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The Coffee Region is an important tourist area of Colombia where you can enjoy delicious cuisine, spectacular landscapes, meet friendly and helpful people, and of course enjoy some of the best coffees in the world. In this guide we share everything you need to know to visit the Coffee Region in three days without needing a pre-planned tour.
An interesting fact about coffee in Colombia is that 85% of the crop is exported, due to its high export value. In the country most consumption is of the pasilla, which are coffee beans that have defects, such as roasting issues, black dots, broken, chips, in short, beans that do not meet the high standards of a quality coffee.
Where is the Eje Cafetero and how do you get there?
The Eje Cafetero is located in the center of the country. The coffee region of Colombia made up of the departments (similar to a state or province) of Caldas, Quindío and Risaralda, the north of Valle del Cauca, the northwest of Tolima and the southwest from Antioch. The Coffee Region has 3 main cities, the capital of each department, which can be reached by plane: Manizales, Pereira and Armenia.
These 3 departments form a triangle where the best coffee in the world is produced and it is the second largest coffee producer in the world. The interesting thing is that, in Colombia, coffee farmers do not focus on the quantity rather on the quality of the coffee. In fact, in 2011 UNESCO declared the coffee region a World Heritage Site.
Many years ago these 3 departments were part of Antioquia, which is why the inhabitants of the Coffee Region are also called Paisas.
There are many ways to get to the Coffee Region, including by bus, private car or plane. Colombia is a very large country so it depends on where you are coming from to determine what is the best way to get to Eje Cafetero. As I mentioned before, if you want to go by plane there are 3 cities that you can fly into. Traveling by bus is another option, although sometimes you can get cheaper prices on a flight than on bus lines. For example, Pereira is only 6.5 hours from Medellín and 4 hours from Cali. The 3 cities have bus stations with connections to the main cities across Colombia.
When is the best time of the year to go to the Coffee Region?
You can visit the Coffee Region during any time of the year, since its climate does not change much. In fact, along with Medellín, the coffee region is known as a place of eternal spring. The months with the most rain are March, April, May, October and November, but the truth is that there is a chance of rain throughout the year.
Try to avoid going during holidays and shoulder weeks, as prices go up and accommodations fill up with many national and international tourists. The months considered high season are December, January, May, June and July.
What is the climate of Eje Cafetero?
The coffee region is considered the best climate in all of Colombia. With a temperate climate, the mornings can be a bit chilly, but throughout the day it warms up significantly. It rains frequently with high temperatures of 77ºF and lows of 55ºF.
How many days should you spend it Colombia’s Coffee Region?
There is a great variety of things to do in Colombia’s Coffee Region, from the colorful towns to its wonderful landscape of the Cocora Valley with its Wax Palms, an authentic emblem in the Coffee Region. I recommend you stay a minimum of 3 days and 2 nights to visit the best things to do in the coffee region, including visiting a coffee farm, seeing the famous wax palm and exploring its colorful towns such as Salento and Filandia. If you want to visit most of the towns in this region, I recommend you stay a total of 5 days and 4 nights.
Why is it called the Coffee Region?
The name of the region is due to the fact that it represents one of the most important coffee-producing areas in Colombia. This region of Colombia is where the best coffee in the world is produced and exported.
What is the most beautiful towns in the Coffee Region?
According to various media and tourists who visit the Coffee Region, Salento is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the coffee region. It comes as no surprise when you arrive in town with its picturesque architecture and colorful streets. Filandia is also a beautiful town that you must visit in the coffee region.
Do I need to rent a car to travel through the coffee region?
No, we did not rent a car to travel through the Coffee Region in Colombia. You can easily travel through this region by bus and/or Willys. Sometimes you will have to change buses in one of the capitals of the departments to reach your final destination, but there is no trouble finding connecting routes. To give you an idea, the cost of a rental car is around $35 USD per day while the cost of the bus ranges from $0.75 USD to $2.50 USD for the longest route.
The Willys are the most characteristic transport of the Coffee Zone. They are classic World War II Jeeps that were sent by the Americans to this area in the 1950s. It is the main means of transport in the region and can hold up to 10 people. Another option to visit more remote places is hiring day trips that take you to see several of the main points of interest to visit in the Coffee Region.
Complete 3 Day itinerary to Colombia’s Coffee Region
In this 3-day itinerary through the coffee region, we start our tour from Pereira and visit several coffee farms, nature reserves and magical towns including Filandia and Salento. You can easily rotate the itinerary depending on which of the three cities in the coffee region of Colombia you arrive to first. We are going to start off with a brief summary of the best things to see and do in the Coffee Region.
- Day 1: Pereira and Santa Rosa de Cabal
- Day 2: Filandia, Barbas Reserve and Bremen
- National Park Natural de los Nevados: Hiking in an active volcano, the Nevado Ruiz and to a glacial lagoon. You have to go in your own vehicle or hire a tour.
- Coffee Park: It is a theme park related to all things coffee. The truth is that I didn’t find much value in it so I didn’t go, but it is something that many tourists recommend visiting.
- Buenavista: In Buenavista we recommend you visit the Finca “La Alsacia”, climb to the best viewpoints in all of Quindío such as the Cerro de las Tres Cruces. Buenavista offers many beautiful viewpoints, as it is located over 4,800 above sea level.
- Córdoba: Here you will find several waterfalls, streams, coffee plantations and guadua bamboos.
- Pijao: Also called the first slow city in Latin America, focused on a slower pace of life and sustainable tourism. We recommend you visit its square and its mosque-like church, climb Cerro Tarapacá to have the best view of Pijao, have a coffee at Café La Floresta, take photos in its wax palm forest, bathe in the Cascada de los guácharos, walk through the Chilí páramo and spot hummingbirds, tanagers and woodpeckers.
- Recuca: Excellent place to learn about the coffee process and coffee history. Admission costs COP 22,000 per person.
- Carbonera de Toche: It is the farm with the highest concentration of wax palms in the world. It is difficult to get there, so you will have to go by private car or private willy. We were told that a 4×4 car is needed.
- Nevado Tolima: Going to the summit of Nevado Tolima is a 4-day tour that you have to hire a certified guide. The trip starts from Salento at dawn and ends on the 4th day in the afternoon.
To have a clearer idea, the tourist attractions of the Coffee Cultural Landscape can be divided into three different themes:
- Visit Farms or Coffee Plantations: I recommend you do a coffee tour, which can last between two to three hours. Here you can learn all about the coffee culture and visit the coffee plantations. There are several types of farms, from the most elaborate to the most rustic.
- Magic towns: I recommend you visit the most colorful towns in the region; Salento, Filandia, Pijao, and Circassia.
- Reserves or open spaces: I recommend you visit the Barbas y Bremen reserve and of course the Cocora Valley with its beautiful and iconic wax palm trees.
Many tourists opt for amusement parks such as Parque del Café, Parque Panaca and Parque los Arrieros. We chose not to visit any of those during our trip.
Where Should I Stay in Colombia’s Coffee Region?
I recommend staying in the city of Filandia or Salento. They are the most famous towns in the region and have all the comforts. Another good option if you have a private car is to sleep in one of the coffee farms in the region.
Options in Salento:
- Salento Traditional House Hotel
- The Boutique Hotel La Caracola
- Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel
- Hotel El Mirador del Cocora
- Casa La Eliana
Options in Finland:
- Hostal la Colina Cuyambra
- El Reloj Casa Hotel
- Hostal Bremen
- Casa Colonial Hostal
- Apartahotel Calle del Tiempo Detenido
- Mythos Hostal
Itinerary to visit the Coffee Region in 3 days:
Day 1: Pereira and Santa Rosa de Cabal
After landing at the Pereira airport, check in at your hotel and leave your luggage. I recommend you visit its historic Pereira city center and take photos of its many murals. End the day visiting the hot springs in Santa Rosa de Cabal. Admission costs 45,000 pesos ($12 USD).
Day 2: Visit Barbas Bremen Reserve, Filandia and Circasia
Barbas Bremen Reserve
Visiting the Barbas-Bremen Reserves is one of the best things to do in the coffee region, which are connected by 5 biological corridors. To visit reserve you have to go on a on a guided tour, you cannot visit on your own.
I recommend doing the tour in the morning (8:30AM), since the howler monkeys are more active in the morning, although you can see them at any time of the day. The tour includes the pick-up in Filandia from the main square, a coffee at the farm, boots, insurance, a lemonade at the end of the tour, and the return to Filandia by willy. Here is the tour contact: +57 311 6090425.
The tour lasts approximately 3 to 4 hours and during the tour you can see several howler monkeys, various birds and flora of the place. If you want you can also visit a waterfall.
Filandia is one of the most touristic and colorful towns in Quindío thanks to the conservation of the old colonial architecture of Antioquia.
- Calle del Tiempo Detenido: All the original houses remain on both sides of the street remain.
- Simón Bolívar Square
- Filandia Illuminated Hill Viewpoint (Mirador del Quindío) from where you will have impressive panoramic views of the coffee region landscape: The entrance fee is 8,000 COP. This viewpoint is a 27-meter-high wooden structure from where you can see three departments, and even the Los Nevados National Natural Park (PNN).
- San José: An artisanal neighborhood where they have been make beautiful baskets for coffee pickers for many years.
- Maria Inmaculada Temple
- Filandia Central Park
- Free Cemetery: Unique in Latin America and an example of funerary architecture.
- Simón Bolívar Square
- Alto de la Cruz Viewpoint
Day 3: Explore Salento, a coffee farm and the cocora valley
The most popular thing to do in the coffee region is to visit the Valle del Cocora, home to the wax palms, Colombia’s national tree, and the tallest palm trees in the world. To visit the natural reserve of Valle del Cocora you can book a tour, go by private taxi or get a ride to the entrance of the valley on one of the jeeps (willys) for 4,000 pesos ($1.00USD).
Two hiking routes can be taken: the first is a 12-kilometer trek that lasts between 5 to 6 hours, and the other that is approximately 5 kilometers long and only visits the wax palm forest and its viewpoints, this hike can last between 2 to 3 hours. If you decide to do the full trek, we recommend you start with the wax palms, following the route clockwise. Do not miss out on the house of the Hummingbirds, which costs 5,000 COP to enter.
- Calle Real
- Alto De La Cruz Viewpoint: A must do in Salento is to go up to the viewpoint, which is located at the end of Calle Real up a set of stairs.
- Santa Rita Waterfall
No trip to Colombia’s coffee region is complete without a visit a coffee farm, where you learn everything about the coffee process, from its sowing to how it is served. We visited 3 farms: Luger, Buenos Aires and El Ocaso. Each of these farms had its own unique experience.
The first is the most rustic of all, but it provides a more authentic touch to the experience. The second is a mix between the rustic and the elaborate, while El Ocaso is a more elaborate experience, as it is one of the most famous and oldest estates in Salento with more than 100 years of history. This farm also offeres a hotel if you would like to spend the night. Other farms that I recommend you visit are Finca La Alsacia and La Finca Don Elias.
How safe is Colombia’s Coffee Region?
The Coffee Region is a very quiet and safe region. Like a trip to any destination, it is important to take basic precautions. The small towns are very safe, while the larger cities are also safe, you will have to be more cautious and aware of your surroundings similar to other countries around the world.
What is the ideal packing list to visit the Coffee Region?
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Waterproof poncho
- Insect repellent
- Cap or hat
- A coat
- Long pants
- Bathing Suit
- Several pairs of socks
What is the best coffee to buy in the Coffee Region?
The Eje Cafetero is the gateway to all types of coffee you can imagine. You have to keep in mind that Colombian coffee has a milder flavor, generally due to its roasting process, compared to coffee from other parts of the world.
If you want to go easy the easy route, it is best to buy your coffee at the supermarket. Throughout the area you will find a coffee called Quindío, it is the most popular in the region, as well as being the cheapest.
The El Ocaso farm in Salento is one of the benchmarks in the Coffee Region, so we couldn’t leave without sampling the coffee they make there. We opted for the “Salento coffee” option to try during the tour; a mixture of three varieties that they grow on the land, with acid nuances and a mild flavor.
At the Yarumo farm they served us one of their best coffees for breakfast, the Honey, sweeter than the rest. With this type of coffee, they do not clean the grain and the film that covers it ends up giving the coffee a sweeter flavor, ideal as a substitute for sugar.
In the town of Filandia, a group of locals recommended us to visit Mrs. Nelly’s pantry, assuring us that her coffee was one of the best in the area, with its super pleasant aroma.
Yes you are a coffee fanatic, you will find it impossible to just take 1 or 2 packages of coffee back home.
What is the best food in the coffee region?
While Colombia’s Coffee Region is most well known for its coffee there is a delicious gastronomy to enjoy as well. Some of our favorite dishes are:
- Paisa tray: It is the stellar dish of the coffee region, where 9 ingredients are combined in the same dish: beans, rice, ground meat, pork rinds, chorizo, fried egg, arepa, fried plantain and avocado.
- Calentao paisa: Typical food that is usually served reheated for breakfas. It has an arepa, beans, lentils, meat stew and fried egg.
- Garlic trout: It is a typical dish from the Salento area, since this fish is raised in this sector.
- Sancocho: It consists of a soup where you will find potatoes, yucca, banana, meat; which is accompanied by rice, salad and avocado.
- Mondongo: It is a soup that is prepared with vegetables, rice and its main ingredient, which is usually the belly of the pig.
- Sudados: You can try the sweaty chorizos or the whole plate with different meats accompanied by rice, yucca, potatoes and salad.