You’ll begin your journey with a collection from your hotel for a journey through some wonderful Coffee Zone Landscape and onto the mountain top town and beautiful views of Belalcázar.
To enjoy the spectacular view of Belalcázar, you will need to travel up through a winding road between plantations of coffee and platano (like bananas) to the peak of Cerro del Alto del Oso. You’ll encounter fantastic views along the way, but nothing that will compare to the spectacular view from the peak of the mountain.
Here you will find a giant 45.5 m tall (148 ft) statue of Christ the King, that was constructed over a 7-year period from 1947-1954, with the hope of ending political bloodshed, and restoring peace upon Colombia.
The view from the base of the statue is quite amazing, as on a clear day you can enjoy views for hundreds of miles in every direction of 4 states of Colombia: Caldas, Quindío, Risaralda, and Valle del Cauca. You’ll have the opportunity to climb right up into the head of this giant statue as well. Enjoying even more wonderful sites from windows all the way up into the head of Jesus himself. But a word of warning, if you’re claustrophobic you may not enjoy the narrow stairs or the limited space, that gets smaller and smaller the higher you go.
Next, you will travel down into the valley far below, and into a classic Colombian town of Viterbo. The entrance alone is worth this tour, as you’ll be traveling down the “Tunnel of the Samanes” the road is lined with huge Saman trees, with some close to 100 years of age. In recent years a local artisan was petitioned to craft wooden statues out of the dying or dead trees. The resulting work is wooden sculptures ranging in size from 2-8 m (6-26 ft), with everything from a 7.5m (24ft) tall Jesus Christ, brightly colored butterflies, peasant farmers picking coffee beans, an indigenous man, to cups of steaming hot coffee.
To ensure you enjoy the views in every direction through the entire 3 km (2 miles) tunnel of trees, you’ll be changing transportation to the back of a Willys Jeep for the journey. With a few photos stops along the way to get up close and personal with the statues, and to grab the perfect photo.
Once you’ve arrived in Viterbo, you’ll continue your tour on the back of the Willys Jeep along some of the main streets of this small town, before disembarking in the tree-filled plaza, for a brief walk around. Often, you’ll see valuable parking spots or half of the road used to dry coffee beans from the local Fincas on the streets.
Next, it’s off for some lunch at one of the local restaurants before visiting an artisan store, where you can view (or purchase) some fine handmade jewelry and some unique hand-painted and handcrafted products ranging from decorations to ponchos, and other hand-painted clothing of all styles.
Next, it’s off down a gravel road in search of the Trapiche (Panela Factory) surrounded by an ocean of sugar cane. After driving for a short time, you’ll pull off the road and up a long driveway to the source of some of the finest panela produced in Colombia.
Most Colombian Trapiches are small and only go into production for 2-3 days a week. This trapiche is no exception, only producing this brown gold Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.
The production here runs all year long and begins in the fields with the backbreaking work of cutting the sugarcane by hand with a machete. This work begins as the sun comes up and continues throughout the day until the setting of the sun in the evening. The sugarcane is then transported to a Trapiche on the back of a mula (a cross between a donkey and a horse) where it is pressed to allow the green sugarcane juice within to escape, and the discarded stalks set aside to fuel the fires burning for this day’s production.
The sugarcane green juice is then moved into a process of boiling, stirring, mixing, and scooping the boiling liquid from pan to pan. Continuing for some time until the syrup has processed enough to be removed to a tray where it begins to cool and thicken. At this time, it is moved, twisted, and turned until it begins to take a new fudge-like form. This is then molded into Panela patties and set aside to cool down completely before it is wrapped and packed for sale.
Once you’ve learned all there is to know about the finer details of this artisan craft dating back over 500 years into the 1600s, you’ll begin your relaxing journey back to your accommodation with the fresh smell and taste of fresh and healthy panela on your mind.