Hidden among the verdant hills of the Andes near Pereira, the charming town of Marsella beckons visitors with its vibrant culture and inspiring landscapes. Marsella is an authentic and off-the-beaten-path experience for those seeking to immerse themselves in Colombia’s lesser-known destinations.
Marsella’s history dates back to the pre-Colombian era when the region was inhabited by indigenous tribes, including the Quimbayas. The town itself was founded in the 19th century and its name translates to “Marseilles” in English, which is a nod to its French-inspired architecture.
Today, Marsella is a lively town with a population of around 20,000 people. Its streets are lined with colorful colonial-style buildings, while the surrounding hills are covered with coffee plantations and natural reserves. The town’s proximity to the Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, a protected area of over 4,000 hectares, makes it an ideal destination for ecotourism.
The Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
At the heart of Marsella stands the iconic Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Carmen). This beautiful neoclassical church dates back to 1919 and is a prominent landmark in the town’s main square, Plaza de Bolivar.
The Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is known for its striking white facade, towering columns, and ornate domes. Its interior is equally stunning, featuring an impressive altar, intricate frescoes and stained-glass windows that bathe the space in a warm, colorful glow. Visitors can also admire the church’s impressive bell tower, which stands at 148 feet (45 meters) tall and is one of the tallest in the region.
Aside from its architectural beauty, the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is also an important site for its religious and cultural significance to the people of Marsella. The church hosts regular services and is an important gathering place for the local community. It is also a popular destination for visitors who want to learn more about the town’s history and cultural heritage.
Traveling to Marsella
The drive up the mountain to Marsella is an experience in itself which offers breathtaking views of the Andes mountain range and lush, rolling hills surrounding the town. The winding roads can be steep and challenging, but the journey is well worth it for those seeking a truly authentic Colombian experience.
The main road to Marsella is surrounded by coffee plantations, which are an important part of the local economy. Visitors can stop at various points along the way to learn more about the coffee production process and to sample some of the region’s famous brews. The journey also offers glimpses of local wildlife, including birds, monkeys, and sloths, that call the dense forests of the region home.
As visitors climb higher into the mountains, the air grows cooler and the landscape becomes more dramatic. The views from the top are simply breathtaking, with panoramic vistas of the surrounding valleys and peaks stretching out as far as the eye can see. Visitors can stop at various lookout points along the way to take in the scenery and capture photos of the stunning landscapes.
Once visitors arrive in Marsella, they are greeted with the town’s charming colonial-style buildings, colorful streets and warm hospitality. The drive up the mountain is a perfect introduction to the region’s natural beauty and cultural heritage, setting the stage for a memorable and authentic Colombian adventure.
In addition to its natural wonders, Marsella is known for its vibrant cultural scene, which includes traditional festivals, music, and dance. The town’s main square, Plaza de Bolivar, is the heart of its social and cultural life. Here, visitors can sample local delicacies, including authentic Colombian street foods like empanadas, arepas, and tamales, while enjoying live music performances and mingling with locals.
Marsella is also a destination for adventure seekers, with its proximity to the Nevado del Ruiz National Park that offers opportunities for hiking, mountain climbing, and camping. Visitors can explore the park’s rugged terrain, including glaciers, snow-capped mountains, and hot springs.
Overall, Marsella offers a unique and authentic Colombian experience that’s sure to captivate and inspire visitors. Whether you’re a nature lover, a culture enthusiast, or an adventurer at heart, this charming town is worth a visit.