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Manizales: the beautiful northern part of Zona Cafetera

by Sabine
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Zona Cafetera: the Colombian coffee area. I have been there many times now and I can say that it is one of my favorite areas. The green mountains, beautiful views, colorful villages, interesting coffee plantations and many opportunities for hiking make Zona Cafetera a true highlight of a round trip through Colombia. Although the most popular destinations in the coffee region are Salento, the surrounding area and Valle de Cocora, there is much more to see. Manizales, for example. A city in the northern part of the coffee region. With a beautiful downtown, stunning views, many elevation changes and the base for visiting the area, including Los Nevados. In this article you will read all about beautiful Manizales.

What to do in Manizales?

Manizales: the capital of the northern part of Zona Cafetera, located at an altitude of 2200 meters.

A gray city with a very sweet population, a beautiful cathedral and nice places to sleep. Not to mention one of the most important centers in Colombian coffee production.

Manizales consists of incredibly steep roads, making driving quite a challenge. Walking, too, for that matter, especially if you’re not used to the altitude.

In the middle of the city we find the Cathedral of Manizales. A must-see if you are here. The church tower, no less than 106 meters high, is the tallest in Colombia. At the cathedral, you can take a fun and informative tour, where the guide takes you upstairs for a great view of the area. For example, on a clear day you can even see the 5321-meter-high volcano Nevado del Ruiz, a volcano you can also climb, but it may be safer to view this natural beauty from afar.

Find the cathedral on the map here.


What to do in the surroundings of Manizales? | 3 Tips

Manizales is not only a special city with many students and elevation changes, but above all a good base to explore the northern coffee region.


1. The volcano Nevado del Ruiz

A volcano with a fierce history. For a reason is the Nevado del Ruiz also called the “sleeping lion”. Often the entrance to this part of the national park, which is attached to it, is closed, because volcanic activity still takes place here regularly.

Since the sixteenth century, there have been 11 eruptions to the best of our knowledge. The largest took place in 1985: a fierce story. After an eruption in 1845, the village of Armero was built on the solidified mudslide, which grew into a town of 28,000 people. On Nov. 13, 1985, Nevado del Ruiz erupted again. Mud flows up to 50 meters thick flowed up to more than 100 kilometers out of the volcano. Many homes and towns were destroyed, including Armero. The entire city was buried under the mudslide, killing 21,000 of its 28,000 residents. The eruption went into the books as the second deadliest of the 20th century.

Today, there are systems that allow to better predict activity and therefore evacuate the population. Although this northern part of Los Nevados National Park is usually closed to the public, the southern part is still accessible for (multi-day) hikes through the most beautiful part of the Colombian Andes.

Hiking in Los Nevados

Consider the hike to Santa Isabel. A beautiful day hike through Los Nevados, with the final destination being the glacier, where you will then find yourself in the Colombian snow just like that. Read all about this trek through Los Nevados here.


2. Thermal baths in the northern coffee region

As in the entire coffee region of Colombia, several thermal pools can be found around Manizales. Beautiful places in nature, where you can relax for a few hours, a day or even several days. All thermal baths have an adjoining hotel. And all of them are especially easy to reach by car.

1. Termales Tierra Viva

Termales Tierra Viva can be found just outside Manizales, and along with No. 2, it is best reached from the city.

Outside weekends and high season, we were the only guests. The two small pools made of rocks in a cute little garden also looked attractive. Steam from the hot water rose up along the rock face. We lowered ourselves into the wonderfully warm heavily sulfur-scented baths. Very relaxed. Even when it started to rain it didn’t matter, the water was nice and warm and we were wet anyway. After 1.5 hours we left. A nice experience to relax for a while.

Find these thermal baths on the map here.

Want to stay longer? Tierra Viva has a beautiful adjoining hotel.


2. Termales el Otoño

Close to Termales Tierra Viva you will find one of the most famous thermal baths in this area. Termales el Otoño is beautifully located, with multiple pools and different temperatures. You can stay at the adjacent hotel Termales el Otoño, for when you want to rest for a few days.

Here you will find Termales el Otoño on the map.

3. Termales del Ruiz

Termales del Ruiz is a hotel with thermal pools, located directly at the foot of Los Nevados in the village of Termales. Therefore, this place has a special location in the middle of nature, with beautiful views. Not only a place to rest, but from here you can easily go hiking in Los Nevados. And, of course, enjoy the thermal baths.

Click here for more information about and photos of the hotel.

You can find the hotel on the map here.


3. Recinto del Pensamiento: hiking near Manizales

About 11 kilometers east of Manizales you will find the forest Recinto del Pensamiento. Here you can take beautiful walks. Bird lovers are in the right place: with special bird-watching tours you can get to know the impressive bird world that takes place here.

During our walking tour, the guide took us to a beautiful butterfly garden and we learned all about two types of Colombian bamboo that grows here. It was here where I saw hummingbirds for the first time in my life: love at first sight! In short: a perfect outing to get acquainted with the fantastic Colombian flora and fauna.

On this website you will find all the information for a visit. Like what there is to do, opening hours and prices. You can also book tours here.

Find the park on the map here.


Staying in the north of Zona Cafetera

As in all of Colombia, you can stay in this part wonderfully nice and for very little money. We stayed in Eco Hotel La Juanita on the outskirts of town.

However, there are many more beautiful hotels and fincas in and around Manizales. Including the hotels mentioned under thermal baths. My advice is always to find a nice place in nature. There are so many of them and is so special. Really the perfect way to enjoy Colombia!



Are you visiting the Colombian coffee region? Then don’t skip the beautiful north around Manizales!

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