Ahhh Colombian Coffee; whether or not you’ve tried it before, you’ve certainly heard of the acclaimed gem of all coffee. And nowhere are these Colombian coffee cherries more special than 45 minutes by plane from Colombia’s capital.
In Quindío, mountains are colored emerald green, scattered with hundreds of coffee plants (Arabica Variety), and it is spring all-year around; it is here where coffee-farm tourism began. The region was colonized by paisas in the 19th century and to this day remains present in the colonial architecture, the traditional cuisine, the coffee culture and of course the abundance of spectacular natural phenomena like the Cocora Valley and Los Nevados National Park.
To start your trip, hop on a bus to the northern part of Quindío. Salento one of Colombia’s most popular and iconic tourist destinations: it’s impossible not to find an article about Colombian travel that doesn’t make some reference to the iconic wax palms (National Colombian tree) of the Cocora Valley, the colonial and colorful houses in Calle Real or the amazing grilled cheese trout for lunch. Yet be warned, weather in Salento tends to get a little chilly, because it is located 6,217 feet above sea level, so don’t forget to bring a cozy sweater or jacket.
A short distance from Salento is the slow-paced attraction of Filandia a traditional coffee town, that has some of the best-preserved architecture in the region. On Tiempo Detenido Street you can find several panoramic lookouts, the awarded restaurant of Helena Adentro, offering a mix of traditional and modern cuisine, as well as fine handicrafts and a lush nature reserve. As for coffee, take note that locals don’t sip on espressos or cappuccinos, but instead they ask for a tintico (americano mixed with a sugar cane infusion) which costs around 50 cents.
After spending some quality time in northern Quindío, it’s time to discover the south. Buenavista and Pijao are two of the towns that should be at the top of your list, both surrounded by mountains, and not so tourist-focused as the other towns surrounding Quindío.
Buenavista is labelled as the safest town in all of Colombia. As its name translates to “great view,” you can be sure that this town offers some of the best vistas, so get your cameras ready. The Paisaje Cultural Cafetero (Coffee Cultural Landscape) is a must for intrepid travelers to do paragliding, it is said to have the best coffee tour in the whole of Quindio and it is the home of the well-known Café San Alberto.
Lastly, you must leave time for Pijao or Jardín del Quindío (Garden of Quindío) which is located 19 miles from Armenia, the capital of Quindío, known for being the only town in Latin America recognized as a Cittaslow, the Italian movement that promotes the deceleration of urban life. The main square conceptualizes this theme; ornately decorated with colored flowers and locals from young to old spending the afternoon at leisure in the plaza. Outside the main square, you’ll find campesinos coming down from their farms to spend time at the cafés. It is here where a walk through the streets of Pijao provides the undeniable proof that Colombia is one of the happiest countries on earth.
Where to Stay
Finca Tradicional El Balcón
Where: Carrera 2 Km 3 Via Buenavista/Pijao Vereda Los Balsos, Finca El Balcon, Buenavista
Why: With more than 100 years of history, this coffee house cannot get more traditional. Along with booking your stay, you can book a coffee tour to dive right into the local coffee culture.
Where: Calle # 7 Vía Finca Sierra Morena, Filandia, Quindio
Why: Immersive coffee farm experience only ten minutes from the main town.
Where to Eat & Drink
Where: Calle 3 5-03, Quindío, Buenavista 632040
Why: The owner (Sebastian) prepares all homemade dishes with his small team; the spicy-ginger sauce is a must!
Café San Alberto
Where: 200 meters from the Main Square of Buenavista, Quindío
Why: This coffee shop is in the middle of a coffee plantation. They prepare all of the methods from Chemex to V60 and also offer Coffee Tours, or as they call it a Coffee Baptism.
Heladeria La 75
Where: Vía A Buenavista, Buenavista, Quindío
Why: It can get pretty hot in Buenavista, so what’s better than artisanal ice-cream? Here you can try out exotic flavors like Guanabana fruit, chocolate with chili or Chontaduro fruit!
Where: Cl. 7 #8-43, Filandia, Quindío
Why: Here you’ll find some of the best views of the surrounding mountains with some of the most quality coffee in town! (Order recommendation: the americano with cardamon).
What to See & Do
Don Leo’s Coffee Tour (caficultur)
Where: Finca La Alsacia, Buenavista, Quindío
Why: The humbleness of Mr. Leonel and his family gives you an authentic exposure to the coffee process. You also get the chance to have lunch with some of the local coffee farmers.
Where: Buenavista, Quindío, Colombia
Why: For the more adventurous, this is the ideal opportunity to take in the vistas from a completely unique perspective.
Jardines de Pijao Tour
Where: Calle 3 # 7- 28 Buenavista, Quindío
Why: Experience Pijao as a local and add even more culture to your itinerary.