Manizales Cathedral, Ruiz Hot Springs, Los Nevados National Park – there’s much to do in Manizales. Need a steer? Here are the essential stops.
This pretty city in central Colombia sits in the heart of the coffee-growing region, in the shadow of the Nevados volcanoes, which you’ll pass through on Culture Trip’s epic eight-day Colombian Andes adventure en route to Medellín from Bogotá.
It’s known as the City of Open Doors, for its kind and welcoming residents, and acts as the capital of the Caldas department. You’ll also find plenty of things to do here, ranging from heart-pumping sky walks to chilled afternoons sampling coffee at source.
One of the most beautiful national parks in Colombia is Los Nevados, a high-altitude park home to several active, snow-capped volcanoes, and some stunning paramo ecosystems and mountain lakes. Manizales sits alongside the park, so it’s easily visited on a day trip. It’s no longer possible to reach the snowline of Ruiz Volcano, but adventurous types can enjoy a trek up to the glacier of Santa Isabel Volcano instead.
Manizales is the capital city of the Caldas department, one of the three regions that make up the Colombian Coffee Triangle. Therefore, it’s a great place to discover the wonderful world of Colombian coffee. Hacienda Venecia is a fabulous working coffee farm just outside Manizales: you can visit for a day tour and learn all about the coffee-making process, or stay overnight in one of the fantastic authentic houses.
A pretty cloud forest park just 11km (7mi) from downtown Manizales, El Recinto del Pensamiento has a beautiful butterfly house; lovely forest trails, perfect for bird and orchid enthusiasts; and a chairlift to take you into the surrounding hills. It’s the perfect way to escape the city for a morning and enjoy time with nature.
The impressive Manizales Cathedral has, at 106m (348ft), the tallest church tower in Colombia. It’s an impressive enough structure from below, with an unusual architectural style made of reinforced concrete, but the views from the top of the tower are the main selling point. You’ll need to climb it as part of an organized tour – the views are simply astounding.
Manizales has been colloquially known as the factory of sunsets within Colombia, due to the astounding sunsets seen from the city on a daily basis. The best way to enjoy a Manizales sunset is from the Chipre neighborhood – a part of town that’s popular with locals and higher up than most of the city, giving it unobstructed views. It’s best on a Sunday when local families visit and food vendors sell traditional snacks.
Manizales is surrounded by lovely hot springs and thermal baths. There are many, but the best is Termales del Ruiz (Ruiz Hot Springs), a delightful boutique hotel and hot springs on the edge of Los Nevados National Park. The baths are lovely, and hummingbird feeders attract an array of exotic species.
If the view from Chipre or the cathedral tower isn’t enough, then give the SkyWalk a go instead. This huge, elevated metal tower allows you to walk out – safely harnessed, of course – onto a precarious metal platform for a once-in-a-lifetime view over the city below. This one is not for the faint-hearted.
One of the most beloved statues in Manizales is the Monumento a los Colonizadores (Monument to the Colonists) by local artist Luis Guillermo Vallejo. This giant bronze tribute to the hardy first settlers of the region is an aesthetically beautiful piece of work – as well as an important reminder of the pioneering history of the region.
Manizales is one of the best birding spots in the country. And a day of birdwatching at Rio Blanco will be a highlight for any nature enthusiast, with the chance to spot five species of the rare and elusive antpitta, as well as the enigmatic masked saltator and dusky piha.