable aroma wafts through the countless fair corridors as vendors with urns attached to their backs meander the fair pavilions selling tinto – small black coffees –all day long, providing shoppers with the jolt they need to continue their quest for the perfect gift.
Time to relax
For luxury, the new Marriott Hotel (Avenida El Dorado No. 69b – 53; Tel. (57) 1-485-1111) located minutes from both Corferias and the airport can’t be beat. When this hotel was inaugurated in August 2009, the occasion was so important for the city, proof of the great strides Bogota has made, that both Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and Bogotá Mayor Samuel Moreno were on hand to celebrate it.
With a growing numbers of international tourists and business travelers, Bogotá is also experiencing an unprecedented boom in hotels. In the next year, Hilton Hotels will return to the city, J.W. Marriott, Ibis and boutique Cité Hotel will welcome their first guests.
Restaurant options likewise continue to grow. Legendary Andres Carne de Res, Colombia’s most famous restaurant located in the outskirts of Bogotá, has recently opened a second restaurant in the glitzy El Retiro shopping center in town. Occupying four floors, Andres feels like a party.
And more to see…
Other must sees include strolling the colonial center, the Candelaria, and visiting the Museo Botero and the impressive permanent collections and special exhibits (recently a show on Andy Warhol broke attendance records) at the Museo del Banco de la República.
Read more GoNOMAD stories about Colombia
Like this on Facebook: