Coffee Zone History

The coffee axis area, Eje Cafetero, is located in the centre west of Colombia and rises above the central and western mountain ranges of the Andean region. Ranging in altitude from 1,458m/4,784´ in Quindío to 5,310m/17,421´ of the Nevado del Ruíz and extends over more than thirteen thousand square kilometres.

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nevado del ruiz, Los Nevados Colombia
nevado del ruiz, Los Nevados Colombia

It is a geographically rugged area that is limited by the eastern and western cordillera, made up of valleys, plateaus and mountain ranges. It is precisely as a result of this geographical diversity that fruit crops, as well as coffee, thrive.


Discover the beauty and richness of Colombia’s coffee culture with our top-rated day-tours tours and customizable private transportation services in the Coffee Zone.


El Eje Cafetero covers Risaralda, Quindío and Caldas and the southwest of Antioquía, the east and north of Valle del Cauca and the northwest of Tolima.
The capital cities of three of these departments are Pereira, Manizales and Armenia respectively. The region is called the Eje Cafetero because this is there where most of Colombia´s coffee production is concentrated.

Lore has it that coffee was introduced to Colombia back when Jesuit priests first arrived in the country during the sixteenth century. Known for their missionary work around the world, they are more than just on a religious mission. They have business acumen.
Arriving in the Eje Cafetero, one of the Jesuit priests, Francisco Romero, proposed to the local farmers that they plant coffee trees as a source of income. Once the farmers found out the first crop would take five years to mature, they dismissed the idea out of hand. Unperturbed by their lack of foresight, Francisco Romero changed course during confessions in church. Rather than the regular Hail Marys, he ordered everyone to plant coffee trees as a penance. So, for every sin, all immoral acts committed, each home wrecking affair, all lies or lapses in judgement, the farmers were instructed not to recite their penitence but instead to plant three coffee trees. Thus, Colombia´s coffee industry was built on mortal transgressions. True or false, it is an amusing tale.

Nowadays there are thousands of coffee farms mostly small, family-run businesses that have turned Colombia into the third-largest producer and exporter of coffee in the world.

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Coffee Beans.

The lands of the Eje Cafetero are enriched by volcanic eruptions and a benevolent climate. They permit the cultivation of the best quality coffee in the world. Livestock, dairy, and timber such as bamboo and pine are also a large part of the economy.
The climate and ecosystem of the Eje Cafetero are very varied and can range from -8c/18f in snowy areas to 29c/84f in the more tropical areas of the Risaralda valleys. The warmer climate favours the production of coffee varieties such as Castillo, típica, maragogipe, bourbon and caturra arabica beans. From the beginning, such trees have been planted and are highly productive and have good agronomic performance. A distinctive feature of coffee production in this region is that it benefits from slightly shorter harvest periods than in other areas. Coffee growing, harvesting and processing techniques have been retained despite increasing industrialization.
The delicate aroma of the coffee, delectable exotic tropical fruits, the magnificence of the landscape, the vibrant colour of its pueblos, the unmistakable paisa accent and the warmth of its people make the Eje Cafetero a favourite destination for all.

Roasted Coffee

Immerse yourself in the heart of Colombia’s coffee zone by exploring a charming and authentic coffee and cacao farm located in the picturesque town of Viterbo, Caldas click here to book your tour!


Indigenous:
Less than 4% of Colombia’s population is made up of indigenous people – split into roughly 87 distinct indigenous groups – this is a rich and varied set of cultures with a long and diverse history. Colombian indigenous culture is one of the most important elements of its heritage.
It is not known when the earliest humans reached what is now Colombia, although the oldest evidence of occupation, dates from before 20,000 BC, at sites in the central Andean highlands. The first native peoples undoubtedly arrived earlier, coming presumably by way of Panama.

The Quimbaya name was given by the Spaniards to several indigenous communities that populated the territory now comprising the departments of Caldas, Risaralda and Quindío. Quimbayas belonged to the Carib linguistic family, but not much is known about them.
Among the few known aspects of the Quimbayas, is that they formed a community led by a cacique and developed agriculture systems, and ceramic making and became experienced goldsmiths. The best Quimbayas goldsmiths stood out among all the indigenous of Latin America.
Quimbayas produced hundreds of pieces of gold representing people, animals, plants and all kinds of ornaments. Among the best-known pieces is the Poporo Quimbaya, a vessel for storing lime used in chewing coca leaves.
The jewellery and ceramic articles of the Quimbayas are recognised for their elegance, simplicity and elaborate detail.

Gold Sculpture, Gold Museum
Quimbaya Gold Pectoral, Gold Museum.

Weather:

The climate in Colombia is very varied and is most affected by altitude. As a consequence, there can easily be a great variation over a relatively small area.

Located at an average elevation of 1,166m/3,827´ above sea level, Risaralda has a Tropical rainforest climate. Temperatures range from 25c/77f to 30c/86f during the day. May is the wettest month with 231ml/9¨ of precipitation. On average, July is the driest month with 74ml/3¨ of precipitation.

Quindío is a little cooler than Risaralda, always a very agreeable 20c/68f to 25c/77f. The elevation is 1,447m/4,847´which explains Quindío being cooler than Risaralda.
The average amount of annual precipitation is 1809ml/71”.

Caldas has a subtropical ever moist highland climate. Despite being located in the tropics it seldom gets very hot, featuring spring-like temperatures throughout the year owing to its high altitude.  Temperatures during the day average 18c/64f. Rainfall is relatively high over the year, being higher than either Risaralda or Quindío.


Get all the information you need to start planning your trip to this magnificent destination, check the weather and climate facts of the Coffee Zone here!


Activities:

The wonderful natural environment of the coffee region makes it an ideal place to enjoy many outdoor activities, including kayaking, mountaineering, bungee jumping, paragliding, canopy zipping and mountaineering.

Those who prefer a more sedentary pace can experience the spectacles of the area on the hiking trails that pass through several valleys and mountains. Rafting is very popular, as well as Willys (Jeep) tours. For sumptuous relaxation, an excellent option is the hot springs of Santa Rosa de Cabal and San Vicente.

Santa Rosa Thermal Pools

Embark on an unforgettable adventure and fully immerse yourself in the enchanting world of Colombian coffee by taking our 5-day off-the-beaten-path tour – Coffee Zone edition, designed to show the hidden gems and authentic flavours of the Coffee Zone.


Cultural sites are aplenty including museums, theatres and art galleries. Here are some ideas:

Quimbaya Archaeological Museum:
Located in Armenia with beautiful gardens and stunning architecture with several waterfalls, there are archaeological samples of the Quimbaya ethnic group, who were outstanding goldsmiths.

Pereira Art Museum:
This museum is in central Pereira and has a large theatre where various musical and theatrical shows are performed.

Cathedral Basilica Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Manizales:
A Catholic cathedral in Manizales is the tallest cathedral in Colombia, 106m/348´ high. The building can hold around five thousand people and there are several tours to learn about its history, including the Polish Corridor, the impressive canopy on the main altar and the Café Tazzioli. *Explore the vibrant city of Manizales, known for its stunning architecture, rich coffee culture, and breathtaking mountain views, by taking a private day tour from Pereira, click here for more information

Cathedral, Manizales
Cathedral, Manizales

Cathedral of Our Lady of Poverty:
this church in Pereira was built in honour of the Virgin Mary under the invocation of the Virgin of Poverty and it is one of the churches that you must not fail to visit.

Natural Parks

A great attraction of the coffee region is the natural parks that constitute the rich biodiversity of Colombia. A true natural paradise that is the habitat of numerous species of fauna such as pumas, Andean condors, white-tailed deer, tigruillos, pumas, páramos hummingbirds and many different parrots.

The Los Nevados National Natural Park is one of the most important, with the Santa Isabel, Tolima and Ruíz snow-capped mountains being located there.
The wax palm declared the national tree of Colombia, is one of the many protected natural species found in this park.

nevado del ruiz, Los Nevados Colombia
nevado del ruiz, Los Nevados Colombia

If you’re a mountain lover visiting the Coffee Zone, make sure to add our day tour to the stunning National Park Nevados del Ruiz to your itinerary, and experience a thrilling Andean adventure like no other.


Other environmental parks that are located in the region include the Los Yarumos Eco Park, the Tatamá National Natural Park and the Cascadas del Río Verde Nature Reserve.

Monkey, Otun Quimbaya
Monkey, Otun Quimbaya

El Valle de Cocora which is part of the municipality of Salento in Quindío is one of the most important locations for ecotourism in the country. This valley has an unusually humid climate that ranges from 12c/54f to 15c/59f. The climatic conditions make for a cloud forest with stunning fauna species including the light blue toucan, the Andean tapir, the yellow-eared parrot and the Andean guan. While the flora is equally amazing with specimens such as sietecueros frailejón, encenillo and others.

Cocora Valley, Salento
Cocora Valley, Salento

ECOTOURISM AND THEME PARKS

National Coffee Park:
The municipality of Montenegro, Quindío, is the ideal place to discover and understand the history of coffee as the Museum of Coffee Culture is here. Perfectly replicating a traditional pueblo, the production process of Colombian coffee can be followed from bean to cup. Traditional music and dance shows enhance the experience. There are numerous attractions for a tremendous day out.

Parque Nacional del Café
Source: Colparques

Parque de los Arrieros: this recreational site is in Quimbaya. The perfect place to learn more about the muleteer and the cultural aspect of the region, as well as participate in various recreational activities.

Jeep Willy’s Parque los Arrieros, Quindio Source: Parque los Arrieros

National Park of Agricultural Culture (Panaca):
This park has mostly farm animals in Quimbaya, Quindío. There are also camels and ostriches amongst others. Visitors are able to enjoy up close and personal contact with the animals along walks and horse shows at night. Excellent for younger people.

Ukumarí Bio Park:
One of the larger zoos in Colombia, Ukumari, is now located in Pereira and is an interesting outing.

Parque de la Vida:
In north Armenia, there are pretty trails, waterfalls and a lake with concerts taking place on the water on the weekend evenings.

Technological University of Pereira Botanical Garden:
An interesting garden in Pereira thanks to its natural habitat and famous orchid garden.

Botanical Garden and Butterfly Garden of Quindío:
near this park full of natural beauty is the famous Butterfly Garden, which exhibits the largest collection of butterflies in Colombia.

Butterfly, Botanical Garden Quindio
Butterfly, Botanical Garden Quindio

Ecoparque Peñas Blancas Nature Reserve:
This park is located in Central Cordillera. The reserve is very popular for caving and climbing.

TOURIST TOWNS OF THE Eje Cafetero:

Salento:
This small pueblo is famous for its tranquil atmosphere and picturesque colonial-style architecture. The town is centred around Plaza Bolívar, where the church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen, as well as many restaurants and bars. The beauty of the Cocora Valley extends all around and is home to the national tree of Colombia, the wax palm.

Calle Real, Salento

Filandia:
With beautiful views of Quindío, it was originally inhabited by the Quimbaya ethnic group and is now famous for its authenticity and delightful colonial houses.

Bulding, Filandia
Bulding, Filandia

Pijao:
A pueblo in Quindío that has a singular beauty and tranquillity to be savoured.

Pijao, Colombia

Salamina: This pueblo is part of the heritage towns of Colombia as many of its buildings preserve the charm of Antioquían colonial architecture.

Salamina

Lodgings:

This amazing Colombian territory is home to some of its finest national preserves, thermal springs, charismatic little pueblos, high-altitude lakes and historic coffee-growing fincas.
This expansive region can be divided into two categories.

First, there are the three capitals of Manizales, Armenia and Pereira. These medium-sized cities cannot be considered visitor destinations in their own right, but are the gateways to the Eje Cafetero, whether you arrive by air or terrestrial transport.

Most tourist attractions, coffee fincas and natural sights are located in the outlying pueblos – Filandia, Salento, Santa Rosa de Cabal and Marsella. The most popular pueblo to stay in Eje Cafetero is Salento. This quaint quintessential town offers colonial architecture, wonderful restaurants, and vivacious nightlife and Valle del Cocora National Park is minutes away by Willys (Jeep) with several coffee-producing fincas.

Accommodation on offer in Salento is a mix of backpacker hostels, budget hotels and eco-hotels that can range from basic to luxurious. Other good alternatives to Salento are Filandia where the atmosphere is more relaxed and less crowded, making it an excellent alternative for those seeking tranquillity.  Also, too Santa Rosa de Cabal is far from the maddening crowd high up in the Andes.
Others to consider are Manizales, Armenia or Pereira and take day trips to the pueblos.


*Planning your trip to Salento?  See our lists of the top 3-star and top 5-star hotels in Salento


 

Gastromony

Gastronomy is also a main attraction of the Eje Cafetero. Among some of the more traditional dishes that can be enjoyed in the region are the famous bandeja paisa, mondongo, ajiaco, sancocho, tamales, patacones, arepas, empanadas, buñuelos and mazamorra, a drink made from milk and maize.

Lechona
Lechona originates from the department of Tolima, on the outskirts of the coffee region.
This pork dish is something different from usual, a whole pig is stuffed with rice, peas, vegetables, and spices and cooked in a clay oven. It is often served with white corn arepas.
It is one of the most popular dishes in Colombia and is typically reserved for special occasions.

Lechona cooked stuffed pig

Colombian Chorizo Santarrosano
Colombian chorizo
is consumed throughout the country for all meals. The chorizo Santarrosano is a special type of sausage that comes from the small town of Santa Rosa de Cabal in Risaralda.
Simply one of the tastiest in the country, the Santarrosano chorizo is cured and preserved with special seasonings, salt, sugar and nitric salts.

Asorrete
This is so traditional to Caldas, that many Colombians living outside the Coffee Region are not even familiar with it. Asorrete has unique origins, with influences from local indigenous communities, the Spanish, and Afro-descendants.
Similar to meatloaf it is made by combining ground beef, bread, eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Roasted in the oven and often accompanied by bacon, beans, and salad.

Asorrete Colombiano

Lengua de res en salsa

Beef tongue is very popular and although served throughout the country, it has its origins in Caldas. The sauce is what really sets this dish apart, made with coriander, thyme, beer or wine, butter, and garlic for an explosion of flavours.


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