Planning a Trip to Colombia’s Coffee Region
It’s an hour-long flight from Colombia’s capital of Bogotá to the center of the coffee region, where Pereira, Manizales, and Armenia make up a triangle of destination cities that act as gateways to the region. Once on the ground, head straight to a tour of coffee fields and production facilities before settling into your own accommodations on a coffee hacienda, or at boutique hotels in smaller towns like Salento and Filandia, each less than an hour’s drive from Pereira and Armenia, or less than two hours from Manizales.
You can easily fill a couple of days touring the farms, but there’s something here even for those who aren’t fanatical about coffee. The Cocora Valley is a great place for beginner hikers, with gentle green slopes perfect for long walks, while the vast landscapes of Parque Nacional Nevado del Ruiz offer more challenging hikes and climbs through stunning cloud forests and soaring peaks. For those who love adventure, there’s also horseback riding, mountain biking, and canyoning, and for those who want to take things at a slower pace, mountain hot springs offer plenty of relaxation.
Learn more about the best places to visit in Colombia's coffee region in this article.
Colombia’s Coffee Region in 24 Hours
With just 24 hours in the coffee zone, you can still hit quite a few of the area’s high points, including a coffee tour and a hike through some picturesque terrain. After landing in one of the region’s three main city airports, it’s a short drive to one of several nearby coffee farms, where you can see the fruit handpicked off the trees, and get a first-hand glimpse into how the fruit is removed from the bean and the bean is processed.
Of course, the tour will include a sip of coffee made from the classic Arabica bean, which has been grown here since the 18th century. Many of the region’s coffee farms also offer upscale accommodations, like Hacienda Venecia, which has both a Coffee Lodge, with views of rivers, mountains, and coffee fields, and a Main House, a historically rooted, luxurious option.
The next morning, wake up bright and early and lace up your hiking boots for several hours of exploration in the Cocoro Valley, where the main loop takes about five hours and leads to the coffee farm Finca Acaime, as well as a shelter for hummingbirds. If you’d rather travel on horseback, you can rent a special breed of local horse for the morning in Salento and ride directly into the valley, or stay close to the riding stable and take a lesson at Paso Fino Colombiano if you’re a beginner.
This 10-day trip includes a day spent touring a typical coffee farm located in one of the region’s less-visited towns, Santa Rosa de Cabal, before continuing on to a multi-day trek in the Andes and sightseeing in Cartagena.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Colombia’s Coffee Region in 2-3 days
With 2-3 days in the coffee zone, you can take things a bit slower, using your entire first day, and not just a first afternoon, to tour several coffee farms. Some of the most-visited coffee farms include Hacienda Venecia and Hacienda Guayabal around Manizales, Recuca near Armenia, where visitors are allowed to harvest their own beans, El Ocaso near Salento, and Don Manolo Coffee Farm near Pereira. This will give you a chance not only to tour the coffee fields and see the process, but also to include a coffee workshop that will teach you brewing techniques and how to identify different beans and roasts.
In the afternoon of your full day, you can either head to the Cocora Valley for some hiking, or check out some of the region’s towns like Salento or Filanda. These places are great jumping-off points for bike tours of several hours, or for horseback riding excursions into the Cocora Valley. The Parque Nacional Nevado del Ruiz is accessible from all major towns and cities of the region, and offers beautiful green peaks surrounded by cloud forests, leading up to the tallest mountain in the area (which lends the park its name) El Ruiz.
If you’re into the idea of exploring picturesque waterways surrounded by lush greenery, head to Rio Barbas, a river in Barbas Bremens Regional Park close to Pereira and Armenia. Here you can try your hand at canyoning with the help of a guide: navigating creeks and waterfalls using rope systems. You can head back to your hacienda accommodations for your second night, or try out one of the area’s growing number of boutique hotels.
On a third day, you might elect to do a driving tour of typical villages or pueblos, including Marsella, a great destination for families thanks to its botanical gardens, Casa Paisa, a museum about the coffee industry that also includes a giant chess set, and Brisas de Cauca, an organic cocoa farm that will delight chocolate lovers of all ages. Santa Rosa de Cabal is also a great option for a pueblo day trip, thanks to its two hot springs locations, Termales de Santa Rosa and Termales de San Vicente. Rent a cabin by the thermal waters for one last night of rest and rejuvenation, and don’t forget to sample the town’s specialty chorizo santarosano sausages at local restaurants like the upscale Don Pascual.
Consider this weeklong itinerary—you'll start in Bogotá and fly to the Coffee Regin for an overnight at a working finca, a hike in the mountains of the Cocora Valley, and a tour of Salento, all over the course of two days.
Colombia’s Coffee Region in 4-5 days
With up to five days in Colombia’s Coffee region, you can spend a full day and night in one of the region’s main towns. Try out Salento, beloved for its brightly colored colonial architecture set against a backdrop of mountains shrouded in mist, a vibrant street music scene, and gourmet restaurants, many of which serve local trout cooked in several ways.
The larger Manizales is known for its cable car rides – a great way to tour the city from above – and its beautiful cathedral, one of the largest in Latin America, as well as Termales El Otoño and Termales Tierra Viva, two hot springs just outside the city. Meanwhile, Pereira has a sprawling botanical garden connected to its university and Friars Waterfall, a cascade surrounded by jungle one hour’s hike from the city.
Meanwhile, smaller towns like Filandia and Pijao offer simpler pleasures and a slower type of travel. Both have picturesque colonial houses and shops for local craftsmen offering one-of-a-kind souvenirs like woven baskets and knit ponchos and sweaters. Filandia is also the location of the area’s most famous restaurant Helena Adentro, so make a reservation in advance to try modern Colombian specialties and fusion dishes in light-filled room decorated with fresh flowers.
If you’re partial to rugged nature and have serious hiking and climbing experience, you can also hire a guide or join a group to trek up one of the major peaks in Parque Nacional Nevado del Ruiz, including El Ruiz, the tallest mountain within the park at 5325 m, as well as Nevada de Santa Isabel (4965 m) and Nevada del Tolima (5215 m). Guides can organize a climbing expedition that includes all equipment so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own. If you plan on tackling this, you may want to plan your last night in a town close to a hot spring, though, just so you can soak all those sore muscles away!
If you're interested in true Coffee Region immersion, check out this six-day tour based in Salento and Armenia. For more on the region, see our Ultimate Guide to Colombia's Coffee Country.