The 5 Most Beautiful Destinations in the Colombian Coffee Axis

in Colombia-Originallast year (edited)

In my 8 years of living and traveling in the Colombian Coffee Axis, I have been spoiled rotten with incredible natural scenery, unique experiences, great coffee drinking and a few wild adventures!

All photography is intellectual property of Erin Donaldson, a photographer, journalist, and writer. She is based in the Colombian Coffee Axis and dedicates her free time to Tai Chi, Tango, and Travel.

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Most are places which are lesser up-and-coming destinations which, for me, are the 5 Most Beautiful Destinations in the Coffee Axis. Whether their beauty is natural or man-made each one has a special place in my heart.

5 Most Beautiful Destinations in the Colombia Coffee Axis

I tried to pick a variety of smaller, off-beat places which are largely off the traditional path of mass-tourism. In times of COVID-19, small and rural trumps large and urbane. Embrace the feel of dirt tracks, older architecture, and rugged trails. I am not much of a hiker, to be honest. But, I will do some pretty crazy stuff for pictures - including the hikes which brought me to these places.

#1 | San Felix - Caldas - Valle de La Samaria - Wax Palm Destination

There is in fact a place which has a raw natural beauty which rivals the well-known Valle de Cocora, in Salento. It's name is "Valle de la Samaria" a rural area which consists of both privately owned land, and national park. There are a few different providers which are offering horse rides, nature hikes, and rural lodging to visitors.

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Valle de la Samaria, is part of the corremigimiento, or township, of nearby towns. That is to say that San Felix, is like a sub-township of Salamina, Caldas. The mayor of Salamina has a say in what happens in San Felix, but due to distance it mostly functions like a separate pueblo, (or town) with shops, police depots, lodgings, restaurants and houses arrayed on organized streets.

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The most famous feature of San Felix, and "Valle de la Samaria," is the Wax Palm. Considered the national palm of Colombia, the Wax Palm has a special protected status. As the name implies the wood has a wax-like substance which burns well, is strong for making bridges, and uniquely distinguished for it's evenly spaced rings.

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Today, the wax palm is no longer utilized, but is also an endangered species because only a few natural wax palm forests exist. As a plant, it must grow in shade, then emerge out into the sun after about 20 or 30 years. They grow slowly making them more difficult to replenish than the more commonly seen palms, which can grow upwards at a much faster rate. They are also the tallest palm trees in the world due in part to their long life and slow growth.

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Learn more about how to get to San Felix in This Articleon my website Coffee Axis Travel.

#2 | Sheep and Wax Palms - Marulanda

In this pueblo, people refer to themselves, and are confirmed by outsiders, as the "Friendliest" rural town in Caldas. With only about 4 - 500 local residents in the pueblo itself, everyone knows everyone. In fact, it is customary to greet everyone you see, by name if you live there.

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The biggest production in this pueblo is potatoes, sheep for wool, milk, cheese, and cattle. It is one of the most rural parts of Caldas, and the roughest roads. Landslides can frequently close roads to this town up to a week or two due to unpaved roads and tectonic movement in the mountains. The best time to visit is during a long summer season when the roads have dried out for a couple weeks and the weather holds out.

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Weather in Marulanda, is cold nights, chilly days, frequent rain, and cloud cover. It feels like how I imagine Ireland to be if I ever go there, except for one thing that Ireland doesn't have, the Wax Palm. Eucalyptus and wax palms dominate this high Andes mountain landscape.

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In the pueblo itself, you can visit a private museum, or the wool factory, and learn how the wool is processed from shearing, to poncho production. Be sure to visit the church which has a unique bell sound to other pueblos. The sound of the bells, are similar to Salamina, but different from all the other pueblos I have visited til now.

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Definitely hike up by the water treatment plant, to a point where you can look out over the pueblo. Ask a local to show you the way.

#3 | The Waterfalls of Mistrato, Risaralda

One of the farthest fringe pueblos of the central department of Risaralda, Mistrato is characterized by natural forests, waterfalls, indigenous culture, and a central plaza with a canal going through the middle, and a river passing one side of the town.

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Prepare to see large jeeps carrying up to 40 or 50 people on market days. The road from the distant indian communities is long, and a lot of people need to travel, especially on Sunday, the principal market day.

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About 45 minutes outside the pueblo lie some interesting distractions for the intrepid traveler. There's a forest reserve which is rumored to have more than 16 waterfalls and tons of birds, and a fish farm where visitors can go to eat lunch, and observe a variety of farm life including ducks, geese, chickens, cows, and horses.

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For me, this entire area was really photogenic. I saw a lot of creativity expressed in the architecture of the country houses. And, even though the hike to Cascada Sutu (waterfall) was really difficult, the photo op was well worth it. Definitely one of the hidden treasures of the coffee axis.

#4 | Quinchia, Risaralda - Town of the High Peaks - Flowers Everywhere

Quinchia actually stands out to me as another unique landscape. Most of the beauty isn't even in the pueblo itself which has ample balconies full of flowers, and some charming old houses. Out in the countryside, I always marvel at the sheer quantity of flowers, color and natural beauty of the rural areas.

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Within the pueblo itself, we recommend the Casa de Cultura, which features a small, but well-organized archeology museum, several murals related to to local history, and a library with careful records of local history and culture. The other unique place I like to visit is the galleria - or the market plaza where food and meat is sold. Inside you can sit at the food stands and chat with the cooks or other local inhabitants over a fresh meal.

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Visitors to Quinchia should ensure they do at least two things. Visit the artisan shops of the silver filigree craftsman, and hike one or two of the 14 cerros, or peaks which this small mountain pueblo has to offer.

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My top recommendation for a local guide is here in this article where I write about the whole experience in greater detail.

#5 | Apia, Risaralda - The Heart of the Wind - Paragliding - Coffee

Especially if birds, bees, bikes, and adventure go together in your to do list, then Apia is a destination you won't want to miss. A pueblo tucked high in the mountains, it is about two hours out side of Pereira. Visitors won't be disappointed IF, they know what to do.

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Appearances are deceptive, and this pueblo exceeds them all. The best things are not immediately obvious. In the plaza itself, you must visit a few specific places. Go to Parque Lineal El Clavel where afternoons are full of food, music and socializing. And, pop inside a cafe called "Cafe de Mi Pueblo Apia," where you can savor the fresh aroma and taste of locally grown coffee.

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Outside the pueblo are three more attractions which you must see. One is the downhill walking path at Aguaslindas, another is paragliding where you will be able to see some of the most beautiful sky-high scenery of the Colombian Coffee Axis. The third is bee-agriculture to learn about honey processing! You can even participate in a bicycle tour which encompass all the above.

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Definitely get the details on how to get to Apia, Risaralda, and all the details for visits from THIS ARTICLE


Each of these destinations are unique, yet seemingly undiscovered. None of them are easy to get to. All of then are photogenic in their own special ways.

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In a previous article called Top 21 Colombian Coffee Axis Destinations 2021, I made my travel recommendations for this year. Some are places I have been to, others are places I have only read about.

What destinations have YOU visited which, for you, were the Most Beautiful Destinations in the Colombian Coffee Axis?

 last year 

Hola @openmindedtravel
Cómo siempre, un post realmente impecable, gracias por este regalo visual.
Hay tanto por conocer, mucho. Y como dices, las mejores cosas no son inmensamente obvias, me encantó esa frase.
Muchas personas solo para hacer turismo se van a las zonas que más se conocen, y hay una realidad mágica más allá de lo más reconocido.
Tu lo has presentado y gracias por ello..

Gracias Jose, siempre me agrada tus comentarios. Feliz dia!!

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