Traveling in 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.
Now, I want to dive deeper. So I’ve spent some time throughout Colombia’s coffee region, and I love it. Here’s why:
Where and What is Zona Cafetera, Colombia?
First off, let’s define where Colombia’s coffee region is and what it consist of. Generally speaking, the area is comprised of three states:
These three states are known worldwide for producing some of the best coffee around. The temperature and landscape are ideal for coffee production.
Around 2.5 million people live throughout the region. Most of them found in 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.
Click here to learn more!
¡Que Chevere! 11 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 11 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.
Soaking in the scenic views at Valle de Cocora.
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 and walking the streets in this relaxed town.
Plus, the views are great here.
Views from the Mirador in Salento.
Unwind in a Finca or Campestre
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, get on Airbnb and look at places between Periera and Armenia. These locations offer easy access to some of the best tourism in the region along with the stunning views.
That Finca Lifestyle.
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.
Enjoying the sights from a Mirador outside Armenia, Colombia.
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. Click here to learn more.
Hiking in Reserva Cauquita with the jefe, Alberto.
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.
Waiting for the cable car.
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 don’t 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.
Waterfall near the hot springs in Santa Rosa.
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:
- Parque del Cafe near Armenia
- Ukumari BioParque in Pereira
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 South America.
Hanging with friends at Ukumari.
Drink Some 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.
Best coffee ever near Armenia, Colombia.
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 $3USD. If you’re in Manizales, make sure you check it out.
Not an ugly church.
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 is 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.
Feeling recharged after a weekend in Eje Cafetero.
Things to Do in Zona Cafetera, Colombia!
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.