Colombia is known for producing some of the world’s best coffee. The Zona Cafetera (Coffee Region), Colombia’s prime coffee producing area is located pretty much equidistant from Bogota, Medellin and Cali in the west of Colombia. The area is renowned for the beauty of its countryside, friendliness of its people the the attractiveness of its women. So, you don’t have to be a coffee aficionado to enjoy it :-).
There are 3 major cities in the Zona Cafetera, Pereira, Manizales and Armenia, the last of which was severely damaged in an earthquake in 1999. None of these cities has anything to recommend it, but any of them can be used as a base to explore the surrounding region. I decided to stay in Pereira and made 3 day trips – Santa Rosa Termales (hot springs), Marsella, and Salento and the Valle de Corcoro.
Santa Rosa Termales
The Termales are definitely worth a visit. It’s a bit tricky getting there as you have to take 2 buses from Pereira. There are several pools all set against the background of a magnificent waterfall in a beautifully sculptured garden. You also have the option to stay overnight in the hotel.
Marsella is a small village almost completely unknown to foreign tourists. I only visited it on the advice of the owner of my hostel in Pereira. As soon as I got on the bus, people were trying to help me. Unfortunately, due to my limited spanish, I wasn’t able to take up their offers of assistance. So, they directed me to a young chap, born there, but now living in New York and visiting his family. He took me on a tour all round the area, visiting his parents on their coffee farm and showing me the traditional coffee production. This is why Colombians consistently rate amongst the friendliest people in the world.
Salento is a small, sleepy traditional village with brightly coloured traditional houses and authentic charm. From Salento, you can hike or ride a horse up the Corcoro Valley. On the way back, take the alternate route which leads up to a plateau with giant palm trees.