The most popular day trip from Manizales is up into the high-Andean National Park of Los Nevados. The active Nevado del Ruiz Volcano can be seen from the city on a clear day, but there’s nothing quite like getting up into the wild, windswept moors of the park and experiencing the wonderful nature firsthand. A day trip usually includes a stop at Laguna Negra lake and the main park entrance centre, and you will also have the chance to explore the páramo, the high-altitude moorland that is unique to the northern Andes.
This stunning bird reserve is set in more than 49 square kilometres (12,000 acres) of beautifully preserved cloud forest and is one of the jewels in Manizales’ ecotourism crown. Located just 45 minutes from downtown Manizales, Rio Blanco makes for a perfect day trip for anyone with a love of nature, but birders will especially love it, as it is famous for its many species, including five members of the elusive antpitta family and the rarely seen (apart from at Rio Blanco) masked saltator.
Being a city surrounded by volcanos, Manizales has its fair share of thermal baths and hotels, but none are nicer than Termales del Ruiz. This wonderful luxury hotel, with thermal baths and a hummingbird observatory, is an easy day trip from the city, and for just US$10 you can spend the day swimming in the natural thermal pools and enjoying beautiful views of at least 10 different species of Andean hummingbird. There’s also a restaurant and bar on site, so you don’t need to worry about meals.
A gorgeous coffee farm just outside Manizales, Hacienda Venecia is, with good reason, one of the most well-renowned boutique hotels in the region, but you don’t have to stay over to enjoy a visit to this working coffee farm. Hacienda Venecia also offers a guided coffee tour, for which they organise transport to and from Manizales. You will learn all about the coffee growing process, before sampling some of the Hacienda’s finest product.
A nature park just 11 kilometres (seven miles) from downtown Manizales, Recinto del Pensamiento is set in a beautiful cloud forest and is the ideal place to spend a lazy day in nature just outside the city. With a great café and restaurant on site, as well as guided tours through a cloud forest trail, a hummingbird observatory, a butterfly house and a natural orchid garden, El Recinto is a peaceful and tranquil place. There are also early morning birding tours, so check in advance if you want to attend.
One of the longer day trips on this list, the pretty little Heritage Town of Salamina lies around two hours from Manizales by bus. However, if you’re looking to escape the tourist trail for a day and experience one of Colombia’s most delightful and overlooked little towns, then it’s absolutely worth getting up early and making the effort to visit Salamina. Its beautiful historical buildings and famous carved wooden balconies are unlike those of any other town in Colombia.
Part of Los Nevados National Park, but worth a separate day trip, Nevado de Santa Isabel is one of the only snowcapped peaks in the park to which there is still access. Day trips to the glacier of the Nevado are an incredible way to experience high mountains in Colombia, and trekking on the surface of an actual glacier is always an unforgettable experience.