Experience a taste of Colombian culture on this 5-day trip to the Coffee Triangle. You'll go to the heart of the country's coffee region in charming Salento for an overnight at a working farm and hike through the picturesque green mountains of the Cocora Valley (and the famous wax palms). Then, head to Manizales, the most adventurous of the three cities that make up Colombia's coffee triangle, where you'll visit the Rio Blanco Nature reserve.  Like the coffee this region is known for, this trip is designed to awaken all of your senses.

Highlights

  • Hike the beautiful Cocora Valley through Colombia's iconic wax palm trees
  • Visit Manizales and the Rio Blanco Nature reserve
  • Explore the charming town of Salento and stay in a working coffee farm

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Zona Cafetera - Coffee Finca Pereira
Day 2 Hiking in Valle de Cocora - Explore Salento Pereira
Day 3 Driving Tour of Zona Cafetera Pereira
Day 4 Manizales - Río Blanco Nature Reserve Manizales
Day 5 Manizales to Medellín Medellín

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Zona Cafetera - Coffee Finca

The coffee fields of Colombia's Zona Cafetera
The coffee fields of Colombia's Zona Cafetera

Welcome to Colombia! Today you'll take a flight to either Armenia or Pereira, cities in Colombia's Zona Cafetera (coffee region). 

Upon arrival, you'll transfer to an organic coffee finca (farm) in the beautiful countryside of this region, surrounded by sloping Andean mountains coated in green coffee fields (be sure to keep your camera within easy reach). Upon arrival to the finca, you'll learn every step of the coffee production process. Furthering this authentic experience, you'll stay overnight and learn even more about Colombia's famous export (the country is the world's third largest producer of coffee). Of course, there will be frequent tastings.

Day 2: Hiking in Valle de Cocora - Explore Salento

Colorful houses in Salento
Colorful houses in Salento

Wake up with a hearty breakfast. From here, a car will pick you up and drive you to a trail in the Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley), outside the historic town of Salento. As you make your way to the trail, you’ll find yourself in view of the distinctive Quindío wax palms, which can reach an impressive height of up to 70 meters (230 feet). This protected cloud forest in the Andes is peppered with these soaring palms, which just happens to be Colombia's national tree.

The Valle de Cocora offers hiking opportunities second to none. The route here takes you along dirt tracks through tropical forests and streams and up to lookouts providing some sweeping views. After the hike, head back to the colorful streets of Salento and enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure. Despite Salento's rise in tourism (mostly backpackers) over the past decade, it retains an old-world charm with colorful Paisa (Antioquian) architecture, street musicians, and an impressive range of handicrafts. 

In the afternoon, you'll transfer back to your accommodations. 

Hike duration: Three hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 3: Driving Tour of Zona Cafetera

After breakfast, you'll be picked up by a local guide for a full-day excursion.

This tour, by private car, explores the Zona Cafetera (coffee region), where you'll get to know lovely little villages like Montenegro, Circasia, and Cordoba. Experience the authentic charm, beautiful landscapes, and friendly, tight-knit communities. Your guide will stop by fruit stands for tastings and splendid viewpoints looking over coffee, pineapple, and banana plantations.

When you return to your accommodations in the afternoon, enjoy the rest of the day on your own.

Tour duration: 6-8 hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 4: Manizales - Río Blanco Nature Reserve

The Zona Cafetera
The Zona Cafetera

This morning you will transfer to Manizales, the most prominent of the three cities that make up Colombia’s “coffee triangle." Have lunch by the neo-gothic Catedral de Manizales, and then visit the massive Monumento a los Colonizadores. This impressive bronze sculpture sits at the top of a lookout offering 360° views of the city and the surrounding mountains.

Take the afternoon and visit the Río Blanco Nature Reserve, located just two miles from Manizales. Hit the trails of this 30,000-acre protected area and look for unique plants and animals endemic to the central Andes cloud forests. Hundreds of Colombia's some 2000 bird species exist here, including toucans, rusty-faced parrots, owls, tanagers, and more. After your visit, begin the one-hour drive (via switchback roads) leading to a traditional Colombian ranch in the mountains. Enjoy a home-cooked dinner and a night of peaceful sleep while you acclimate to the high-altitude.

Day 5: Manizales to Medellín

Wake up in Manizales and take advantage of the gorgeous Andean mountain views. Spend the morning relaxing in your hotel, or put on a good pair of walking shoes and hit the city's hilly streets. Stop to enjoy a traditional lunch in the area before heading back to Medellín.

Map

Map of Explore Zona Cafetera - 5 Days
Map of Explore Zona Cafetera - 5 Days
Yenyi
Written by Yenyi Fu, updated Oct 8, 2019