The Colombian Coffee Triangle, also known as the Coffee Zone or Coffee Belt, consists of three Colombian departments: Caldas, Risaralda and Quindio. This region is famous for producing the majority of Colombian coffee, often considered the best in the world. It’s also simply a beautiful place to visit. Here’s a guide to the Colombian Coffee Triangle, to help you plan the best trip possible.
There are numerous wonderful places to visit and a multitude of sights to see in the Coffee Region, but there are some particular experiences that stand out and are unmissable. Arguably the most popular destination the Coffee Triangle is the lovely little town of Salento in Quindio department. With its colourful traditional architecture, excellent variety of restaurants, and coffee tours, Salento is already established as a must-visit spot on the Colombian traveller trail. Equally popular is the nearby Cocora Valley hike, a stunning trail through the mountains that passes through farms and cloud forest to arrive at a surreal valley full of the tallest palm trees in the world.
Although Salento has some excellent coffee tours – Finca El Ocaso and Don Eduardo are standouts – there are better places to delve into the culture of Colombian coffee, which is so deeply entrenched in this region that the area has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site called, ‘The Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia’. The best coffee tour in the area, and almost certainly in Colombia, is the WakeCup Experience tour in the pretty little town of Pijao. An immersive full-day tour that visits local farmers and introduces visitors to the people involved at every stage of the process, the WakeCup Experience is the tour for anyone with a passion for Colombian coffee.
Other top tourist highlights in the Coffee Triangle include the beautiful hot springs of Santa Rosa de Cabal, trekking in the mountains of Los Nevados National Park, birding in the area’s many diverse bird reserves – including Rio Blanco, Otun Quimbaya and Montezuma – and taking a hot-air balloon flight over the stunning landscape. Those interested in the coffee and culture combination so unique to the region will want to be in the town of Calarcá in July for the annual Yipao Jeep Parade, where the jeeps of the region are celebrated with parties and daredevil jeep stunts.
When it comes to choosing a place to stay, there are numerous accommodation options in the Coffee Triangle that will appeal to all tastes and budgets. Salento, for instance, is full of hostels and boutique hotels: Hotel Salento Real and Hostel Tralala are excellent options.
The nearby small towns of Buenavista and Filandia are both home to excellent hostels, the Panorama Cafe Hostel and the Bidea Hostel respectively.
The capital city of Caldas department, Manizales, is home to two unique accommodation options. The first is the working coffee farm of Hacienda Venecia. With three different guesthouses for all budgets, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to stay on an actual coffee farm in traditional buildings. The other is the Termales del Ruiz hotel in the mountains of Los Nevados National Park: a lovely boutique hotel surrounded by cloud forests filled with birds and with thermal pools to relax in.
Travelling around the Coffee Triangle is relatively easy. All three departments are very small and the distances between the main sights are short and served by regular buses. Most hostels and hotels can also organise private transfers upon request. Arriving in the area from other parts of Colombia is also very simple: the three capital cities of Armenia, Pereira and Manizales all have regional airports, with regular flights at reasonable prices available from major Colombian cities.