Colombia means coffee, and the Zona Cafetera—or coffee zone—is where it all starts. Centered in the hills surrounding the cities of Manizales, Pereira, and Armenia, it’s a region of stunning biodiversity, full of lush cloud forests and mountain plains, flower ranches and towering wax palms.
The area’s chief attraction is the fincas, plantations that range from small family farms to estates that sprawl for thousands of acres. Here, after watching the coffee harvest and learning how the beans are processed, you can go for a swim in a nearby pond, or lay in a hammock to watch the sunset from the verandah. If you care to spend the night, many fincas offer homestyle lodgings, courtesy of the hospitable finqueros themselves.
Colombia’s prime natural destination offers other beauties. In the Valle de Cocora, misty green hills frame a lowland of trout farms and stilt-like Quindio trees, while in the Parque Nacional Los Nevados, a string of snow-capped volcanoes lures campers and mountaineers. If you need to warm yourself up after your hikes, the hot springs of Santa Rosa and San Vicente offer medicinal spa treatments amidst steaming waterfalls.
Most tourists come to the Zona Cafetera for the area’s most famous export, sipped and savored in picture-postcard towns. But what they take away is an unforgettable glimpse of an earthly paradise, one that Colombians call “the land of eternal spring.”
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