Take A Trip To This South American City For A Fun Christmas Vacation

Twinkling lights, warm drinks, and festive cheer — there's nothing like Christmas to brighten up the winter months and send you off into the new year. Whether you're all about getting together with family or prefer low-key celebrations alone, the holiday season is typically synonymous with taking the time to celebrate and unwind. For some, going home for Christmas is a must; for others, there are plenty of destinations calling out to shake things up — and shake the cold off on a well-deserved, warm-weather winter vacation. From Caribbean coastal destinations that trade snow for sandy beaches and South American cities that burst with holiday spirit, Christmas abroad can be a refreshingly unique experience.

And what better place to live out your winter holiday than a city known for its cuisine, cultural attractions, and vibrant atmosphere? Enter: Bogotá, Colombia.

Christmas typically comes alive in Bogotá starting as early as mid-November. Whether it's the constant hum of villancicos — traditional Christmas carols — that take over the radio, the decorations dotted around local parks and shopping malls, or the festive markets, Bogotá does Christmas really well — especially when it comes to unique and local traditions.

Getting into the holiday spirit

The best thing about Christmas in Bogotá is that there's plenty of things to do and take in. With crisp mornings and relatively sunny afternoons — and temperatures ranging from 45 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit — December is a great time to hit up Bogotá and soak up the city's Christmas cheer.

Specifically, destinations like the Monserrate — the highest point in Bogotá — light up with seasonal decorations and host family-friendly events that range from the much-awaited Christmas tree lighting to concerts, workshops, and a traditional afternoon mass on Christmas Eve. Don't worry, though — you don't need to climb the mountain on foot. Cable car tickets are available starting from $5 for a roundtrip.

Another great way to celebrate Christmas in Bogotá is to hop aboard the Tren de la Sabana. Starting from December 1st, the train gets decked out in lights and holiday decorations — plus Santa making his way along the aisles — for a festive nighttime route along the city tracks. At just $15 per person, the 4-hour roundtrip starts from Bogotá and takes guests out to the outskirts of the city for a firework display, with a few stops along the way to snap photos of the Christmas decorations.

Must-try Christmas traditions

If you still feel like you haven't had your fill of Christmas lights — you're in luck. The city's Ruta de la Navidad covers 20 neighborhoods in Bogotá and includes more than 40 stops along public parks and the Botanical Garden of Bogotá for a closer look at the decorative light displays. Ideally, you'll want to rent a bike during the city's Ciclovía Nocturna — a nighttime bike ride that hits up most of these spots — and cover more distance.

Additionally, the famous Día de las Velitas — or Little Candles Day — is a great way to mingle with the locals and learn more about Colombian tradition. The celebration takes place every year on December 7th to commemorate the Immaculate Conception per Catholic tradition. During the evening, locals light up colorful candles and lanterns — hence the name — and ask for blessings and wishes for the coming year. It's common to see families and neighbors outside residential buildings and parks sharing snacks, enjoying a warm drink, and even having a little dance party — so don't be afraid to join in on the fun!

And let's be honest, it wouldn't be Christmas without food. From buñuelos (fried cheese and dough balls) to natilla (a flan-like dessert), tamales, arroz con leche, and even lechona (a roasted pig stuffed with rice and peas), Colombians love to eat well during Christmas. So make sure you pack a pair of loose pants for after the festivities — you'll be glad you did.