Bogotá was originally called "Bacatá" (which means “planted fields”) by the Muiscas. It was the center of their civilization before the Spanish explorers colonized the area, and it sustained a large population. The European settlement was founded in August 6, 1538, by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada and was named "Santa Fé de Bacatá" after his birthplace Santa Fé and the local name. "Bacatá" had become the modern "Bogotá" by the time it was made the capital of the New Kingdom of Granada, which was then part of the Viceroyalty of Peru, and later of the Viceroyalty of New Granada. The city soon became one of the centers of Spanish colonial power and civilization in South America.
In 1810-11 its citizens revolted against Spanish rule and set up a government of their own, but had to contend with internal divisions and the temporary return to power of Spanish military loyalists, who resumed control of the city from 1816 to 1819, when Simón Bolívar captured it after his victory at Boyacá. Bogotá was then made the capital of Gran Colombia, a federation combining the territories of modern Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. When that republic was dissolved into its constituent parts, Bogotá remained the capital of New Granada, which later became the Republic of Colombia.
In 1956, the municipality was joined to other neighboring municipalities forming a "Special District" (Spanish: Distrito Especial). With the Constitution of 1991, Bogotá was confirmed as the Capital of Colombia acquiring the name "Santa Fe de Bogotá", and changing the category from Special District to "Capital District" (Distrito Capital).
In August 2000 the capital's name was officially changed back from "Santa Fé de Bogotá" to the more usual "Bogotá".
Bogotá is located in the centre of the country, on the east of the "sabana de Bogotá", 2640 meters (8661 feet) above sea level. Although "sabana", as it is popularly called, is literally "savanna", the geographical site is actually a high plateau in the Andes mountains. The extended region is also known as "altiplano cundi-boyacense" which literally means "high plateau of Cundinamarca and Boyaca"
The Bogotá River crosses the 'sabana' forming Tequendama Falls to the south. Tributary rivers form valleys with flourishing villages, whose economy is based on agriculture, livestock raising and artisanal production.
The 'sabana' is bordered to the east by the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes mountain range. Surrounding hills, which limit city growth, run from south to north, parallel to the Guadalupe and Monserrate mountains. The western city limit is the Bogotá river; Sumapaz paramo borders the south and to the north Bogotá extends over the mentioned plateau up to the towns of Chía and Sopó.
The average temperature on the 'sabana' is 14.0°C (57°F), varying from -8°C (18°F) to 20°C (68°F). Dry and rainy seasons alternate throughout the year. The driest months are December, January, February and March; the rainiest are April, May, September, October and November. June and July are usually rainy periods and August is sunny with high winds.
Frost usually occurs in dry season. During this period, the temperature falls below 0°C. The lowest temperature ever recorded was -8°C (17°F) inside the city and -10°C (14°F) in the nearby towns of the savanna.
Climatic conditions are irregular and quite variable due to the El Niño and La Niña climatic phenomena, which occur in and around the Pacific basin and are responsible for very pronounced climatic changes.