Colombia’s coffee region has many cultural highlights and is undoubtedly a coffee lover’s paradise. Even if you are not a coffee drinker, you will enjoy the stories of its fascinating history and culture and will also appreciate being welcomed so warmly by local farmers and coffee workers as you explore this area.
Earlier this year, Caledonia’s Rachael Cameron travelled to Colombia to explore the coffee cultural landscape, arriving in Pereira, just a short flight from Bogota. She quickly discovered there is something for everyone in this beautiful, tropical corner of the world. Here are some of the highlights of her trip:
Visit to coffee farm
Visiting a coffee plantation and taking part in a coffee tour is a must when in this area. We experienced the entire process, from picking our own coffee cherries, processing them and learning about the art of coffee cupping and then sampled the finished product.
We even wove our own baskets from bamboo and decorated our own coffee cups.
Some of the plantations also have hacienda accommodation, offering welcoming rustic accommodation with varying degrees of comfort from basic right up to luxury level, many with outdoors swimming pools and all with incredible views over the lush countryside.
Traditional cooking provided really memorable meals and for a vegetarian like myself, there was no shortage of delicious food everywhere we travelled. Plantain in a variety of forms (for example in chunks in stews, or sliced and fried), tropical fruits, black beans, plentiful meat, rice and artisanal cheese. In many places we also found rich hot chocolate, giving a bit of respite from the ubiquitous coffee.
Valle del Cocora
One of my favourite places on this trip, the famous Cocora valley, full of palma de cera (wax palms) hovering above the cloud forests, offered breathtaking and unforgettable views. This is the largest palm in the world (up to 60m high) as well as Colombia’s national tree.
We stopped for lunch at the Donde Juan B restaurant, where the speciality is fried trout and plantain. There are horseback riding and hiking routes in the valley, but arriving by traditional jeep is a great experience in itself.
In the afternoon, we helped plant future wax palms during the “Ritual de Palma”, giving something back to the local community.
Salento is a charming, traditional coffee town near the Valle de Cocora, so provides an excellent base for visiting the valley and nearby coffee plantations. You can try delicious local dishes and buy food items and souvenirs in the numerous local shops.
Whilst visiting Salento, we recommend trying the coffee at Café Jesús Martín – they have some of the best coffee we have ever tasted! Here we also had a chance to create our own coffee art – the intricate designs on top of the frothy milk. It was not as easy as it first seemed!
Horseback riding was a perfect way of seeing more of the stunning countryside.
Guided horse-riding through open countryside with a knowledgeable and friendly Colombian guide made the trip even more interesting. Even the beginners amongst us felt very safe on these horses as they were strong and patient. Walking and hiking around this region is easy, with many well laid out trails and paths to explore and I managed to cover a few trails during my time there.
Details of our two week round Colombia itinerary with scheduled departures each month can be found on this link to our website: Highlights of Colombia. We also offer a shorter 8 day guided trips focusing on Cartagena, the Tayrona national park and Mompox, with details on this link: Wild and Wonderful Colombia. If you plan to brush up your Spanish before travelling around the country, check out our Spanish language courses offered all year round: Spanish in Bogota and for information on a tailormade Colombian holiday, please call us on 0131 621 7721 or email email@example.com. Hasta pronto!