Travel guide: Viterbo


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How to enjoy Viterbo

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Viterbo is a destination of Caldas unknown by travelers. The city is friendly to live in but doesn’t have much to offer in terms of tourism.

So why am I taking the time to tell you about it?

Because of (or rather thanks to) Bruce, our local Partner.

Since 2018, this Kiwi in love with Colombia has done a long and excellent job finding the best things to do around Viterbo. Contact him through our online form to plan your trip there and get a 5% discount!  → I contact Bruce.

If you want an authentic stay in the coffee region, it’s the place to be.

In this article, you will find the best experiences we had the chance to discover with him in September 2021.

  1. Have a chat with Nelson from Cameloc
  2. A delicious coffee and chocolate tour
  3. Visit a traditional Trapiche
  4. A fun horseback ride in the countryside of Caldas
  5. Sunset and bonfire in a local farm
  6. The incredible views from Belalcazar and Apia

The peaceful town of Viterbo

Viterbo is a recent town (1911) located 1 hour from Pereira. At the time, it was built to serve as a boundary between Cauca and Antioquia.

To access Viterbo, you’ll pass through the famous Túnel de Los Samanes. The inhabitants planted these impressive trees more than 75 years ago. Their branches intertwine above the road. Locals love to walk there early in the morning.

When one of these trees falls, the trunk is transformed into a sculpture. These brightly painted works of art form a nice contrast to the dense foliage of the trees.

As with any village in Colombia, most of Viterbo’s activity takes place in the main square. People sit on the benches under the shade of the trees, have breakfast at the Ricuras bakery or a cocktail at AK bar.

Learn the exciting history of Cameloc with Nelson

Walking through the village of Viterbo, a brick house covered with writings catches our attention.

What’s behind that wooden door?

An old music bar that contributed to the peace in Viterbo. Welcome to Cameloc.

At the time of Viterbo’s creation, Colombia was a politically unstable country. Liberalists and conservatives were killing each other for a yes or a no. Then in the 1980s, narcos decided it was an excellent place to settle in. Outsiders were not allowed to come.

– What are you doing here? You’re not from around here. We’ll give you 15 minutes to fuck off.

In 1989, a college secretary decides to open a music bar. He stores his disc records with care, classifies them. This music lover is named Nelson López.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy for Nelson to attract new customers. But he’s not giving up.

To invite people, this self-taught man sings a song and plays guitar to each of his customers. Word of mouth works. It becomes the favorite place to meet on Saturdays and Sundays in Viterbo. People from the surrounding area come to listen to popular music and sing. A few years later, buses of tourists show up to drink a beer in Cameloc and ask for their song.

Narcos don’t forbid people to visit Viterbo anymore.

Pretty cool story, no?

Now Cameloc is no longer a bar. It has become a small museum filled with treasures.

Sometimes Nelson still sings a song and plays his 115-year-old record player. He made me listen to the disk record of La Marseillaise!

Note: Don’t forget to let him a tip if you come to listen to Nelson’s stories.

A comprehensive chocolate and coffee tour with Wilson

Now it’s time to describe the experiences that will make you fall in love with Viterbo.

Bruce has been working with this lovely Colombian family to create a fantastic coffee and chocolate tour!

A few years ago, Wilson and his 3 sisters decided to buy their uncle’s farm, a small lot with 3000 plants of coffee and 300 plants of cacao.

This old Finca (120 years old) has been in the family for over 70 years! The grandfather gave it the name of his wife: Tulia.

On this plantation, Wilson uses his family’s experience as a coffee grower and his skills in environmental engineering to improve the quality of the production. Wilson’s family has a 2nd micro-lot of coffee that won the Viterbo prize (out of over 40 applicants)!

The tour begins with coffee. Wilson explains to us the different steps to grow a coffee plant and the natural enemies it has to face: La Broca (parasite) and la Roca (fungus).

The trail is recent and allows us to walk easily through the plantation. We even enter a bamboo grove (Guadale). Some are more than 20m high!

It is at this moment that Wilson offers his first surprise, an intriguing mixture to drink. He calls it cocoa nectar — you must taste it!

Then, we go through the cocoa plantation. On the way, we eat the pulp of the cocoa seed. It tastes like candy.

I don’t want to spoil all the explanations you’ll get.

Let’s move on to the practice.

Wilson invited us to pass by his tiny artisanal kitchen to prepare our chocolate! I heat the cocoa seeds over a wood fire in a small pot. It will be easier to peel the thin cocoa skin.

Delicious odors swirl around us. My mouth begins to salivate. It will be ready soon.

The seeds are placed in a handcrafted grinder that is clipped to the table. All I have to do is turn the crank, and the cocoa turns into liquid chocolate!

Then, I add a bit of panela (natural sugar) and place it in the freezer— We prepared our morning hot chocolate. It was fantastic.

Why book this experience

  • I liked this tour as you share the daily life of a family of coffee growers, discover their knowledge, and make your own chocolate and coffee!
  • During this tour, you will also be able to roast your coffee.

How to book this tour:

We work with Bruce our local partner.

The secret of panela’s making in Viterbo

The sugar cane is one of the pillars of Viterbo’s economy. It is then transformed into panela in a trapiche thanks to an artisanal process.

Did you know that Colombians love panela?

They use it to make delicious beverages (Guarapo) or to sweeten their coffee.

During our stay, Bruce suggested we visit one of the best Trapiche in Viterbo. It is located only 20 minutes from our Finca.

Let’s go!

20 min before arriving, I see smoke coming out of a long chimney. In this hangar open to the 4 winds, the employees are bustling like ants.

Everyone knows what he has to do.

Gustavo, the owner, grinds sugar cane. In some smaller trapiches, this process is done with a millstone and a mule.

Here, Gustavo is lucky. It is the machine that does all the work.

After the pitiless cracking, the sugar cane juice flows along a pipe and arrives in the “kitchen.”

This is where the real work begins.

The sugar cane juice is heated in a large pot, in which some drops of Balso (it’s a tree) sap are added. It eases the decanting process.

You stir and let it simmer.

Afterward, the top of the mixture is throwing away. The rest is transferred to another, smaller pot thanks to a large spoon.

The process is repeated multiple times.

There are 7 pots in all, lined up above a burning earthen conduit fed by the pieces of cane that have been crushed.

It takes steady and expert hands to transfer this hot and sweet liquid between the pots successfully.

In front of the last 3 small pots, there is the production manager. With his expert eye, he knows when the panela is finally ready.

The panela is then cooled in a large wheelbarrow and stored in molds for about ten minutes.

And it’s ready!

Why book this experience in Viterbo

During a visit to a trapiche, you will be able to observe the entire transformation of the sugar cane into panela. You won’t see it in other countries.

How to book this tour

We work with Bruce our local partner.

Horseback riding among bamboos and sugar cane fields

Alejandra is worried.

It is the first time she will ride a horse.

Fortunately, there is Carlos. He is a horse lover who started his business 8 years ago.

Carlos reassures Aleja and tells her to embrace her horse.

-“Don’t be afraid. You see, a horse can feel your emotions. You have to be confident when you ride it.”

Anyway, Rei, Aleja’s horse, is a cool and calm dude.

I get Sultana. She hates being last.

Here we are on unfrequented dirt roads in the countryside of Viterbo. It is 3 pm, and it is raining. Carlos asks us if we want to put on our raincoats.

It’s not necessary. The sun is already showing up.

On the way, we pass a trapiche and an old man who makes coal in an artisanal way.

After 30 min, we arrive at our first stop: Reserva Los Guadales.

Some of the bamboos are more than 40 meters long. It is as if we had a natural roof over our heads. It’s much fresher there.

After a cold beer, it’s time to switch to Indiana Jones mode.

We have to go up the river for about 50 meters on the back of our faithful horses. It rained a lot the day before. The current is powerful, and the water comes almost to our ankles! Nothing to worry about for Rei and Sultana. In less than 2 minutes, we are out on the other side of the river bank.

Happy, relieved, and wet.

Our ride continues among the sugar cane fields. In the distance, I see the mountains that surround Viterbo. There is not a sound – except Sultana, who grazes as soon as I stop.

On the way back, we walk through the Tunel de Los Samánes. I stand straight and proud on my saddle, firing Hola! to people like Lucky Luke with his revolvers.

Why book this experience in Viterbo

The horseback ride takes place in the beautiful countryside of Viterbo. You will cross rivers, pass under a bamboo forest and ride along sugar cane plantations. I loved the succession of these different environments.

How to book this tour:

Contact Bruce, our local partner.

Sunset and bonfire in Viterbo

Many farmers settled on the slopes of the surrounding mountains. From Viterbo, a couple of dirt roads lead to these plantations.

One of them is called “Vuelta al paisaje“.

To enjoy the view and have a nice time, Bruce proposes to take us to Finca Los Balsos, a family farm that grows mainly cocoa and passion fruit.

By going up, the landscape becomes more and more hypotonic. The valley of Risaralda extends before our eyes, with its different shades of green: pasture, forest, and bamboos.

After many stops and photoshoots, we arrive at the local farm.

On my right, I see a wooden platform built in a tree, about ten meters from the ground. I climb it, excited as a 10-year-old child, to enjoy the view.

From my tower, I have a breathtaking view of the property. To the right, cocoa and passion fruit plantations stretch to the bottom of the valley. Below, several small wooden installations allow visitors to sit and enjoy the landscape.

-Tom, Patacones are ready!

Claudia serves us fried plantains filled with chicken. Then, sweet plantains with cheese.

I eat too much. I can’t walk anymore.

Fortunately, the bonfire is only a few meters away.

We sit on our benches, watching the flames dancing on the logs of wood. Behind us, lights start to appear in the mountains. The other families of farmers have just returned from their long day of work.

Why book this experience in Viterbo

  • The landscapes from Viterbo to the Finca de Los Balsos are beautiful. There are many cool stops along the way.
  • The farm’s garden is well laid out. The atmosphere is agreeable, especially for sunset.
  • You’ll eat local Colombian meals.

How to book this tour:

Contact Bruce, our local partner.

The day I got into Jesus’ head

Near Viterbo, there are two villages that may deserve your attention. However, you will need to have a vehicle or use the services of BnB Colombia Tours.

With Bruce, we went to Belalcázar and Apia.

If you have to choose between the two, I recommend Belalcázar.


Because there is a massive Jesus Christ statue (higher than the one in Rio) and the 360-degree view is miiiiiind-blowing.

The construction of this 45m high monument dates back to 1954. Its purpose was to protect the people during the civil war (la Violencia) from 1946 to 1958.

From this viewpoint, you can contemplate the Cauca Canyon and the Risaralda Valley— and up to 5 Colombian departments: Risaralda, Quindio, Chocó, Tolima, and Valle.

And I haven’t even told you the best part yet.

For a small fee, you can climb inside Jesus Christ. There are 154 steps to stand inside his head.

Afterward, we head to Apia.

This city is located on the opposite mountain, a 40-min drive from Viterbo. You won’t need much time to visit it.

The main square is surrounded by beautiful colorful houses. And there is also a café offering different methods of coffee preparation.

Once you’ve had enough coffee, you can book a paragliding experience. The tours leave from Apia.

Why book this experience in Viterbo

  • It’s not every day that you can climb in Jesus’ head.
  • The 360-degree view is probably the best in Caldas.
  • You can book a paragliding tour in Apia.

How to book this tour:

Contact Bruce, our local partner.

Finca Guayabito Viterbo (1)

Our lovely stay in Finca Guayabito

It’s not a place you’ll find on Booking or Airbnb.

Finca Guayabito is an old building that is over 115 years old! And the history of the family to whom it belongs is fascinating – ask for Carlos.

Thanks to Bruce, we were able to stay there during our adventures in Viterbo.

This family house is located at 10 min walk from the main square and offers a beautiful view of the village. I loved having breakfast on the covered terrace, listening to the birds whistling.

There is even a small pool to cool off in after a long day of activities.

Plan your stay in Viterbo

Instead of selecting one or more day trips, why not organize a stay of several days in Viterbo? It will be more economical!

Get a 5% discount on your trip if you contact Bruce NOW.

How to get to Viterbo

Viterbo is in the Coffee region, in the department of Caldas.

The easiest way is to arrive first in Pereira and grab a bus at the terminal. It takes 1h30, and there are departures every 30 min.

Otherwise, you can land at Pereira airport and contact Bruce. He will plan everything you need.

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