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Travel Guide The Coffee Region - Where The Colombian Flavour Comes From

The Departments of Caldas, Quindío and Risaralda are known as the Coffee region, or Coffee triangle. In this region the famous Colombian coffee is produced. It has three main cities, each of which is a departmental capital. Pereira is the largest and more most modern city situated at a lower altitude than its neighbors. Manizales is a university city and gateway to the snow-covered Nevado del Ruiz volcano, while Armenia is a smaller city and a rather quiet place.

The main attraction is however the breathtaking countryside. Green mountains stretch out as far as the eye could see. Coffee plants cover the hillside and in every restaurant you can enjoy little cups of tinto, typical Colombian coffee. Everywhere you look in the countryside around Manizales, Pereira and Armenia, there are spectacular coffee fincas (farms) and haciendas (mansions) of former times, some of which are transformed into beautiful tourist accommodations bordered with tropical flowers and exotic fruits. Its spring-like climate makes it even more pleasant.

All cities are a good base to explore the region. You can also choose to stay at a finca hotel in the countryside.

The region is the perfect place for outdoor activities such as hiking, rafting or horseback rides. Although we also like to spend a long afternoon at the pool of one of the fincas in this gorgeous part of the country, with the sound of a wild river at the background. It is no coincidence that the region is considered one of Colombia’s most attractive tourist destinations. In 2011 UNESCO has added Colombia’s Coffee region to its list of World Heritage sites.

Getting there and around

Air - the Coffee region can be reached through the airports of any of the three cities: El Edén International Airport in Armenia, La Nubia Airport in Manizales and Matecaña International Airport in Pereira. Several domestic flights run daily to these airports from Bogotá and Medellín with Avianca, Aires and Easyfly. There is a daily international direct flight from Matecaña International Airport in Pereira to Panama City operated by Copa Airlines. Spirit Airlines serves flights between El Edén International Airport in Armenia and Fort Lauderdale.

Car - travelling by car in the Coffee region is a convenient and safe option using your common sense. We recommend you to rent a car at the airport in any of the three cities. Price per day for a small car starts from around COP $200,000 (€78/$105).

Bus - Pereira, Manizales as well as Armenia have a bus terminal (Terminal de Transportes) from where busses depart to destinations around the country. There are minibuses that run between Pereira, Manizales, Armenia and Salento.

Taxi - Taxis are relatively cheap, just make sure the meter is on. If the taxi does not have a meter, negotiate a price in advance.

Things to do and places to visit

Salento - stroll around in Salento, a pueblo of Spanish style houses painted in bright colors and shops with interesting handicraft. In this well preserved town campesinos with cowboy hats and ponchos sit down at picturesque benches while vendors sell obleas in the streets. From the main square traditional Willys jeeps take you to the Valle de Cocora, making Salento a perfect starting point to explore its nearby valley.

Coffee farm – in a scenery dotted with coffee plants you can’t miss a visit to a coffee farm. While touring a coffee farm you will taste some of the best coffee and get a detailed explanation of the various stages from coffee cherries on the plants to the dried and roasted beans.

Valle de Cocora – this lush green valley covered with the world’s tallest palm trees, often with their tops in the clouds, is a natural highlight of the Coffee region. The tall palm trees (up to 60 meters high) are impressive, making this a magical scenery you can’t miss.

Termales de Santa Rosa de Cabal – energize yourself in these natural springs at the foot of multiple hot and cold waterfalls. A few hours of lounging in the pools and looking out on the green mountains will definitely revive you.

Nevado del Ruiz volcano - experience snow in a country so close to the equator is a memorable experience. Various tour operators offer day trips to Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados with the Nevado del Ruiz volcano (5,300m / 17,388ft) as the highlight of the trip. The trip through a unique scenery to the still active volcano with its top covered in snow is breathtaking.

Parque Nacional del Café - the National Coffee Park is host to a variety of attractions for the whole family. Best are the walking trails through the bamboo forest (or guadua, a material typical in this region) and coffee plantations with more than 15 varieties of coffee. Don’t miss their spectacular Show del Café with dances from different regions of Colombia.

Food and Drink

Trucha – after a day of hiking in Valle de Cocora enjoy a dish of trout, a type of fish served in Salento. The local restaurants offer the freshwater trout with an impressive choice of sauces, typically accompanied by patacón, a fried green plantain.

Chorizo santarrosano - this chorizo originates from Santa Rosa de Cabal. Made of pork meat, bacon, onions, cumin and garlic, they’re smoky and tasty. Get one on your way to the Termales de Santa Rosa de Cabal at the restaurant ChoriSant (Santa Rosa de Cabal, Cra. 15 No. 12-49).

Restaurants

La Fogata – for the past 45 years, this warmly restaurant is a favorite local spot. Enjoy the fresh-grilled steaks and fish as well as the good wines. A cocktail at their charming bar is a perfect start of a night off. Armenia, Carrera 13 No 14N-47; (57 6) 7495501.

Lenos y Parilla – this cozy restaurant is renowned for its steaks grilled in traditional parilla style. A lovely wine list complements the tasty plates that come sizzling from the grill. Pereira, Carrera 12 No 4-07; (57 6) 3314676.

Il Forno – locals flock to this restaurant for its Italian platters. The menu varies from pizzas and pastas to meat and salads. Decoration is casual and colorful. Manizales, Carrera 23 No 73-86; (57 6) 8868515.

Bars and clubs

Cirano Crepes – partly restaurant, partly bar and an ideal place to hear live music. Stylish locals enjoy delightful cocktails here. Armenia, Calle 22 No 15-25.

Simón Dice – dance the night away in this purple and black bar located in Manizales’ Zona Rosa district (the restaurant and bar district near the stadium).`On the second floor is a terrace with beautiful views over the city. Manizales, Carrera 23 No 63-56.

Yii Bar – popular bar with an outdoor terrace, opposite the Club del Comercio. Pereira, Av. Circunvalar Cr 13 No 7-08.

Climate

Located at 2,150m Manizales has an average temperature of 18ºC ( 64ºF). Armenia with its altitude of 1,550m has an average temperature of 20ºC (68ºF), whereas Pereira at an altitude of 1,400m has an average temperature of 21ºC (69ºF).