My name is Frank and I run a travel agency based in Bogota, Colombia. If you have any feedback or suggestions, please write them in our comments section. Thank you and have a great trip to Colombia!
Table of Content
- Activities and sights in the coffee triangle
2.1. Offers throughout the coffee region
- Accommodation in the coffee zone
- Where to drink a coffee in the coffee triangle
- Nightlife in the coffee triangle
- Cultural Agenda
- Shopping in the coffee zone
- Eating in the coffee triangle
- Best travel time for the coffee zone
- Airports of the coffee zone
- Transport systems of the coffee zone
- What I like about the coffee triangle and what I do not like
The Colombian Coffee Growing Axis consists of the departments of Caldas, Quindio, Risaralda and parts of Tolima. It also includes parts of the departments of Antioquia and Valle del Cauca. However, the terms Colombian Coffee Region, Colombian Coffee Triangle, Colombian Coffee Zone or Colombian Coffee Growing Axis stand all for the same region and are misleading. Of course, coffee is cultivated in this area, but also in all other Andean Colombian departments. Below is a comparison:
Cultivated land in 2018 in 1,000 hectares:
|12||Norte de Santander||23.56|
The coffee triangle is not only described as such due to the cultivation of coffee as such. It affects much more the whole culture, the landscape and the way of life of the local population. In 2011, UNESCO declared the region a World Heritage Site under the name “Paisaje Cultural Cafetero Patrimonio de la Humanidad“.
Due to its topography, Colombia is an excellent coffee growing area cultivated at altitudes of between 1,300 (4,260 feet) and 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) above sea level.
If you are also interested in a Colombia trip, you should definitely consult our Colombia travel guide.
2. Activities and sights in the coffee triangle
The coffee triangle is relatively large and the areas are sometimes significantly different. Quindio is usually lower than Caldas and is therefore milder in climate. Risaralda borders and is influenced by the Choco and Tolima connects the middle and the eastern Cordilleras and includes totally different areas, like the Tatacoa desert.
2.1. Offers throughout the coffee region
Hiking in the coffee region
The coffee region is considered one of the most beautiful regions of Colombia and I can confirm this. There are numerous places and destinations for interesting hikes. More information about local offers can be found in hotels or hostels.
Riding in the coffee region
Riding in Colombia is almost everywhere and horses are still used as livestock. In the coffee zone, however, there are various opportunities for horseback riding. More information about local offers can be found in hotels or hostels.
Coffee tours in the coffee region
Of course you can visit coffee farms all over in the coffee zone and even Colombia. Different than stated by other people, such plans are not unique around Salento. In the whole coffee triangle and in all coffee growing areas of Colombia, the local farmers like to show their farms and explain the production from the bean to the finished coffee. In addition, coffee tastings are offered in many places. More information about local offers can be found in hotels or hostels.
Bird watching in the coffee region
Due to its topography, the Coffee Triangle is considered one of the best destinations for birdwatching in Colombia and here you will also find various endemic species. More information on www.sula.com.co or contact us directly.
In addition, the coffee region is excellent for golfing and has 3 golf courses that are close together. As a travel agency in Bogota, Colombia, we specialize in golf breaks in Colombia. We are happy to help you if you are interested.
Quindio is probably the most famous tourist destination in the coffee zone and includes destinations such as the Cocora Valley and Salento. The lowest point is at 1,100 meters (3,600 feet) and the highest at 5,150 meters (16,890 feet) above sea level.
Armenia is the capital of the department of Quindio and lies at an altitude of 1,550 meters (5,085 feet) above sea level. The temperature is therefore pleasantly warm and ranges between 18° (64° F) and 30° Celsius (86° F). With around 300,000 inhabitants, Armenia is small. The city is tidy and well kept, with many restaurants.
I like Container City. It was created a few years ago and it is a great plan for evenings to have food and drinks. It is also great to make easy contact with locals.
The journey is easy, either by bus or by plane. By bus from Bogota or from Medellin the journey takes 8-12 hours, depending on traffic and weather conditions, because the roads are blocked again and again by landslides or because of construction sites.
Many will not share my opinion about Salento and the point of views is sometimes far apart.
Salento was once a pretty village in the coffee zone and with its proximity to the Cocora Valley, its location is perfect as you must first pass through Salento as a visitor. With the increasing stream of backpackers, the local services have increasingly focused on it. Many foreigners have also invested in the village in recent years and there was a veritable gentrification. Anyone looking for such an environment is in good hands in Salento.
I recommend to my customers to maybe have a coffee in Salento so they can see it. Anyway, there is only the village square and a street that attracts the typical foreign visitors with bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. A really interesting place is the center for craftsmanship. Hardly a visitor gets lost there.
The journey is easy, because you can either arrive from Pereira or Armenia by bus. However, I recommend a private transport. Attention, for the return journey the last bus from Salento leaves relatively early.
Certainly, a highlight on a trip to Colombia is the Cocora Valley with its up to 80 meter (262 feet) high wax palms and cloud forests. Arrived at the large parking lot, there are several routes that you can choose. Outside of weekends and holidays, one can be partly alone, the local offer of guides and mounts will be limited though. You should have good shoes or rubber boots, as the trails can be muddy.
The journey is easy. On the village square in Salento jeeps (Willy’s) are ready. As soon as these are full, they usually leave. By the way, in good weather the best place is on the bumper in the back.
Although Filandia is not a member of the selected club of the 17 cultural heritage cities of Colombia, in my opinion, it could easily belong to it. And only at 40 minutes drive from Salento, the flow of visitors is much smaller.
Filandia is a real gem because the coffee tradition has been truly preserved. The whole village seems to be very original and although one street already looks very touristy, the rest of the village is still in deep sleep. Even in the culinary aspect there are now some good deals, even for dinner. The inhabitants are aware of the problems in Salento and try to preserve the culture of Filandia. There is also a lookout tower in the village, which you can climb.
Filandia can also be reached by public bus.
Located in the hills of Quindio, I discovered Buenavista by accident. Although there is a cable car almost to the summit, it is not in operation, since no helicopter is stationed close enough for a possible rescue. For this reason, no operating license is granted. Some responsible for this immense misinvestment went even to prison.
Buenavista is a sleepy coffee village, but in good weather you will be rewarded with a perfect view. Up on the mountain you can start for paragliding and visit various coffee farms in the surrounding area and the famous Cafe San Alberto.
There is certainly a bus connection. For a trip, however, I can recommend an organized transport.
Pijao is a pretty little sleepy village of the coffee zone. A visit can be perfectly combined with a trip to Buenavista.
The inhabitants of Armenia are very proud of their gold museum. Although it is not overly large, those who have missed the opportunity to visit the Gold Museum in Bogota can do so here.
Located just above Buenavista, San Alberto produces one of the most awarded coffees in Colombia. With a beautiful terrace, this is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee. It also offers a coffee tour and coffee tasting.
My Colombian friends are raving about this park. It is an amusement park with all sorts of activities. I’ve never been there, but I think it is something like the Disneyland of the coffee region.
The botanical garden is very impressive and you can see not only the most diverse plants, but also many animals, especially birds. The botanical garden also includes a butterfly exhibition, which I can absolutely recommend. The most different butterflies fly around you and you can feed them too.
This thematic park is very close to Armenia. There is a lot to discover and it is mainly aimed at families. There are also humorous performances that I did not understand despite my good Spanish as a non-Colombian. The park is also inhabited by elves.
Tochecito / Road Salento-Ibague
This is an absolute alternative to the Cocora Valley. Not only do you find the highest density of wax palms here, but also the surroundings are spectacular. Despite the proximity to Salento, this area is touristically poorly developed. Activities include mountain biking and hiking.
Off-road vehicles are recommended for that plan.
Nevado del Quindio
Great destination for hiking. You should definitely go on a guided tour and be physically fit.
Pereira is the capital of the department of Risaralda and lies at an altitude of 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) above sea level. The temperature is pleasantly warm and ranges between 20° (68°F) and 35 ° Celsius (95°F). With around 470,000 inhabitants, Pereira is small.
The journey is easy, either by bus or by plane. By bus from Bogota or from Medellin the trip lasts 8-12 hours, depending on traffic and weather conditions. The roads get closed quite often due to landslides or the construction sites.
Apia is a typical small coffee village in the coffee triangle with pretty houses and a beautiful village square. Due to its elevated position, Apia and its surrounding villages not only offer fantastic views of the entire region, but also are on the way for driving to Quibdo in Choco. The road is then unpaved. A visit is worthwhile because of the beautiful view while driving there.
Pueblo Rico is also a pretty original village. Worth a visit. The central square and the impressive church are almost oversized comparing with the small village.
This public thermal bath is simply spectacular. With its various baths and decorative natural waterfall, this is always a great option for a trip. The thermal bath is very popular and regularly attracts many visitors.
Manizales is the capital of the department of Caldas and lies at an altitude of 2,100 meters (2,900 feet) above sea level. The temperature is cool and ranges between 10° (50° F) and 22 ° Celsius (71°F). With around 370,000 inhabitants, Manizales is small.
The journey is easy, either by bus or by plane. By bus from Bogota or from Medellin the trip lasts 8-12 hours, depending on traffic and weather conditions, because the roads are closed again and again by landslides or because of the construction sites. Due to the altitude and the weather also many flights are canceled.
Salamina is one of my absolute favorite places. This village is so original, you think time has stood still. It is also one of the 17 cultural heritage towns of Colombia.
Aguadas is also one of the selected members of the 17 cultural heritage cities of Colombia. It is located about 90 minutes drive from Salamina and is therefore well connected.
On the volcano Nevado del Ruiz you will find not only a hotel with thermal baths, where you can also hand feed hummingbirds, but you can also go hiking in the mountains. Although the volcano is currently not active, the whole park is not opened at a time, as occasional seismic activity is recorded.
Termales La Quinta
About two hours drive from Manizales is the Finca Termales la Quinta. The last piece of the route has to be done on horse. You will be rewarded with a spectacular landscape and a unique experience. Neighbors and other tourists cannot be seen here. The pool is fed with thermal water and since this gushes with more than 90° Celsius (197° F) from the mountain, you can always wish to increase the temperature. The day trips to the waterfalls, on foot or on horseback, are an absolute highlight.
Ibague is the capital of the department of Tolima and lies at an altitude of 1.300 meters (4,300 Feet) above sea level. The temperature is cool and ranges between 18° (64° F) and 30° Celsius (86° F). With around 500,000 inhabitants, Ibague is small.
The journey is easy, either by bus or by plane. The journey takes 4-6 hours by bus from Bogota. In Ibague “La Linea” begins, which is the road that crosses the central cordillera to Armenia, Quindío. Although it’s called the line, it isn’t a straight line.
Located next to Ibague, this valley can be reached quickly. I haven’t experienced another place with so many birds. From there you can also climb the back of the Nevado del Ruiz. It can be seen in good visibility and sometimes it’s covered with snow. Further up in the valley there is an adventurous cable car over the canyon, which brings you to a ranch. There is an ecological learning path and the whole region is incredibly beautiful.
Villahermosa is located at around 2,000 meters (6,600 Feet) above sea level and the climate is correspondingly cool. It is a small, original village with a nice central square. You should absolutely look at the ponchos produced there, because they are ideal for cold climates. From Villahermosa you can follow the road over the pass to get into the coffee zone.
3. Accommodation in the coffee zone
Eduard and family have built a super nice hotel here. I can highly recommend this.
Nohora and her husband are actually coffee farmers. This elderly couple also runs a hotel in a classic coffee house. Not very cheap but a great experience.
Probably one of the best hotels in the region.
A very good hotel and certainly always a good option for demanding clients.
At Hacienda Venecia there are three different accommodations. Certainly, a great experience for every budget.
As already described above, Hacienda Termales La Quinta is simply spectacular!
Located on the Nevado del Ruiz, you cannot only enjoy the thermal bath there, but also hand-feed hummingbirds.
4. Where to drink a coffee in the coffee triangle
Although a lot of coffee is produced in the coffee triangle, the preparation of the caffeine-containing beverage is usually still traditional. All you have to do is add coffee powder to a pot of boiling water, then you have the local Tinto. In the more touristy places, however, preparation with modern espresso machines is increasingly preferred, and the staff is the better trained to make a cappuccino. In some regions of Colombia, the Tinto is sweetened by default with sugar or Panela.
What you hardly find, however, are the capsule machines for Nespresso, etc., which I am personally not very unhappy about.
5. Nightlife in the coffee triangle
The nightlife outside the capitals as well as Salento is nonexistent. Despite its tourist orientation, the coffee region is an agricultural area and people generally go to bed early.
In Manizales, Pereira and Armenia there are enough bars, restaurants and clubs to wake up the next day with a decent hangover. Since the cities are small, the relevant districts are central and easy to find. Just ask in your hotel where to go.
6. Cultural Agenda
- Feria de Manizales
- Fiesta Nacional de Café
- Fiestas de las Cosechas
- Festivo de Sabores, Sonidos y Saberes
- Concurso Nacional de Velas y Faroles
7. Shopping in the coffee zone
In the coffee triangle you can of course buy coffee, as you can do all over in Colombia. There are a variety of craft shops that offer interesting work from a variety of materials. You do not necessarily have to buy them on the main street in Salento, where the offers are aimed at day tourists. Who wants to dig through cheap junk? Better go directly to the quality providers. So we have some good addresses below:
A bit away from the main square, craftsmanship is produced, exhibited and sold in various homes.
Carrera 14 # 9-27
This shop belongs to the uncle of a good friend and he produces really nice pieces.
9. Best travel time for the coffee zone
I’ve been in the coffee zone every season and it can always rain and the sun always shine. Such is the mountain weather. The rainy season lasts from April to November. The main travel time is then from January to March. One should avoid the national holidays and the Easter week, as the Colombians then also pour into the coffee zone.
At any rate, I’m a fan of times with fewer tourists so I avoid weekends, holidays or peak travel times. Especially in the coffee zone and the beautiful nature destinations such as the Cocora valley it makes a difference to me whether I am alone or whether I have to share the area with hundreds or even thousands of other visitors.
Caldas is higher and generally foggier than the other departments.
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10. Airports of the coffee zone
- Fort Lauderdale (Spirit) Monday, Wednesday, Friday
- Bogota (Avianca, Easyfly)
- Medellin (EasyFly)
- Cartagena (EasyFly) Wednesday, Friday, Sunday
- Miami (American) Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday
- Panama (Copa)
- Bogota (Avianca, Latam, Easyfly, VivaAir)
- Medellin (EasyFly)
- Cartagena (EasyFly, VivaAir)
- Santa Marta (VivaAir)
- Bucaramanga (EasyFly) Friday, Sunday
- Bogota (Avianca, Easyfly)
- Cartagena (Easyfly) Tuesday, Friday, Sunday
- Bogota (Avianca)
- Medellin (Easyfly)
11. Transport systems of the coffee zone
The capitals in the coffee triangle are connected by a “highway”. These roads are generally good. However, as soon as you drive a bit off, the roads can be unpaved.
In all capitals there is a bus terminal from which you can actually get everywhere in the coffee zone as well as in the whole country.
In the small villages there are colectivos, which are mostly Willy jeeps in this region. With these you can get from the villages to other regions. The Willy’s also work as school buses.
12. What I like about the coffee triangle and what I do not like
The coffee zone of Colombia is certainly one of the most beautiful and diverse areas of Colombia. The landscapes are spectacular and you will find almost everything from the coffee plant to the high mountains vegetation. Locals are among the friendliest in the world and the dialect is incredibly pretty. I always have the feeling that the inhabitants almost sing the Spanish.
The only negative point is driving there by car, as the main traffic axes are mostly a bit difficult.
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