Source: Viceministerio de Turismo
Luxury Travel

Why You Need to Go to Colombia’s Coffee Triangle Now, in 16 Photos

Colombia’s best geography for coffee production also happens to be ideal for tourism. Christened the Coffee Triangle, the central Andes departments of Caldas, Quindío, and Risaralda are dotted with haciendas turned chic guesthouses. Rolling green landscape with soaring wax palms (the world’s tallest) are ideal for horse treks and hummingbird sightings. And then, of course, there’s an ample supply of the best-quality coffee in the world. Include the newly cool city of Medellín—an object lesson in reinvention—as your hopping-off point.

  1. El Peñon de Guatapé
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    El Peñon de Guatapé

    A two-hour drive from Medellín, El Peñon de Guatapé is a 650-foot-high monolithic rock with 649 zigzagging stairs built into a single crack that runs top to bottom. It offers picture-perfect views of the surrounding lakes and islands. A group of friends managed to scale the rock in the 1950s, which reportedly took them five days. Eventually the staircase was built and a tourist attraction was born. (Source: Flickr)

    Photographer: Boris G./Flickr

  2. View From the Rock
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    View From the Rock

    You can climb to the top for a few dollars, where there’s a three-story viewing tower and ice-cold beers as a reward. (Source: Flickr)

    Photographer: Boris G./Flickr

  3. Guatapé
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    Guatapé

    El Peñón de Guatapé sits just outside the colorful pueblo of Guatapé in Antioquia. The narrow cobbled streets of the old town are lined with confectionary-hued houses painted with pictures of everyday life, from musical instruments and animals to boats and tuk-tuks. The pueblo is surrounded by verdant hills and lakes, created in the 1970s when the area was flooded for a hydroelectric dam—take a boat trip for the slightly unnerving sight of a church spire from one of the submerged villages.

    Photographer: Kevin Solomon (@ksolo_14)

  4. Feria de Las Flores
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    Feria de Las Flores

    In August, these 10 days of flower celebrations have become an international attraction. From humble beginnings in 1957, when the feria was a local affair celebrating Colombia’s flower industry, it’s developed into a flashier event, with fireworks, concerts, a classic and antique car parade, an orchid and bird expo, plus a 6,000-horse parade and more. The original parade of silleteros (flower farmers) continues, with huge floral arrangements carried on the backs of locals of all ages.

    Source: ProColombia

  5. Medellín
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    Medellín

    The capital of Antioquia, Medellín is a bustling starting point on a trip to the Coffee Triangle. Over the past 20 years the city has gone from murder capital to creative metropolis of some 3 million people. New architecture includes the modernist public library, Biblioteca España, created from three enormous rocklike structures that jut out from the hillside—providing an incredible view, seen here. Another standout is a renovated 1930s steel mill that’s now home to the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín (MAMM), the place to see contemporary homegrown talent. (Source: Flickr)

  6. Plaza Botero
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    Plaza Botero

    Medellín’s Plaza Botero has become a tourist favorite, with its 23 larger-than-life bronze statues by Fernando Botero. They sit in front of the Museo Antioquia and the boldly patterned Gothic Revival Rafael Uribe Palace of Culture.

    Photographer: Sebastian Sanint

  7. Coffee Cherries
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    Coffee Cherries

    Coffee grows best in volcanic soil at high altitudes, and requires a frost-free climate with at least 80 inches of rain a year—conditions amply met in Colombia’s “bean belt.” The country’s producers only grow Arabica beans, which have a sweet, mild taste generally considered best for a quality cup of joe. Coffee cherries, shown here, are pulped to supply the green beans that are then roasted into the darker coffee beans we recognize.

    Photographer: Benjamin Solomon (@benjaminsolomon)

  8. Coffee Picker
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    Coffee Picker

    A picker at Café de Santa Bárbara farm. This family-owned coffee producer initially supplied fresh beans to craft roasters outside Colombia, but then started to roast their own beans, alongside other small producers, for Café Pergamino, the shop they opened in Medellín in 2012. They now also sell their freshly harvested, freshly roasted coffee directly to the U.S. and Canada online.

    Source: Café Pergamino

  9. Hacienda Venecia Coffee Farm
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    Hacienda Venecia Coffee Farm

    Learn about the journey from plantation to cup at the Hacienda Venecia in Caldas, an award-winning coffee farm. As well as improving your coffee knowledge, there’s also a beautifully preserved paisa farmhouse that’s now a small hotel. You don’t have to stay there to sign up for the coffee tour and tasting, but it’s a beautiful location to appreciate the scenery, with thermal springs and stunning sunsets.

    Photographer: Sebastian Sanint

  10. Atlético Nacional
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    Atlético Nacional

    Medellín’s Atanasio Girardot stadium, awash in the green and white of Atlético Nacional, one of the country’s biggest soccer clubs, during a game against fellow Colombian team Rionegro Águilas. Atlético Nacional, once owned by the notorious Pablo Escobar, is one of two clubs in the city. The other, Deportivo Independiente Medellín, which plays in red, is also known as “Los Rojos”—needless to say, they are big rivals. Take in a game while you’re in the city to experience the full-on passion of Colombia’s soccer fans.  

    Photographer: Kevin Solomon (@ksolo_14)

  11. Metrocable
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    Metrocable

    Nestling in a valley circled by mountains, Medellín offers some spectacular views. There are numerous ways to take it all in, from the rootop bar of Panorama, a haunt of the city’s cool kids, to the cable car that transports you up over the barrios to the warren of streets and helter-skelter rooftops of Santo Domingo. What was previously a journey of a couple of hours on foot now takes a few minutes. (Source: Flickr)

    Photorgrapher: Pedro Szekely/Flickr

  12. Café Pergamino
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    Café Pergamino

    Café Pergamino, meaning “parchment,” is at the vanguard of a new generation of coffee shops that’s helping to improve the standard served in Colombia’s major cities—for too long, the best beans were all exported. This contemporary, airy space serves three to five different coffee origins. A great place to enjoy your flat white in the fancy El Poblado neighborhood.

    Source: Café Pergamino

  13. Paragliding
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    Paragliding

    Paragliding is a popular pursuit on Medellín’s surrounding hills, which consistently provide the right conditions to circle peacefully above the city. Catch a thermal and enjoy the bird’s-eye views on a pilot-controlled tandem flight.

    Photographer: Raul Arboleda/Getty Images

  14. Hotel Sazagua
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    Hotel Sazagua

    The 10-suite Hotel Sazagua in Pereira—between Cocora Valley and Chinchina’s coffee plantations—is the area’s first high-end boutique property. Designed in the style of a traditional coffee estate hacienda in rich dark woods with an open veranda, this luxurious hotel and spa is furnished with antiques, tiled floors, vibrant colors, and local art.

    Source: Hotel Sazagua

  15. Wax Palm Trees
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    Wax Palm Trees

    The Cocora Valley, part of Los Nevados National Natural Park, is one of the few places in the world to see wax palms—Colombia’s national symbol. Growing as high as 230 feet, these lofty trees are the world’s highest and can take up to 200 years to reach their peak. The valley is a must-visit. Walk the loop trail through dense rain forest, where a slight detour will take you to the Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary. You can also negotiate the rougher terrain by horse, while a steady supply of jeeps transports footsore visitors back to the town of Salento. (Source: Go Backpacking

    Photographer: David Lee/Go Backpacking 

  16. The Charlee Hotel
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    The Charlee Hotel

    The 42-room Charlee Hotel in Medellín is a stylish, art-filled property with a rooftop pool and bar. The contemporary rooms include colorful chandeliers and large terraces, some with teppanyaki grills, that make the most of the Parque Lleras views in tony El Poblan.

    Source: The Charlee Hotel