Between the quiet and the warm, dry smell of earth and pine trees in the sunshine, I didn’t feel like I was in Bogotá. I haven’t lived in Oregon for years, but smelling the evergreen trees growing in the José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden, I was taken back to summers walking in Portland’s Laurelhurst Park with my dad.
Because of the skyscrapers and cloud cover, Bogotá can be a pretty gray place. Multiple people have recommended I visit and I’d been meaning to go for months, but if you know anything about traffic in this city, then you know how your excitement to venture out can be quickly tempered by the time of day and direction of your destination. Thankfully, Bogotá empties the week after Christmas and the visiting in-laws and I were able to make an easy afternoon visit.
Colombia is one of seventeen megadiverse countries, meaning that it holds a majority of the Earth’s species and is home to great numbers of plants and animals that are found nowhere else in the world. Named after botanist and astronomerJosé Celestino Mutis, the garden was founded in 1955 to feature, research, and protect the ecosystems that make this country unique. Sixty years later, it’s still one of the most popular attractions in the city for both tourists and locals.
As you stroll the park’s 20 acres, you’ll see areas dedicated to the Paramo, Andean forests, crops that grow best in cold weather, tropical plants—all the climates and altitudes of Colombia are represented. In between you’ll find benches aplenty and spaces dedicated to simply sitting and enjoying the tranquility of the park (the large space and trees provide an excellent buffer to traffic noise). We spent about an hour and a half walking and didn’t even see each area, so I’ve promised myself a return visit (probably with the husband in tow!).
Practically every place I’ve visited has a ‘green’ place and I’ve had these same homey feelings while strolling parks in Oregon, Germany, the UK, and Argentina. There is something universal in nature—no matter the species of flora on display—that imparts serenity and feels familiar. Bogotá’s botanical garden is an expat’s refuge: if you’re missing home and feeling overwhelmed by the city, this is a place to feel grounded again.