Last updated on January 17th, 2023 at 12:01 pm
My name is Frank and I run a travel agency in Bogota, Colombia. Have fun while reading!
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.
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.
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 and mountain tours. 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.
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 veritable gentrification. Anyone looking for such an environment is in good hands in Salento. The selection of hotels and hostels is huge.
Salento is an excellent starting point for sporting activities such as hiking, mountaineering, mountain biking or horse riding. I recommend to my customers to maybe have a coffee in Salento so they can see it.
The journey is easy because you can either arrive from Pereira or Armenia by bus. However, I recommend 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 miss-investment went even to prison.
Buenavista is a sleepy coffee village, but in good weather, you will be rewarded with a perfect view. Up in the mountain, you can start by 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 in 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
A 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 an 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.
Accommodation in the coffee zone
As a foreign tourist, one should not settle in the city in the coffee zone. There are too many great hotels in the countryside and in the villages. Below is a selection of my favorites.
Eduard and his family have built a super nice hotel here. There is also a nature trail embedded in the coffee landscape. Here you can absolutely relax. I send my customers to this hotel regularly.
Bio Habitat Armenia, Circasia
The hotel is built on a hill and has a fantastic view. There is also a long nature trail. Bio Habitat has only recently opened and the standard is absolutely top-notch.
Terrazas de Salento, Salento
Terrazas de Salento impresses with its details and is a real boutique hotel. The rooms are super cozy and the view over Salento is spectacular.
El Mirador del Cocora, Salento
El Mirador del Cocora is probably one of the best hotels in Salento and is always well booked. The view over the Cocora valley is beautiful.
Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel, Salento
I don’t know why this is called a hostel, because the standard is almost luxurious. For me the best hostel in Salento by far.
Hostel Estrella del Agua, Salento
If you want to be sporty in Salento, you should check into this hostel. Great tours can be undertaken with the existing mountain bikes.
La Cabana Eco Hotel, Valle del Cocora
A beautiful traditional hotel in the coffee Finca style in the Cocora valley. There are 2 buildings, one of them directly on the river with the corresponding background noise. Maria Camila studied at the same university as me, is very pretty and runs the hotel together with her father.
The Sazagua is arguably one of the best hotels in the region. The standard is absolutely top and nothing should be left to be desired.
If you like it luxurious, the Visus is the right place for you. I recommend booking one of the suites on the upper floor. If you arrive tense, there is a spa and massage.
Hotel Finca del Cafe, Santa Rosa de Cabal
Those who like it traditional are in very good hands in the Finca del Cafe. The name is program.
At the Hacienda Venecia, there are three different accommodations with different levels of luxury. A great experience for every budget. The active coffee Finca offers everything to do with coffee and cocoa. I visit Hacienda Venecia at least once a year.
Hacienda Termales La Quinta
What else can I say about that? Anyone who has seen the video above will book immediately. The journey is a bit cumbersome and requires a 4×4, but it is definitely worth it.
Hotel Termales del Ruiz
The hotel is located high in the mountains of Caldas. However, the journey is rewarded with a spectacular landscape. There are also thermal baths.
Termales El Otono
Termales El Otono are probably the largest thermal baths in the department. The hotel is very large and offers a wide variety of accommodations.
Tinamú is one of the first bird lodges in Colombia. The place is spectacular and offers a unique nature experience. The rooms were renovated in 2020.
Hotel Resort del Cafe
The hotel was completed in 2020. The best thing to do is watch the video briefly, then you will know what you are getting there.
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 some regions of Colombia, the Tinto is sweetened by default with sugar or Panela.
In the more touristy places, however, preparation with modern espresso machines is increasingly preferred, and the staff is better trained to make a cappuccino.
What you hardly find, however, are the capsule machines for Nespresso, etc., which I am personally not very unhappy about.
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.
January: Feria de Manizales
June: Fiesta Nacional de Café
August: Fiestas de las Cosechas
September: Festivo de Sabores, Sonidos y Saberes
December: Concurso Nacional de Velas y Faroles
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.
Eating in the coffee triangle
You actually eat well everywhere in the coffee zone. Above all, one should visit Helena in Filandia.
Carrera 7 # 8-1
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 shines. 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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Airports of the coffee zone
- Fort Lauderdale (Spirit) Monday, Wednesday, Friday
- Bogota (Avianca, Latam, Easyfly, VivaAir)
- Medellin (EasyFly)
- Cartagena (EasyFly, VivaAir)
- Santa Marta (VivaAir)
- Bucaramanga (EasyFly) Friday, Sunday
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.
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 mountain’s 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.
Colombia Travel Guides
Below you will find the finest selection of travel guides around Colombia. Feel free to check them out.
- Colombia Travel Guide
- Bogota Travel Guide
- Medellin Travel Guide
- Santa Marta Travel Guide
- Cartagena Travel Guide
- La Guajira Travel Guide
- Llanos Travel Guide
- Cali Travel Guide
- Providencia Travel Guide
- Coffee Triangle Travel Guide
- Amazonas Travel Guide
- Choco Travel Guide
- Santander Travel Guide
- Boyaca Travel Guide
- Villa de Leyva Travel Guide
- San Andres Island Travel Guide
- Tayrona Park Travel Guide
- Palomino Travel Guide
- Heritage Towns Colombia Travel Guide
- Chicamocha Canyon Travel Guide
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