I took a 90-year-old funicular 10,300 feet above sea level in Bogotá — here’s what it was like

Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty ImagesRiding up the Monserrate Hill with a funicular in Bogotá, Colombia
  • One of Bogotá’s signature tourist destinations is the Monserrate.
  • However, the famed cable car that brings you to the top of the mountain was out of commission the day I went.
  • I went via funicular instead.

Colombia is flush with cable cars – and they aren’t just pretty tourist features either.

Bogotá and Medellín both have integrated cable cars into their public transit.

So when I visited Bogotá, I was excited to take a cable car for the view and the experience.

Unfortunately, the cable car was out of commission after a breaking accident on the car left 28 injured around Christmas of 2018. I visited less than a month after the accident.

Here’s what it was like to take a funicular to one of Bogotá’s famous tourist destination instead:


In mountainous Colombia, many urban people live in the hills surrounding the cities. That makes it challenging for them to commute to jobs in the city centres.

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So cable cars aren’t just a pretty tourist attraction either. In Medellín, the Metrocable system is a mass transit system that connects low-income neighbourhoods with the bustling downtown.

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Atlas Obscura


The Metrocable, opened in 2004, is a fascinating example of public transit that’s a bit unorthodox but has managed to connect informal neighbourhoods in the hills surrounding Medellín to jobs in the city center.

RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images


Source:
Atlas Obscura


I visited Bogotá in January, and found out that a low-income locality near the capital city had just launched its own version of public transit via cable car — the TransMiCable.

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Source:
EFE


TransMiCable costs 70 cents per ride and connects a public housing project of about 700,000 to Bogotá’s downtown. A local resident said his trip to the city center has gone from 1.5 hours to just ten minutes.

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I was excited to take a cable car in Colombia to the famous Monserrate, the locale of a 17th-century church and an excellent spot for overlooking the city and sunset.

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But the cable car was out of commission that day — and had been since Christmas 2018 when a cable car mishap left 28 injured. One of the cabin cars, while descending, didn’t break in time and ended up hitting the rail wall.

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Source:
Vaaju


So we planned to take the funicular. Some coworkers who had taken the little train before me said it was a bit frightening. I was a little apprehensive before the trip, but I didn’t really want to hike an hour or so uphill.

Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

To get to the funicular, we did have to hike uphill for a little while. My friend, an American who has lived in Colombia for several years, and I could have taken a taxi instead, but the walk wasn’t too arduous.

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We then had to wait in a rather long line to get our funicular tickets. It seemed like everyone was keen to see the sunset from Monserrate that day. One roundtrip ticket was under $US10.

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Then, we boarded. I was a little apprehensive, especially considering the recent cable car accident. The fact that the funicular itself was 90 years old didn’t help. (My friend, pictured, remained enthusiastic.)

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The climb began…

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It wasn’t as rickety as I thought it would be. For something that opened in 1929, it was pleasantly smooth. The view was great, too.

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We did go through a dark tunnel, which added to the slightly frightening feeling. (I obviously didn’t photograph that entirely-lightless experience.)

Harvey Meston/Archive Photos/Getty Images

But, we got to the top without a scratch.

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The view was beautiful, and the ride down wasn’t too scary for this nerd either.

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My only problem was breathing on top of Monserrate — you’re more than 10,000 feet above sea level.

Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

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