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What can you visit in the Zona Cafetera (besides Salento and Valle de Cocora)?
It’s what you will discover in this travel guide.
The coffee region is one of the most pleasant regions of Colombia to visit. There is something to fall in love with between the colonial villages, the hikes in the natural parks, the hot springs, and the coffee landscapes.
I’ve been to the Zona Cafetera several times since 2015, and I always find a place that surprises me.
Most of the cities mentioned in this post are on our map 👉
Best things to do in the Zona Cafetera, Colombia
Colombia’s coffee region (known in Spanish as Eje Cafetero or Zona Cafetera) showcases splendid scenery and rich culture. The Coffee Cultural Landscape was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 2011. The area sits in central Colombia, in the Andes mountain-range region.
Despite being in the mountains, most of its altitude ranges from 1,200 and 1,800 masl, which is ideal for growing coffee and enjoying great weather. Temperatures throughout the year vary from 20 to 30 degrees Celsius.
The coffee zone features Los Nevados National Park, snow-covered mountains whose summits pose a great challenge for professional and amateur climbers alike.
Or you may want to ride horses and walk through really breathtaking landscapes.
Let’s see together what you can do.
1# Valle del Cocora
Going to the town of Salento, Quindío, obliges you to drop by Valle del Cocora. There you can hike to see the beautiful and iconic wax palm trees, the tallest in the world of their kind.
It is best to be an early bird to visit this outstanding fog forest, which is World Heritage, full of hummingbirds and magnificent views. The earlier you go, the less chance of rain you’ll have during the 6-hour hike.
How to get there: You can hire a Jeep from Salento to take you to the valley.
Favorite tip: Bring your lunch. There is no restaurant on the trail.
2# Los Nevados National Park
This mountain range covers four departments: Tolima (just a portion of the north), Caldas, Risaralda, and Quindío. This Colombia park also showcases different thermal floors or temperature zones, which comprise warm, cool, paramo (higher than 3,000 masl), and cold (glaciers, higher than 4,500 masl).
There are 3 famous peaks to be conquered: Santa Isabel, Ruiz, and Tolima. Before you reach the snow, you will walk through different ecosystems, including rivers, the unique paramos, and their beautiful frailejones.
How to get there: You can start your trek to Los Nevados from the towns of Salento, Pereira, Manizales, or Ibague.
Staying at a coffee farm may be the best way to enjoy the beautiful scenery and weather of the Coffee axis. But, most importantly, it allows you to learn and appreciate the culture of the people and their generosity. And after your stay, you will also be quite knowledgeable on coffee crops and the process to turn Colombian coffee into one of the most highly regarded drinks in the world.
The are many farms that offer board and lodge, and we chose the following, according to our own experience:
This coffee farm, which is more than 100 years old, offers different lodging alternatives and budgets, either in the main house or at the Coffee Lodge, a hostel, and the Overlanders’ Site. The latter doesn’t offer restaurant service since it’s a place to relax from your land trip. You may cook your meal or order a delivery from a nearby supermarket.
On the farm, you’ll have the chance to cool down in the swimming pool, relax in the many sitting areas, take a nap in a hammock or use the barbecue setup.
How to get there: you travel 10.5 km by taxi or car from Manizales.
Favorite experience: owners like to make pizza to gather all guests and share everyone’s traveling experiences.
The farm is located just 5 km from Salento, Quindío, and 16 km from Valle del Cocora. The rooms at the venue are named after coffee varieties and are decorated with typical objects.
With standard and premium options, the coffee tour will truly surprise you, even if you are a knowledgeable coffee lover. If you like the experience, the farm has a shop where you can buy different kinds of premium quality coffees.
How to get there: 5km from Salento. You can walk or jump on a Willys (jeep).
Favorite experience: you can be a farmer for a day, pick up the beans from the plants, and then learn about production while you drink a cup of coffee.
Finca el Otoño
The farm is located on the mountainside, near the town of Pijao, Quindío. It has some coffee and banana plantations and also features a native forest.
The owners claim they avoid the degradation of the environment through clean cultivation and respect for the natural environment.
The hotel includes three family rooms with double and single beds if you want to stay. It offers free wifi connection and balconies with views of the mountains and the nearby town.
How to get there: 10 min drive from Pijao.
Favorite experience: the feel-at-home sensation is one of the best features of the farm.
Glamping is an innovative type of accommodation that has become very popular in Colombia’s coffee region. This is an incredible experience due to the variety of ecosystems, climates, and landscapes that make it one of the best places to sleep and spend time.
This type of accommodation is perfect for travelers who want to be in touch with nature without losing the comfort of a good night’s sleep at a hotel. Don’t forget that the word glamping comes from ‘glamorous’ and ‘camping.’
The safari-type tents of Entre Ríos make you feel in the wild but with all the comfort and luxury of a hotel.
This glamping area is located near the town of Calarcá, Quindío, and it promises full relaxation while sleeping along with the sound of nature and birds singing.
Once inside the property, you have the chance to ride mountain bikes, go fishing, do birdwatching, ride horses, play games or just relax in a hammock. It includes breakfast.
How to get there: the place is 6 km away from El Edén International Airport, and the hotel offers transportation for an additional fee.
Favorite experience: nothing like enjoying a hot tub outside your room at night, in the open, under a starry sky.
Ecohotel Monte Tierra Bed & Breakfast and Glamping is located in Filandia, Quindío, near Salento. It offers a bar, restaurant, shared lounge, and a lovely garden. There is also a terrace, free WiFi, and free private parking.
Rooms include a seating area. All 4 rooms and 4 domes have a private bathroom, free toiletries, and bed linen. You can eat an à la carte breakfast, and there is a hot tub.
You can enjoy activities in Filandia and its surroundings, such as hiking and biking.
How to get there: it’s located just 2 km away from Filandia, so you may walk or take a taxi.
Favorite experience: looking at the stars through a telescope in your own room.
Although coffee farms are often associated with rustic places, with just the necessary things to spend time comfortably enough, Colombia’s zona cafetera also offers luxury accommodation.
These are the same farms you’ll find in the area, with the difference that these pay more attention to detail and offer amenities and services that classify them as luxurious.
These are some examples of luxury lodging in the beautiful Zona Cafetera of Colombia:
This beautiful farm, full of coffee and cocoa plantations, is located on a 180-hectare property. The size of the land makes it possible to go for hikes in the middle of the forest without leaving the hotel.
The beautiful boutique hotel presents 8 rooms totally equipped with air conditioning, a private bathroom, balconies facing the well-worn garden, and extraordinary decoration details.
There are plenty of activities in the hotel, apart from just relaxing. For example, you can go around the huge cocoa crops, ride a mountain bike provided by the hotel, take cooking lessons, experience coffee tasting, and, yes: fly over the area in a hot air balloon!
How to get there: at just 25 min from Armenia’s airport, it’s easy to get there by taxi or in your own car.
Favorite experience: flying over the property in a hot-air balloon.
This cozy hotel is located 6 km north of Pereira, on the way to Marsella. Its 23 rooms are inspired by names and materials taken from local trees.
Thanks to the work of more than 140 artists from the region, every luxury room features a different, unique style and decoration.
The concept of the activities at the hotel is based on the 4 elements: air, water, fire, and earth, for you can go to rivers on foot or in a Jeep, enjoy the huge swimming pool, walk, and picnic in the forest, and do campfires, among other nice things to do, such as birdwatching.
How to get there: by taxi from Pereira.
Favorite experience: having a romantic evening in a hot tub, which some rooms feature.
This countryside hotel is in the middle of Colombia’s coffee zone: 30 min from El Eden airport in Armenia, 45 min from Pereira Matecaña international airport, 20 min from Salento, 35 min from Valle del Cocora, and 15 min from Filandia.
Faithful to its name, the hotel does not offer rooms but habitats. This is the case with the master suite, which showcases luxurious finishes, and spaces of up to 67 square meters. This habitat includes a king-size bed, large terrace, outdoor hot tub, chill-out room, desk, air conditioning, mini bar, and private bathroom glass roofs that let you gaze at the sky.
The place offers spa services, night walks, birdwatching trails, and an introduction to living sustainably.
How to get there: it stands 3 km away from the city of Armenia, Quindío, on the way to Circasia.
Favorite experience: one of the rooms offers a magnificent view of the snow-capped mountains at dawn.
Colombia’s coffee region is located in a highly volcanic area, mostly in the departments of Risaralda and Caldas. For this reason, you can find hot springs near the main routes and paths around the area.
This is the best way to relax after a tiring journey. You’ll find places that offer this service and where you can even spend the night. There are hot springs of both non-volcanic and volcanic nature. These are some recommended places:
Hotel Termales Santa Rosa de Cabal
These out-of-this-world hot springs take your breath away as soon as you arrive. The 70-Celsius degree water falls directly from the mountain into the pools, which cools down to a healthy and soothing 40 degrees.
You may spend the night at this hotel. Before you go to bed and after taking a thermal bath, you may choose to get a well-deserved professional massage.
How to get there: you can take a bus in front of Santa Rosa de Cabal’s Town Hall (it costs approx. 2,500 COP) or a taxi, which costs 25,000 COP. It takes 25 minutes to cover the 16 km that separate the hot springs from downtown.
Favorite tip: Avoid going on weekends (lots of locals)
Traditionally, Colombia has been a producer of the ‘mildest coffee’ globally. Coffee became the main product in the country at the end of the XIX century, and currently, Colombia is the third-largest coffee producer on the planet.
About 550,000 families depend on coffee culture. For this reason, coffee has also become associated with travel and tourism, and coffee tours are widely spread throughout this region.
In a coffee tour, visitors learn how the grain is cultivated, picked by hand, dried, fermented, and roasted for you to enjoy a tasty cup of Colombian coffee.
Apart from the coffee tours, Parque del Café is known for providing entertainment for the whole family.
The park features 22 rides, including roller coasters and activities in which you get wet. You have to consider that the park closes on some weekdays (Mondays and Tuesdays) and during the low season. The park is not as specialized in the coffee experience as other farms or places.
If you don’t want to wait in line for long, you should arrive a few minutes before opening to enjoy the rides, or buy the tickets online, which are cheaper. Also, remember to take the vaccination proof with you.
How to get there: The park is located in Montenegro, Quindío. You can take a bus from Armenia’s bus terminal.
9# Mariposario del Jardín Botánico del Quindío
Allegedly, Colombia has the highest number of butterfly species in the world. You can see a sample of this at the Mariposario, where the 1,500 butterflies of 50 species fly among beautiful flowers, palm trees, ferns, and many kinds of bamboo trees.
If you want to see butterflies flying, 10 in the morning is a good time, since these insects wake up with sun rays. We recommend booking in advance.
Tickets cost 50,000 COP per person, and as you enter the place, you’re added to a tour that takes about 2 hours. You can watch up to 116 different types of birds as well.
How to get there: the Mariposario is located 3 km from the town of Calarcá, Quindío, on the way that leads to Valle del Cauca Department.
10# Balsaje Río La Vieja
Rafting on a boat made of guadua (a kind of thick bamboo) is a recreational and landscape observation activity practiced in the navigable sections of the La Vieja River.
The rafting tour lasts 2 hours and must be done with warm weather clothing. We recommend bringing sun protection, a hat or cap, and clothes to change (a life vest for the boat is provided). The route along the river runs from Puerto Alejandría (Quimbaya) to Piedras de Moler (Cartago).
You can see the Sunset Reserve, a primary forest of 110 hectares, where numerous species of flora and fauna in danger of extinction are preserved, among which the howler monkey stands out.
How to get there: the price you pay for the ticket includes transportation from several hotels near the towns of Quimbaya and Montenegro.
11# Hot air balloon trip
If you hire this tour, you have to wake up very early, for the good thing about flying on a hot air balloon over the coffee region is to see the sunrise over the breathtaking landscape.
The organizers will pick you up at the place where you stay near Salento/Armenia, and this is included in the price, which is around 1,500,000 COP ($400) for a couple.
Upon arrival at the take-off site, you get some coffee and can help inflate the balloon, which takes about 30 minutes. After that, you’re ready to fly for about 40 minutes over the area, where you get to see the sunrise and many hues of green due to the variety of the vegetation.
After you land, you are taken to your hotel or Parque del Café if you plan to squeeze the best out of your day. The pilot of the balloon is a very experienced person. The trip can only be made if the weather is good.
How to get there: you’re picked up at your hotel regardless of staying in Armenia, Pereira, or Salento.
Colombia is also the country with the most bird species in the world, about 1,600. For that, the country has been awarded a Guinness World Record.
Due to this abundance, birdwatching has become one of the main activities in several regions, such as the coffee growers’ area.
The service of birdwatching offered by hotels, such as Tinamú Birding, in the coffee region includes regional dishes and vegetarian options, transportation from the airport to the hotel, tour of birdwatching and photography, workshops, and plenty of walking.
Birdwatching at Termales del Ruiz
Termales del Ruiz not only offers one of the best hot springs in the region. The place is also known for the arrival of 10 different hummingbird species.
Among those tiny birds, there are two rare species you can only see in this place: the sword-billed hummingbird, the only kind in the world with a beak longer than its body; and the colorful rainbow-bearded thornbill.
Río Blanco reserve
This protected area is located 20 min away from the city of Manizales. It extends for 4,900 hectares, and its altitude ranges from 2,200 masl to 3,800 masl.
It has high Andean fog forests and subpáramos, home to the white-tailed deer, cusumbos or coatíes, mountain dogs, and 350 bird species.
Also, Río Blanco is the best place to watch the mythical antpittas, ground-dwelling birds rarely seen elsewhere. And you don’t get to see only one kind of antpitta bird, but 5!
If you want to visit the reserve, you must book accommodation and food in advance.
Best towns in the Zona Cafetera
Cities in the area are located at very short distances from each other. They showcase the history of the place, zoos, and spots worth seeing, although the most interesting part is the countryside.
Here are some cities you might want to see:
13# Pereira, the largest city in the Zona Cafetera
It’s the capital of the Risaralda department and the largest city in the coffee region. There you find active nightlife, with bars, restaurants, and discos; and beautiful warm weather all year round.
It has the biggest airport in the area. A couple of recommended neighborhoods to stay in are Pinares and Los Alpes.
How to get there: There is an important bus terminal and direct flights from Medellín, Cartagena, Santa Marta & Bogotá.
When it comes to Manizales, the hilly capital of Caldas, you may want to stay in the city’s southeastern area, close to Universidad de Caldas.
Unlike Armenia and Pereira, Manizales is much higher (2,160 masl). Therefore it is a cooler city, even cold at night.
One of its landmarks is the cathedral, where you can reach the rooftop and appreciate the view of the city. You can also have great views from Café La Terraza, on the 23 floors. Some places in this hilly city offer cable cars. Does San Francisco, California, come to mind?
How to get there: There is an important bus terminal and direct flights from Bogotá.
It is a nice place to visit, although it is not very touristy and doesn’t have much to offer visitors. For this reason, a short visit is enough to know the urban area, unless you contact our partner Bruce. He lives in Viterbo and can arrange a great trip in the surroundings.
This town in Caldas is known for its famous ‘aguadeño’ hats, made of iraca palm tree fiber. There is a hat museum where you can learn about the making of this garment and even how to put it on and take it off in the local style. The museum is located in the town’s Casa de la Cultura.
Its historic center was declared a national monument in 1982, and it’s worth visiting. People also refer to Aguadas as the “foggy town” due to the thick mist that invades its streets early in the morning.
22# Salamina, an alternative for the tallest palm trees
This town is surrounded by coffee-grown mountains and was declared a national monument, World Heritage, and place of birth of the coffee culture landscape.
Many important Colombian writers were born in Salamina, such as Darío Echeverry, Rodrigo Jiménez and Emilio Robledo.
Valle de Samaría is another place to admire the famous wax palms. The views are a little less “wow,” but this is compensated by the fact that there are no tourists. The valley is located at 1h30 from Salamina.
How to get there: a 7-h bus from Medellín or a 3-h bus from Manizales.
This beautiful and colorful town is located 30 km from Pereira, and it’s one of the best-preserved in the Caldas department.
Casa de la Cultura organizes folk dance shows, brass band concerts, and painting and handicraft workshops. Casa de la Cultura also exhibits pieces from the Colonial epoch.
How to get there: a 1h30 bus from Pereira.
Colombia’s Zona Cafetera: Useful tips
Before leaving for the zona cafetera, here is some information to help you organize your adventure.
Best time to visit the Colombian coffee axis
The ideal time to see Colombia’s coffee region is between December and March, followed by July to September. These times of the year are good because the weather is pleasant, warm, and dry.
However, due to high altitudes, some places, like snow mountains and volcanoes, are often cloudy and rainy, even during the dry season. This makes it necessary to pack your raincoat if you visit the high places.
There is a positive side when visiting the area in the rainy months (April to June and October to December) when the coffee harvest is at its summit. The only drawback is a bit of mud and rain, but the temperatures keep pleasant all year round (about 28°C on average).
The Feria de Manizales festival is in January. There are a lot of folk exhibits, dance, and partying these days. There’s also bullfighting, which might upset some visitors, although this is a privately organized, paid event.
The Festival de Las Velas in Quimbaya takes place on December 7 and 8.
Is it safe to visit the Zona Cafetera?
The coffee region is one of the safest areas in Colombia, although visitors should take some precautions in larger cities, like any other city in Latin America or even Europe. Apart from that, local people are amicable, welcoming, and helpful.
Traveling around the Zona Cafetera, Colombia
Roads in the three departments are in good condition and bus service is abundant and cheap, even between smaller cities. Cities are located within short distances.
Another option that gives you more mobility and independence is to rent a car. You can do this at any of the three airports in Pereira, Armenia, and Manizales.
Transportation in towns such as Filandia and Salento is complemented by the famous Jeeps, 4×4 vehicles from the 1950s that have become a landmark in the region. Going to Valle del Cocora usually takes place in a Jeep.
Bottom line: Visiting the Zona cafetera
Thanks to this article, you can now understand why the zona cafetera is one of the favorite regions of travelers. You will find many opportunities for hiking (Los Nevados) as well as cultural visits in the surrounding colonial villages. If you come to the coffee region, consider staying at least 5 days. Yes, there is more than just the Valle de Cocora to visit.
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