Eje Cafetero, Colombia | Things to Do, Where to Stay, and More
If you’re curious about visiting Eje Cafetero, Colombia — you’ve come to the right place.
The sun coming up over the mountainside as you brew your morning coffee. You step outside on the terrace of your ‘finca’ and enjoy your morning coffee with a stunning sunrise — all surrounded by lush vegetation and mountain views.
That’s what life in the Colombian coffee zone is all about!
I’m talking stunning views like this one:
If that looks good to you, then Eje Cafetero, Colombia might be an ideal travel spot for you. You can find views like this everywhere around the region.
So in this in-depth guide, I’ll breakdown anything and everything you need to know about Colombia’s Coffee Zone.
But here’s the funny thing about this stunningly beautiful part of the world…
Traveling all around Colombia is an amazing experience. From stunning beaches to great nightlife to pristine views and friendly people – there’s a lot to love about this South American gem.
Yet one region consistently gets overlooked — Zona Cafetera, Colombia.
Zona Cafetera, Eje Cafetero, or Colombia’s coffee region is continually overlooked by travelers who flock to Medellin, Cartagena, or Santa Marta.
People just don’t know how much fun can be had in the area because most travelers skip Eje Cafetero to check out the bigger cities in Colombia.
On my first trip to the country, I did the same thing.
Then I fell in love with the country. I wanted to dive deeper. Know more about Colombian culture. So I spent some time throughout Colombia’s coffee region.
Eje Cafetero, Colombia has become on of my favorite parts of my favorite country in the world. If you end up visiting, I’m quite confident you’ll feel the same way after just a few short weeks here.
But enough of my fluff, let’s get into the rice and beans of this ole’ guide. Inside, you’ll find what you need to know about Eje Cafetero, Colombia — including:
Where is Zona Cafetera, Colombia Located?
For starters, let’s define where Colombia’s coffee region is and what it consist of. Generally speaking, the area is comprised of three states in the country:
Located near the middle of Colombia, these three states are known worldwide for producing some of the best coffee around. The temperature and landscape are ideal for coffee production.
While you’ll find some cities in Zona Cafetera, there’s only around 2.5 million people living throughout the region. Most of them found in these three main cities:
Pereira is the largest city in Eje Cafetero with a little over 500,000 people and considered the capital of the region. It’s also strategically located in the middle of the other two large cities in Zona Cafetera.
For basing up in Eje Cafetero, Colombia — I tend to recommend people start in Pereira, as it’s easy to move around the whole region from here.
But let’s take a little closer look at all three of the main cities in the region, along with one of the most popular tourist towns:
- Pereira: The biggest city in the region, so you’ll find the most amenities here. Plus, it’s smack dab in the middle of Eje Cafetero and only an hour drive from all the major spots throughout the region. There’s also a nice nightlife district and stunning views from all around. I’m a huge fan of Pereira for a longer-term stay in the region, as it’s a livable spot. Oh, and the climate is Medellin-like in damn near every way. Highly recommended.
- Manizales: University town located in the mountains of the coffee axis. Just a little bit smaller than Pereira, but the vibe is a bit different in my opinion. The weather is also cooler than other parts of the region due to the elevation. A great place to check out, as there’s cable cars instead of buses in certain parts of the city. But I wouldn’t live here for months on end like Pereira. In my opinion, it’s ideal for a week or so of exploring.
- Armenia: Not gonna lie, this is my least favorite city in Eje Cafetero, Colombia. Not only is it the smallest major city in the region, but I also found Armenia to be a little more dangerous than the other two. The nature surrounding the city is absolutely stunning and the fincas amazing, but the city itself wasn’t that impressive.
- Salento: The tourism hotspot in Eje Cafetero, Colombia. Here you’ll find a quaint tourist town filled with travelers and backpackers — all searching for stunning views and a trip to Valle de Cocora. Highly recommend checking out this little down and the Valle for a few days, as you’ll see things like this:
How to Get to Zona Cafetera, Colombia
If you’re not in Colombia, things get a little bit trickier. Luckily, there’s actually an “international” airport in the region. The airport in Pereira has direct, non-stop international flights every now and then.
- Panama City, Panama
So you can actually fly directly into the coffee axis without a stopover in Bogota or Medellin on occasion. It must be stated that these flights can be more expensive and aren’t available every single day. You’ll generally need flexible travel times to make a direct flight to Pereira work.
But getting to the region once you’re already in Colombia is a piece of cake.
All three of the major cities have domestic airports that receive dozen of flights everyday. Not only are there tons of flight times, but the flights once you’re in Colombia are dirt cheap.
You can fly from Bogota or Cartagena to Pereira or Manizales for $60-100 roundtrip on most days.
Talk about cheap!
And if you’re in those cities, I’d highly recommend flying.
Taking a bus from Bogota or the coast to Zona Cafetera is a miserable experience. You’ll be spending hours upon hours on a bus that’s winding through mountain roads. People often end up getting sick on these buses — which makes the ride even less pleasant.
If you’re in Medellin or Cali…
Then it’s a whole different ballgame, as you can hop on a bus and be in the coffee region within 2-5 hours depending on where you’re going and traffic.
Buses tend to be exceptionally cheap too. You can get from Cali to Pereira for less than $15 USD. Same with Medellin to Manizales or Pereira.
Buses between cities in the Colombian coffee axis are exceptionally easy to take too. You can get from any of the cities to the others within 1-2 hours. Everything is close by and buses run dozens of times daily.
I took the bus from Pereira to Manizales a few times, winding through the hills, and the views were absolutely stunning. Highly recommended.
Do You Need to Speak Spanish in the Coffee Zone?
It must be stated that Zona Cafetera isn’t a hotbed of tourism just yet. This isn’t Cartagena, Santa Marta, or Medellin.
Claro que no.
As such, you won’t find nearly as many English speakers in this region of Colombia. In fact, outside of a few university students and tour operators, I didn’t meet a soul who spoke decent English in Eje Cafetero.
If you’re planning to visit the region for more than just a quick trip checking out the views, you’ll 100% need to learn Spanish.
Life in Eje Cafetero will be so much easier once you’re able to speak a little bit of the language and communicate with the locals. Without Spanish, it’ll be tough to form relationships and make friends in the region — because almost no one here speaks great English. It’s just not needed.
So if you plan to come here, invest in learning some Spanish before you book that flight.
Luckily, that’s easier than ever before. I’ve been using BaseLang to improve my Spanish for months on end and now…
Locals in Eje Cafetero and all around Colombia compliment me on my Spanish speaking abilities.
Where to Stay in Eje Cafetero, Colombia?
That’s a bit of a loaded question, as Zona Cafetera is a pretty large region in Colombia. We’re talking multiple states, a handful of cities, and stunning mountain views galore.
Then on top of all that jazz, we’ve got city living versus staying in a fabulous finca in the countryside.
P.S: If you ain’t know, a finca is Colombian slang for a farm in the mountainside — often groups of people rent one out on the weekends to relax in. Very common in the coffee zone of Colombia.
So, where to stay in Zona Cafetera?
Well, I’ll breakdown some specifics with hotels and all that jazz in the sections below.
Here I want to talk about how I’d maximize my stays in the region — combining nature and city living. Because you probably won’t be able to cover the whole thing on your first trip. So I figured I’d cover the best of the best for my readers here.
– Where to Stay in Eje Cafetero | City Living Edition –
If you’re looking to enjoy modern amenities, good restaurants, and some nightlife while in the region — then there’s only two places to stay in the opinion of this gringo.
You’re talking about either Pereira or Manizales.
These are the only two cities in the region where I would spend more than a week. You could hit the gym, party, enjoy stunning mountain views on the cheap, and get out into the countryside whenever you please.
The other cities in the region are either too small or a bit too dangerous for my tastes (when talking about Armenia).
So in Pereira, I recommend staying right around the Pinares and Los Alpes neighborhoods:
If you stay in this area, you’ll be in walking distant to some of the biggest malls in Pereira and next to the nightlife areas, Circunvalar.
This is also the safest area in the city. Stay as close to Carrera 13 as you can.
When we’re talking about Manizales, you’ll want to stay in the southeastern are of the city that’s near the Universidad de Caldas.
Here you’ll find a buzzing university are filled with bars, clubs, coffee shops, and reasonably priced hotels and apartments. Highly recommended staying around here:
The areas to the left of Carrera 23 all around the “green” area on the map is absolutely ideal for staying in Manizales. While it’s a little bit far from the city center, this area is more walkable than anywhere else in this mountainside city.
– Where to Stay in Eje Cafetero | Finca Edition –
While I love visiting smaller cities in Colombia, like Pereira and Manizales, there’s absolutely no denying the best part of Eje Cafetero, Colombia is the stunning views and nature.
You’re wasting a trip here if you don’t get out of the cities and do some exploring in the countryside.
But here’s the thing…
The whole damn region is absolutely ideal for hiking, exploring the mountains, and staying in stunning fincas.
It’s impossible to tell you one area of the Colombian coffee axis is better for outdoor living than the other. But I’m going to do my best to break it down here.
If you’re just looking to explore nature while in Eje Cafetero, then I’d start with Salento.
I’d try to rent a stunning finca within a 15-30 minute drive of downtown Salento, then spend the time relaxing in my finca and also checking out Valle de Cocora.
Ideally, you find something fairly close to the road that connects Salento with Valle de Cocora. This area would be an ideal location for a finca weekend in Eje Cafetero:
There’s going to be dozens of places to stay between Salento and Valle de Cocora.
You really can’t go wrong with any of them, as long as they have good reviews and the views are dope.
Fincas & Hotels in Pereira
But I do want to detail a few more decent lodging options in the city:
Movich Hotel de Pereira
It doesn’t get better than the Movich Hotel in Pereira. Seriously, this place is a legit 4/5-Star hotel that costs around $75 USD a night and comes complete with a sweet swimming pool, stunning decor, and a great gym. There’s an upscale mall practically connected to the hotel and a Juan Valdez Cafe in the lobby.
The location is also unbeatable. In the safest area of the city, you’ll find the Circunvalar nightlife right down the street and the city center just a few blocks in the other direction.
Santorini Apartamentos Amoblados
If you’re looking for an apartment to rent in Pereira, look no further than Santorini Apartmentos.
These furnished apartments are located in one of the safest areas of the city — just a few minutes walking from nightlife, malls, and cafes.
They feature stylish decor, a swimming pool, full kitchens, and stunning mountain views. You can’t go wrong here, especially at the reasonable prices.
Finca El Sueño De Mi Abuelo
Located just 20-minutes outside the city center in Pereira, this finca hotel is absolutely perfect for individuals looking to get away for a weekend.
Featuring laid-back decor, a wonderful swimming pool, stunning terrace with views, and a pool table — Finca El Sueño De Mi Abuelo has everything you need to unwind. Plus, the whole place is surrounded by stunning nature and greenery. You’ll love the views.
Fincas & Hotels in Manizales
So without further ado, here’s some ideal hotels in Manizales:
Quo Quality Hotel
By far the best hotel I’ve found in Manizales, Quo Quality Hotel is located in the absolute perfect place — right near Universidad de Caldas.
Here you’ll find sharp, modern decor in all rooms, plus the property features a stunning terrace overlooking the city, a massive hot tub, full fitness center, and a great included breakfast.
If you can afford the $70 USD a night for this hotel, I wouldn’t stay anywhere else when heading to Manizales for a short trip.
Great hotel overall.
Vélez del Campo
If you’re looking for a finca just outside Manizales, then Vélez del Campo fits the bill.
The rooms here are modern and great looking. You’ll find spacious rooms come complete with terrace views. And those views, man…
Some of the best you’ll find the Colombian coffee zone.
Te lo juro.
While the pool kind of sucks here, everything else is perfect and the amazing views more than make up for that minor inconvenience.
Fincas & Hotels in Armenia
That being said…
The city is still worth checking out for a few days, especially because you can find so much stunning nature all around. So with that in mind, here’s a few hotel recommendations in Armenia:
Mocawa Plaza Hotel
On a short trip to Armenia, there’s absolutely no better hotel in the city than Mocawa Plaza Hotel.
This place is stunning, legit 4/5-star hotel for just $70 USD a night.
The hotel features the best rooftop pool I’ve ever seen in Colombia — with world-class mountain views from all around. The views from the pool are worth it alone, but the hotel also offers an exceptional fitness center, multiple bars and restaurants on-site, and included breakfast.
The location of Mocawa Plaza Hotel is central in Armenia, which ensures you can move around the city with ease here.
Bio Habitat Hotel
If there’s one hotel or finca on this list that you absolutely MUST stay at…
It’s this one — Bio Habitat Hotel.
Te lo juro.
The place is like a dream and comes complete with stunning finca views, an infinity pool, bar/restaurant, and so much more. Oh, and the decor is, well, simply out of this world. You won’t find many places in Colombia that combine chic with mountain vibes like this.
Hell, you won’t find many places in the world that do it this well.
And the rooms are so damn cheap for how amazing this place is…$125 USD a night for this type of luxury 😉
Bio Habitat Hotel is so fookin’ cool that I recommend visiting Armenia just to stay here for a weekend!
Fincas & Hotels in Salento
While it may be booming with tourism, the spot holds its unique Colombian charm. Combined with the amazing mountain views and you have a recipe for a damn good time here.
Plus, this is the easiest place to visit Valle de Cocora from — aka the coolest spot in all of Eje Cafetero. So you’ve gotta visit Salento when you’re in the region.
Here’s where to stay:
Hotel El Mirador del Cocora
I could recommend dozens of hotels here in Salento, as many will get the job done. However, not a damn one holds a candle to Hotel El Mirador del Cocora in the opinion of this gringo.
Because this hotel has some of the best views you’ll ever find, all while still being located in the city center. That’s tough to top!
Plus, as $50-65 USD a night…
You’re getting a damn good deal when staying here.
The rooms feature stylish, modern decor and the included breakfast is said to be one of the best in town. Seriously, you can go wrong with Hotel El Mirador del Cocora.
¡Que Chevere! 12 Exciting Things to Do In Zona Cafetera, Colombia
Eje Cafetero may be known for coffee production, but the region offers some amazing tourism, too. See, Colombia’s coffee region is filled with stunning sites, fantastic attractions, and more for one reason — everything offers a view.
As the whole region is mountainous, you’ll find breathtaking views around every corner.
With that in mind, here are 12 things to do in Zona Cafetera, Colombia:
Visit Valle de Cocora
First and foremost, you absolutely MUST visit Valle de Cocora while you’re in the region.
Easily accessible from Salento, Armenia, and Pereira – the stunning attraction offers some of the best views I’ve ever seen.
Valle de Cocora is filled with the Quindio Wax Palm Tree, the tallest palm tree in the world. These giant palms fill the mountainside and combine to offer a breathtaking scene.
I recommend hopping on a horse to head to the top of the mountain in Valle de Cocora. Just be careful! I was thrown off my horse and rolled down the mountainside for about 15 seconds. Not a pleasant experience.
Chill Out in Salento
Don’t forget to check out Salento while you’re in Colombia’s coffee region. As the only town that’s popular with gringos in the area, you’ll find tourism abundant here.
Salento is a perfect place to unwind, take in some views from a mirador, and soak up some traditional Colombian culture.
I enjoyed downing tintos, errr coffees, and walking the streets in this relaxed town.
Unwind in a Finca
If you’re planning to pass some time in Eje Cafetero, do yourself a favor. Chill out in a Finca or Campestre for a few nights.
These “farm” houses offer rooms, stunning views, and a free breakfast. Plus, they’re darn cheap.
I paid less than $70 for three days, two nights at a stunning Finca just outside Pereira last week. Breakfast was included, and the view was to die for.
If you plan to live the finca lifestyle for a few days, I recommend looking for one within a 30-minute drive of the main cities in Eje Cafetero — to ensure tourism is pretty accessible while here.
Take in Views From a Mirador
As you may have noticed, I’m a pretty big fan of the views throughout Zona Cafetera, Colombia. You won’t find views like this in many other places.
One of the best ways to soak in some of the amazing sights is to head to a Mirador. In every city in the coffee region, you’ll find at least a half dozen places where you can look out over the city and landscape.
Colombians call these places Miradors.
Just ask a local or your taxi driver to take you to the closest one. And make sure your smartphone is charged and ready to take some photos.
With mountains all around, it should come as no surprise that hiking is popular in Colombia’s coffee region.
The area boasts several fantastic hikes, including the famous Nevado del Ruiz, which resides in Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados.
While I didn’t get to check out Nevado del Ruiz, I did get to go on a few fun hikes throughout Eje Cafetero.
One of my favorites was at Reserva Cauquita in Pereira. Led by a private guide, you trek around three hours through a forest filled with stunning nature, Howler Monkeys, and more.
Motorcycle Adventure Tours in Eje Cafetero
This will be the absolute first thing I do the next time I’m in Colombia’s coffee region. Te lo juro.
There’s an adventure tour company called Motolombia, who specializes in motorcycle and 4WD tours throughout the coffee zone — and all of Colombia.
These guys offer a plethora of tours around the region, ranging from 3-21 days long. If you’re into adventure tourism, this looks like one of the absolute best ways to check out Eje Cafetero and have a damn good time. Plus, they have a couple options that cruise around Valle de Cocora — a must in the region.
Ride the Cable Car in Manizales
While this isn’t a MUST do while in Eje Cafetero, I still had a good time cruising around with the cable cars in Manizales.
Manizales is a hilly city and the cable car is used as the metro system – not for tourism.
It’s still fun to cruise around for 30 or so minutes and take in the sights of the city. Plus, it only cost $0.50 to ride for as long as you like.
You can get from the bus station to the center of Manizales in about 10 minutes with the cable cars.
Visit Termales de Santa Rosa
Visiting the Termales de Santa Rosa is a MUST while in Zona Cafetera. Other than Valle de Cocora, these thermal hot springs are the most popular tourist attraction in the region.
Just make sure you do NOT go on a Colombian holiday!
I went on a Monday when all Colombians were off work. It was packed to the brim and took a little away from the experience.
During the week, you may have the place to yourself. Either way, the Termales de Santa Rosa are relaxing and offer breathtaking views.
Check Out a Theme Park or Zoo
I’m not a theme park or zoo guy. Beaches and nature are more my speed. Still, there are some cool theme parks, ecological parks, and zoos in Colombia’s coffee region.
Popular places include:
While I wasn’t a huge fan of the coffee park, Ukumari was pretty cool. It’s not finished yet, but once it is – it should be the biggest and best zoo in all of Colombia…BY FAR!
Highly recommended if you’re around Pereira.
Drink Some Damn Good Coffee
Zona Cafetera is Colombia’s coffee region…
So you’ll want to down a few cups of the world-class coffee here.
If you’ve never been on a coffee farm tour, then checking out Don Manolo’s Coffee Finca outside Pereira should be on your list.
While I haven’t been, as one coffee farm tour is enough, many rave about the experience and how good the coffee is at Don Manolo’s finca.
Personally, I like to test out the local cafes when craving a good tinto. The best cup of coffee I’ve ever had was at a little cafe in the small Colombian town of Calarca.
Cafe del Guadual comes highly recommended.
Visit the Cathedral de Manizales
The Cathedral de Manizales, or The Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Rosary, is the tallest church in all of Colombia.
A stunning cathedral, you can take a tour to the top of the 320-foot church. It feels a bit dangerous hiking around the roof of a church and walking up a shaky spiral staircase, but the view from the top is worth it.
The tour takes around an hour and costs about $3 USD. Pretty cool spot overall.
If you’re in Manizales, make sure you check it out.
Just Relax a Little…
There’s a ton of things to do in Zona Cafetera, Colombia. You could spend a few weeks exploring the region and still not be bored.
However, the best thing to do in Eje Cafetero?
Well, that’s just taking a step back and relaxing.
Take some time to unwind while in Colombia’s coffee region. Down a few delicious tintos and lounge around the finca.
Stare at the mountains for an hour or so while relaxing at a Mirador. Every time I’ve been to Eje Cafetero, I come back to the city feeling recharged and energized.
That’s the whole point of visiting Zona Cafetera.
Gringo’s Guide to Eje Cafetero, Colombia | Verdict?
There’s a ton of things to do in Zona Cafetera, Colombia.
Just don’t try to do it all in one trip.
Enjoy Colombia’s coffee region for what it is and try to relax a little. If you come back from a journey toe Eje Cafetero exhausted, you did something wrong.
Unwind, soak in the views, and enjoy a lil’ of mother nature’s finest views.
Any questions, comments, or concerns about Eje Cafetero, Colombia? Just comment below and I’ll do my best to get back to you.