The ‘coffee zone’, ‘Eje cafetero’ or the ‘coffee axis’ of Colombia is located in the interior of the country, between the Andes Mountains, in the state of Armenia. Coffee trees spread over the mountains, a scenery of green trees and valleys, a soft and warm climate throughout the year, little villages, jeeps carrying packs of coffee with a latino song on the radio, the sound of birds, thermal waters, colonial towns with colourful streets, this postal card like place of Colombia is also declared a Unesco world heritage site and is one of the top visited places in the country.
As the country is leaving behind the troubled years and opens up to tourism an increasing number of visitors, especially from Europe, include this part of the country as well in their travel itineraries, following the must see places in Colombia such as Bogota, Cartagena de Indias, the Amazones. The easiest way to reach this area is to fly from Bogota to one of the three cities: Pereira, Manizales, Armenia that are both within an hour and fifteen minutes flight. If you are in Medellin, you will reach in about five hours by car. The best thing to do will be to stay in a ‘hacienda’ which is originally a farm house converted into a boutique hotel. The huge coffee farms have usually this kind of farm houses where workers or families used to live: a wide veranda with hammocks, many rooms with traditional beds, a common bathroom, a common area for kitchen and dining, usually managed by a local family that host the traveler with home made local food three times a day. These haciendas also organise tours to show you how coffee is produced by professional baristas or hiking tours to surrounding hills.
Among the most visited colonial towns is the charming Salento in Cocora valley. which is located aprox. four hours from the city of Manizales. The coffee zone of Colombia is also a great place for birding. Due to its warm climate birds can be watched throughout the year (there is actually two seasons here, rainy and dry season and the temperature does not vary much). Thermal waters can also be found in those valleys. It is indeed a great place to spend the weekend and escape from Bogota’s metropolitan stress.