Coffee, Coffee and Coffee? Nothing is as it seems to be
Driving from Cali to the Coffee Zone
During my Colombia travel through the south of the country on the way from Cali to Armenia, the capital of the department of Quindío, I made a short stopover at Markus on Lake Calima, a friend of my mother’s. Markus, a Swiss, had settled there a few years ago. I was astonished when I drove up the driveway. It blooms in every corner and the amount of plants, especially orchids, is remarkable. The local climate seems to be perfect and for a description of the Garden of Eden you could always use a photo of his finca. I have to consider his place for my next holiday.
In Armenia I had an appointment with Angie. I met the young and beautiful Paisa (that’s how the inhabitants of the region are called) almost 2 years ago on a hike near Salento. We went to Filandia for dinner, one of the most beautiful communities in the whole area. The village is extremely pretty and well preserved and offers a real village life during the week. Moreover, it has not been overrun by Colombia tourism yet. You can walk around comfortably and enjoy the pretty buildings. In addition, we found by chance a viewing platform in the middle of the village, which belongs to a coffee bar. However, you have to climb 4 floors, but the spectacular view is a good reward.
The land of coffee
After 4 days I met Sebastian again, he had taken a few days break with his girlfriend. This was good, because he was a bit exhausted after all the travelling by car and 3 weeks on the road. Subsequently, we explored Pereira and the related Department Risaralda as well as Manizales and the corresponding region of the department of Caldas. During discussions with authorities, we learned that coffee production in the whole coffee zone has declined sharply in recent decades and that more coffee is now being produced in other regions of Colombia. Nevertheless, we found incredibly pretty fincas, where coffee is still produced and tours are possible. There are also some spectacular places to stay in the area.
Of course we also visited Salento and as on my last visit, there were many backpackers. From a guy that works for a horse rental company we learned that many of the properties in Salento have been bought by foreigners in recent years. A slow loss of culture and authenticity is already a reality. At the same time, prices have risen enormously by Colombia tourism in recent years, which does not make it easy for Colombian residents. From Salento itself we were not extremely impressed. But there are still interesting places, such as the Center for Arts and Crafts (Plaza de los Artesanos), where they still produce craft. Apart from us there were no other visitors. Nevertheless, Salento is the access gate to the nearby Valle de Cocora, with its huge wax palms and hiking trails.
Hidden treasure in the coffee region
On the other hand, near Manizales we made a pleasing discovery. Far away from the crowds and within 2 hours drive, lies Salamina. However, if you want to go there, you must know that the entire route consists almost entirely of turns. The village has preserved its originality and probably has not changed much in the last 50 years. We could make out on the spot no further tourists. Salamina is also one of the 17 cataloged national cultural assets. After another two hours drive we reached a spectacular vantage point, from which you can admire a myriad of wax palms. Certainly, a good alternative to the Valle de Cocora and also hardly visited by tourists.
Actually we wanted to visit the national park Los Nevados, from which we had heard many times. Unfortunately, the time passed much too fast and so after a month’s exploration we headed back to Bogota.
The coffee zone is certainly one of the most beautiful areas in the whole of Colombia and shows culture and history of the country. On a trip to the region, you should plan a few extra days to learn more about coffee and the various processes, including the tasting. In addition, the landscape is spectacular, the climate mild and a perfect place to relax.
Blog Frank Spitzer