21 Colombian Coffee Axis Destinations for 2021, is the definitive guide to the places we think are going to be the MOST unique and interesting opportunities for visitors to Colombia. These are places that don’t have large crowds, too many foreign visitors, but healthy lifestyles!
21 Colombian Coffee Axis Destinations for 2021
It is our mission to always break away from what is common, well-traveled and routine. We search for places that will make visitors, once they have the correct information say, WOW! These are places which have TONS of touristic potential but aren’t slammed with visitors yet.
We believe strongly in supporting local guides, artisans, products and services. Whenever possible, we will create local alliances with people who will receive you with love and generosity.
- Quinchia, Risaralda – Featured in previous destination lists, we still think this pueblo is only just beginning to show its potential. These are old lands that have belonged to indigenous tribes since pre-Colombian times. Portals, giants and strange energies live here.
- Apia, Risaralda – The heart of the wind, Apia is like the Salento of Risaralda because of the colonial wood architecture, the incredible quality of their coffee, easy to access hiking trails, and paragliding. Read more about Apia Here: Destination Guide
- Mistrato, Risaralda – A mysterious destination that travelers talk about in whispers. The birds, waterfalls and indigenous cultures are part of what characterizes this forgotten treasure. Great for hiking, eating trout at a fish farm, birdwatching, camping, and spending time in the town drinking coffee and eating local foods.
Culture Tip: It is better to drink a coffee, juice or aromatica, when someone in a small town invites you, than to say no and hurt their feelings. People of the 21 Colombian Coffee Axis Destinations are simple yet sensitive in their desire to please visitors. Besides, you might discover some interesting stories which you wouldn’t have heard anywhere else.
- Aguadas, Caldas – Legends of Los Putas de Aguadas have nothing to do with the traditional meaning of the word “puta,” and everything to do with the concept of a manly man with machete and carriel, wearing a sombrero made by his wife, sister, or mother.
- Salamina, Caldas – Known as the Ciudad Luz, or Light City of the coffee axis, it is the site of the most beautiful and elegant wood architecture of Caldas. Learn about the magic of the wood carvers, the legacy of the mule teamsters and the history of the freemasons and educated gentry who settled it. Read more about Salamina here: Destination Guide
- Aranzazu, Caldas – A pueblo characterized by horse lovers, blackberry wine, waterfalls everywhere, cabuya, and fresh trout! Especially if you like to get out in nature, then this is definitely the kind of place to get out in the country and capture incredible scenery. Read more about Aranzazu Here: Destination Guide
Culture Tip: No two pueblos are alike. Each one is unique and full of interesting layers you won’t find anywhere else. Especially in the less-visited, offbeat pueblos mentioned here, each one has an individual identity.
- Viterbo, Caldas – Known as the Paradise of Caldas, the peace and quiet of tierra caliente, or hot earth, is the kind of place to go hit the pool, relax in the hammock, or enjoy gastronomy and night-life with local inhabitants. Read more about Viterbo here: Destination Guide
- Belalcazar, Caldas – Where the Jesus Christ the Redeemer Statue lives (bigger than the one in Rio, mind you!), and local inhabitants enjoy breathtaking views of Risaralda Valley. Go up the statue, wander the pueblo, eat lunch and then visit their newly opened archeology museum with more than 2,700 pieces.
- Marmato, Caldas – With a history of over 450 years that goes back to the conquering of Colombia, this is a mining pueblo that has long been exploited for gold, the deepest desire of the Spanish conquistadores. A slightly different culture, with a long history. We can’t wait to visit one day soon!
Culture Tip: Caldas especially is extremely conservative. You will be more well received if you keep that in mind with your interactions. They also dress more conservatively, but with elegance – which is an important detail to note if you are looking for work in a city like Manizales.
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- Marulanda, Caldas – Like the Ireland of Colombia, this is one of the few places where sheep are raised en masse. Unlike Ireland, they do not have any meat or cheese tradition, but they DO produce beautiful wool ruanas, or ponchos, at almost half the price of what you would pay anywhere else.
- Manzanares, Caldas – Where the famous Aguardiente Amarillo de Manzanares originated, there is more to do here besides drink alcohol. Definitely bring a coat and camera to catch the scenery and architecture of Manzanares.
- Victoria, Caldas – Said to be a birding paradise with waterfalls and wild forests, this is a pueblo in the east of the department which is still mostly unknown to mainstream tourism.
Culture Tip: Two violent conflicts drove families from the south of Antioquia, from towns like Jerico, Sonson and Jardin, into what is today known as the eje cafetero, or the coffee axis. One was Liberal vs. Conservative conflicts which caused a lot of senseless murder based on nothing more than ideology. The second, is the “3rd colonization of Antioquia,” but both are interrelated with their causes/effects/results.
Families went south in search of gold, new opportunities, and agricultural potential, but were often met with Spanish landowners who didn’t want to give up possession of the extensive tracts awarded to them by the Spanish crown. To some extent these same families are in control today in one form or another, but that is an investigation for another day.
- Jerico, Antioquia Sur – Where Carriels, or the leather “man bag” of the classic Paisa man originated, this is along the farthest northern reaches of the Coffee Axis. We find it important because it is a very old pueblo from which many of the colonizers of the region originated.
- Son Son, Antioquia Sur – Another pueblo of historical context where the founders of Aguadas, Pacora, Salamina and Aranzazu originated. All the history books start with colonials from here, that cut through the forest and began their own legacies.
- Jardin, Antioquia Sur – The third pueblo in the south of Antioquia which had an important bearing on the culture and colonization of the Coffee Axis, while already quite famous for tourism, in a Salento-esque fashion, we consider this a place of origin and relevancy for understanding the Paisa lore and culture.
Culture Tip: While some of the language/accent norms in Valle del Cauca are a bit different, much of the cuisine and agricultural norms are driven more by “cafetero,” or coffee growers, and Paisa culture from Antioquia. For this reason, we consider the NORTH of Valle del Cauca, to be part of the Colombian Coffee Axis.
- Cartago, Valle del Cauca – Norte – The north of Cauca is important to the Coffee Axis of Colombia because the culture is a mix of Antioquenos and Caucanos which colonized the region. Cartago was originally founded on the site of what is Pereira today, but has a long history of more than 450 years.
- El Cairo, Valle del Cauca – Norte – On the outer limits of el Choco, this is a pueblo that is small but interesting for its coffee, cocoa (chocolate) and natural beauty.
- La Union, Valle del Cauca – Norte – Sugar cane in the valley and coffee in the mountains, this is the fruit and vegetable capital of Colombia due to its tremendous diversity of cultivated foods. This is also home to Colombia’s wine region, so be sure to take the tour of Grajales.
Culture Tip: The “Paisa” culture concept describes the gastronomy, language, business norms, relationship styles and verbal/non-verbal cues by local inhabitants. They say phrases like “hagale pues mijo!” Which basically means “go ahead my son,” or “get on with it kiddo.”
- Circasia, Quindio – One of the most famous unheard of tourist destinations is the masonic cemetery of Circasia. Come wander the small pueblo, enjoy the antique architecture, and eat some excellent pizza!
- Calarca, Quindio – Known for it’s yearly Jeepao, a type of jeep parade, this pueblo is Salento’s lesser known cousin. It is famous for it’s butterfly house and botanic garde, plus the antique colonial architecture.
- La Celia, Risaralda – An hour from La Virginia, La Celia was founded in 1953, and features lush jungle scenery, a botanic garden, beautiful swimming pool and brightly colorful colonial houses. Visitors can find lodging in small hotels in the town, or eco-cabins in the countryside. Plan for warm/hot and humid. Great hiking opportunities.
As we recommend these pueblos for tourism, we have a strong stance against recommending them as places to live. Understanding local culture will play a very important role in finding the right lifestyle for you in Colombia. In a pueblo, it can mean the difference between having a happy life, or being told to leave.
If you think life in a pueblo is what you really want, consider the following:
- Spend Time Interacting With Locals: Cultural norms vary from one place to another. Viterbo has a mix of residents due to the Pacifico 3 construction project – more relaxed styles of communication, but Marulanda, is small and tightly knit expecting a warm greeting by everyone to everyone, at all times.
- Visit On Several Occasions and Develop Friendships: Being well received is key to finding happiness, or being rejected as an “unhealthy” or “unsafe” type of person. Especially in the smaller pueblos, you must be able to live peaceably with those around you, even if they are awful people.
- Understand Limitations: Most pueblos won’t have the amenities you are accustomed to having such as big box stores, some types of repair parts/service techs, and are often limited to typical gastronomy of the Paisa culture with small variations. And, no one wants to hear you complain about it.
- Language or Communication Barriers: Few pueblos have large numbers of English speakers. Expect to learn Spanish, but don’t expect perfect Castellano from local inhabitants as dialect and expression can vary between departments and/or pueblos.
Especially if you are new to Colombia, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of living in a small city first so you can get your bearings. As you meet people in the city, you will learn more, and even receive invitations to visit the 21 Colombian Coffee Axis Destinations.
Culture Tip: It is common for middle to upper class city dwellers to have a house, farm or apartment in the pueblo that they or their family came from which is jointly owned by immediate family members. Keep this in mind if you decide to buy a house or read THIS ARTICLE to understand the importance of title searches.
Local Experts for Maximum Efficiency
This is a great time to travel in Colombia as many destinations are seeing a much lower tourist volume. What it means for you is less congestion, more clean, clear pictures, tons of unique experiences and plenty of one-on-one interaction.
However, if you don’t speak Spanish, but you DO want a seamless daytrip, or even an extended visit; then definitely work with our local experts who can take you to offbeat destinations, introduce you to our friends, and create the unique experience you always wanted. And the best part? You won’t be traveling alone.
To learn more about the colorful and diverse towns of the Colombian Coffee Region, contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can help you plan your trip by connecting you with lodging, transport and local contacts that make the difference. Our touristic translation services, will help you learn about creating the right feel, and companionship, with footnotes about the culture and recommendations.
Coffee Axis Travel Urgently Needs Your Help!
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By clicking the previous link you are helping us create a 4D Gallery Experience where visitors and locals can connect with distant parts of the Colombian Coffee Axis – and bring it home as a memory!
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If you liked our 21 Colombian Coffee Axis Destinations in 2021, then check out what we recommended in 2020: