The Eje Cafetero is one of the most important Coffee Producing Regions of Colombia. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because it is the most representative area of this region for its landscapes and culture. If you are looking for Colors, Mountains, Trekking, Animals, Adventures, Culture, Nature, and even strange Insects, this place will surely surprise you.
One of Colombia’s international airports is located in the city of Bogotá (Capital of the country). From there it is possible to take a 9-hour bus or a 1-hour plane to the city of Pereyra. The prices of both are generally similar or even cheaper by plane if a reservation is made with time (airplane ticket from 20 USD). From Pereyra, it is necessary to take another bus to the city of Salento, which is reached in 35 minutes (ticket 2.5 USD).
Make Base in Salento
Salento is a city with a very typical architecture, very colorful and surrounded by green mountains from where you can see a beautiful view of the entire city. It is full of hostels and hotels to spend the night and really good prices (from 8 USD for a bed in a shared room at night!). A mixture of culture, typical food, landscapes, and local and foreign people, makes this place a perfect place to sleep here while you know the surroundings.
You should visit the Coffee Farms because you will learn the process of coffee, the harvest and more about the Colombian culture. Take a full day if you have enough time and rent a bicycle. There are many rental shops and they usually give you a map indicating which farms are in each direction and what other places can be crossed thanks to the bicycle. You will be among the mountains and landscapes so beautiful that surround them. It is very easy to identify the road. It is also possible to do it walking, obviously, you will travel fewer distances, but you will be treading the earth with your feet. The farms generally charge an entrance that varies according to the size of the production and the type of explanation or activity that they offer to you to know the whole process of the coffee (from 2 USD entry ticket).
The Cocora Valley Trek
This is the most amazing place in this area. You must go there. It can be done for free, it is really very easy to reach. In the Plaza de Armas, there is a Jeep station, and there are people lining up to enter one of them, which takes about 10 people each. The trip lasts 30 minutes and ends at Base of the Valley (2 USD ticket). You should spend all day there.
Two ways to know this place: Both are free!
1. Walking through the valley completely from the main entrance. A trekking will be waiting for you, approximately 5 quiet hours (depending on your pace), which will travel through the valley until it ends in the most special and magical part of this circuit, a landscape between fog and very tall palm trees, with an effect incredible surreal. The entrance is right in front of the final stop where the Jeep leaves the passengers once they have arrived. If you choose this option, get up early in the morning to start the tour, because after 3 or 4 in the afternoon, the fog will go down and you will not see the palms that well. 2. Go directly to the end of the route without having to walk through the Valley. This point is very close to the last stop of the Jeep. If you do not have much time, I recommend this option because you will go directly to the Icing of Cake!! Although if you have the time and love to walk and immerse yourself in nature, the first option is even better. The return to Salento is very simple. Jeeps leave the same place where they left you when you leave and end up in the Main Square. Remember that the last jeep is at 5 o’clock in the afternoon.
Trekking to Los Nevados National Park
If you like Trekking and challenges this is perfect for you. It is not a really easy trekking. You need at least a little training to be prepared to do it. The entrance to the park is the same as to enter the Cocora valley. The park is composed of 5 volcanoes and a territory of 483 square kilometers. The climate that inhabits here is called Páramo. A very special climate, cold, cloudy, humid, with very dry vegetation and a lot of mud. What makes the ascent is quite complicated. The minimum time to complete the trek is at least 3 days. And thereafter as long as you want, depending on the amount of food, water you can transport, physical training and your equipment. There are several Mountain Refuges on the road with distances of 6 hours between each. In some of them, you need a reservation to get a bed in shared rooms. There are limited places (prices are more expensive than in the city, starting at 15 USD). The possibility of sleeping in a tent is almost nil, due to the weather. There are many possibilities to do it there, it is even possible to reach the top of the Tolima Volcano, which is the closest. In this case, it is mandatory to make a guided tour.
Two ways to do this trek: One Free!
1. With a guide. There are many tour companies in Salento that are exclusively responsible for organizing group excursions. And you also have the option of doing it on horseback. 2. For Free. I recommend that if this is the option you are going to choose, keep in mind that it is NOT a low-performance Trekking. It is necessary to go with more people or friends and organize it with time and, above all, in a group. It is not possible to do it alone, it is very risky. Whichever option you choose will be incredible. I did it for free with more people and it was one of my best trekking.
Filandia, Pijao, Córdoba and other small towns.
For the quietest. Each of the villages has a different profile and different activities to do. It is possible to know one per day or assemble circuits to know several in a day. And even spend a few nights in each one. The prices can be better than in Salento because this is better known by tourists. Buses or jeeps leave everyone to others (ticket from 2 USD). All surrounded by mountains, some below, others in height, others smaller. It is a beautiful journey and it is possible to capture the essence and purpose of understanding the cultural and natural richness of the entire Coffee Region of Colombia.