Though most of us can’t physically travel right now, there’s still a wonderful world out there for us to explore together. Traveling In Quarantine spotlights people and places through which we can escape our sequestered realities… and in the process expand our Traveling IQ.
Traveling In Quarantine: Mark Chesnut “Latin Flyer” in Bogota, Colombia
Mark Chesnut is a New York City-based journalist, photographer and content producer focused on travel, tourism and hospitality.
He is the founder and editor of LatinFlyer.com, a travel blog dedicated to all things Latin America, with strong coverage of LGBTQ travel in the region.
He also speaks Spanish better than any non-native speaker I’ve ever met.
His writing has appeared in Fodor’s, The Huffington Post, Latin Trade, Meetings & Conventions, the Miami Herald, Orbitz, Successful Meetings, Travel Weekly, the New York Times bestseller “1,000 Places To See Before You Die” and the inflight magazines of Aeromexico, American Airlines and Avianca.
Much like Alexander Hamilton, the man is non-stop.
He writes a monthly column for Global Traveler Magazine and covers Mexico every month for TravelAge West, the leading travel trade publication in the western United States.
In 2019, he won the NLGJA Excellence in Travel Writing Award for a feature he wrote about LGBTQ tourism trends in Bogota, Colombia for Passport Magazine.
Traveling In Quarantine interviews Mark Chesnut “Latin Flyer” and together we explore Bogota, Colombia:
IQ: How did you get involved in travel?
Mark: It’s been my passion ever since I was little! Traveling to see family required a two-day car trip or a plane ride when I was growing up, so that helped to give me the travel bug at an early age.
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born in a small college town in western New York State called Brockport, but my entire family was from Kentucky. I went to college in Albany and moved to New York City right after graduation, and I’ve been here ever since.
Describe your featured destination-Bogota:
Bogota is a fascinating city. It’s loaded with history, culture, art and architecture, as well as great hotels, restaurants and short-term rental options. It’s the kind of place where you’ll never get bored.
What makes Bogota unique?
Bogota is the largest city in Colombia, and by some counts the third-largest city in South America, so it offers all the big-city sophistication pleasures that you’d expect. Plus, it has beautiful scenery, with verdant mountains and one of the world’s biggest collections of gold on public display, at the Museo de Oro (Gold Museum). The dramatic Salt Cathedral, which is located about an hour outside the city, is another decidedly unique attraction. Oh, and it just happens to be home to the largest LGBTQ nightclub in the Western Hemisphere (and possibly the world). If you think you know large-scale gay nightlife because you’ve hung out in New York City or London or Rio, you’re missing out, big time!
What makes Bogota a place for LGBTQ travelers?
Colombia overall is one of the most progressive destinations in South America when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2016, and discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal. The nightlife is especially noteworthy, thanks especially to Theatron, the biggest LGBTQ nightclub in the Americas (and that includes North America). More than 2,000 revelers fit into this massive club, which is constantly expanding and has more than a dozen different venues, each with its own ambiance and music. Locals sometimes call it a “gay DisneyWorld.” Theatron is located in Chapinero the city’s gayest neighborhood, where you’ll find at least a dozen other bars, nightclubs and businesses catering to LGBTQ people — there are even some cool gay restaurants and a shopping mall with several small shops that specialize in clothing for gay men.
What are three spots that you love in Bogota and why?
La Candelaria is the city’s beautiful historic heart, with lots of restored colonial architecture as well as noteworthy cultural institutions like the Museo de Oro (Gold Museum), several worthwhile art museums (Botero, Colombia’s most legendary artist, is heavily featured, especially at the eponymous Museo Botero) and the former hacienda of South American liberator Simon Bolivar, which has been restored to its former glory and is open to the public.
Monserrate is a must-see for first-time visitors; it’s a mountaintop sanctuary, reached by funicular railway or cable car, that offers spectacular views of the city.
Chapinero is worth visiting not just for its many LGBTQ businesses but also because of its excellent dining scene, with trendy restaurants like Amen Ramen and Mesa Franca. You’ll find even more upscale dining and shopping in neighborhoods like the Zona T and Zona G.
What are three LGBTQ highlights in Bogota?
- Theatron has to be at the top of the list, since there’s no place like it in the entire hemisphere.
- Dinner and drinks anywhere in the Chapinero district are a wonderful way to spend an evening; there are bars and clubs to suit every taste, from the giant dance club I keep mentioning to smaller places like El Perro y La Calandria, which plays “música para planchar” (literally, “music to iron to,” classic and dramatic old pop tunes in Spanish that housewives would listen to while doing houswork)
- Bogota’s LGBTQ pride celebration takes place in June (except not this year, unfortunately)
If Coronavirus is magically cured overnight and quarantine ends abruptly, where will you choose to celebrate?
It would be so wonderful to be able to celebrate in Bogota! I’d tour the museums, see new art, savor some great cuisine and go dancing.
If you could choose anywhere in the world to Quarantine, where would it be and why?
Hmmm that’s a tough question. I love Bogota, I love Mexico City, I love Guadalajara. But the problem is that during quarantine I wouldn’t be able to enjoy all that those cities have to offer. So I guess I’d just choose the city where I could find the nicest Airbnb rental at the best rate, since I’d be trapped inside!
To explore more of Mark’s adventures…
Follow the Traveling IQ (In Quarantine) series, highlighting people and places through which we can escape our sequestered realities.