Zona Cafetera: Travel to Colombia’s Coffee Zone

Welcome to Colombia’s coffee zone, or Zona Cafetera, where a thriving economy serves up some of the best gourmet coffee shops in Colombia. Get ready to discover fine dining and plenty of hotels, hostels and country villas for rent with our local insider Erin.


Photo © Gregg Bleakney

The central mountain corridor of Colombian territory is home to one of the most loved and admired cultural demographics, the Paisas.

They are the offspring of the Campesinos, or peasant farmers of the Colombian Andes mountains, who migrated south during times of political unrest.

They also brought the coffee bean to what we call the Zona Cafetera, or coffee zone.

This region is most commonly known, inside Colombia, as the Colombian Coffee Axis, or the Eje Cafetero, and it is made up of three Departments: Quindio, Risaralda and Caldas.

The Legacy of the Paisa’s

You can see the dominance of Paisa culture everywhere in the Coffee Axis. From their easy humor and warm welcome, they are known as a friendly people.

The men come from farm to city with their ponchos, carriles (a type of leather man-bag) and machetes at their sides. The women are famed for their beauty and fashion sense, with light breezy colors and sexy styles. These are also women who are very respected and loved for their passion and warmth. These are the iconic personajes, or personalities, of the Coffee Axis.

Their food consists of a few main staples: beans, rice, plantains, corn, and meat or fish. In this region, you can try a favorite cultural dish called the bandeja paisa: sausage, ground beef, pork rind, fried egg, beans, avocado, and rice. It comes from a traditional mountain farm diet, which was based on the heavy labor needs of the coffee growers. You can hear their music “musica parrandera,” in the streets and cantinas of the Coffee Zone.

The Capital of the Coffee Axis

The capital of the coffee axis is Pereira, Colombia. A major crossroads, it’s also a very important center of commerce for the coffee region.

Here, you will find a thriving economy with many locally owned businesses, some of which are very old and well established.

Discover some of the best gourmet coffee shops in the region, fine dining and a variety of hotels, hostels and country villas for rent.

Rolling hills of the coffee zone. Photo credit: iStock

In the outlying areas of Pereira, you will find bird-watching parks, hiking, mountain biking, camping, waterfalls, and even an exotic garden called Kamala Jardin Exotico.

This Jardin, or garden, is home to over 40,000 species of exotic plants, plus an impressive collection of lizards from around the world.

Day Trips for Everybody

In every direction of the compass, moving outward from Pereira, you can take short day trips to wander the streets and plazas of historic towns with beautiful architecture.

Whether you're the adventurous type who likes to take a risk and participate in extreme sports, or prefer to explore the botanical gardens and spectacular waterfalls at your own pace, there is plenty here for everybody.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Hop on a bicycle and then hike to the river and waterfalls of La Florida. Stop off for a lunch of fresh trout from the river on your way in or out.
  • In Salento, experience the colonial architecture of the village, then hike up into a protected cloud forest where the endangered Colombian Wax Palms grow. The trailheads are only 15 minutes away by jeep.
  • Experience the colorful architecture and artisan crafts of Finlandia, but don’t forget to climb the viewing tower for a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.
  • Wander the “Casa Paisa” Museum and Visitor Center in Marsella, where you will learn how the local culture lived and thrived in the early pioneer days of the coffee zone.
  • Be sure to take a day trip up to Manizales, the capital of Caldas. There, you can arrive in the center by cable car, then climb to the very top of a cathedral and see a 360-degree view of the city and surrounding mountains!

Come Prepared

This region is prone to rain on an almost daily basis. Be sure to bring an umbrella and jacket. Especially in places like Salento, where temperatures will stay cool, it's a good idea to have a jacket and/or long-sleeved shirt and pants with you.

If you travel to the west of Pereira, the climate becomes hotter. For this zone, you'll need bug spray, a hat, and sunblock.

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1 Comment

  • Glen Galindo said

    How can we be part of your Colombia Guide?
    I am an American and run a 'service vacation guest house' for international volunteers. People from anywhere in the world can come to enjoy our beautiful Coffee Region while immersing themselves in an engaging volunteer role in over 50 fields. It costs $15/day and that includes 24/7 staff support and lodging in beautiful traditional newly remodeled and fully modern appliances and brand new double-cushion beds, hot water, wifi, full kitchen downtown next to park, with hammock patio, and coffee lounge. http://www.mingahouse.org/volunteering-options.html

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