Located in the center of the coffee triangle at the foothills of the Andes mountains, Pereira is a city of magic and wonder. Some of the most popular locations in Colombia are easily reachable from Pereira. I spent over six months in this beautiful city and would like to share what I know with you. It’s definitely one of the best places to visit in Colombia. Here’s why!
Pereira is Unique
Pereira is the largest city in the coffee axis and is officially part of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site named the “Coffee Culture Landscape of Colombia”. Pereira is also located in the “Golden Triangle” between Bogota, Medellin and Cali making it a important location for trade and commerce.
Pereira is surrounded by lush green mountains full of coffee fields and papaya trees spreading as far as the eye can see. Some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen come from this region. Famous local towns including Santa Rosa, Filandia, Salento and Marsella are all within a one hour drive. The city is amazing and the surrounding landscape is breathtaking.
Pereira Has a Bit of Everything
Pereira was founded in 1863 and stands at an elevation of over 4,000 feet near the Otun river valley and a short drive away from Valle de Cocora (a valley high in the Andes mountains that hosts the largest palm trees in the world). To the northeast you will find Santa Rosa de Cabal, a town at almost a 6,000 foot elevation that hosts some of the most beautiful hot springs in the world (Termales). To the south you will find Filandia, a quaint little mountain town with some amazing views, tasty bakeries and authentic family-owned stores. To the northwest you will find Marsella, a vivid and colorful little traditional colonial town found deep in the Andes mountain range.
Santa Rosa de Cabal
Aside from the world-renowned hot springs, Santa Rosa is home to a plethora of eateries & unique cafes full of colorful decor and personality. Santa Rosa is also known for its famous chorizo (chorizo santarossano) which is considered to be one of the best in Colombia. There are plenty of hotels, apartments, farms and houses for rent (take a look on AirBnb). For example, the image above shows the backyard of a local bed and breakfast (Villa Carolina Hopedaje Ecoturistico) I visited in Santa Rosa. The location was stunning, there was an outdoor pool overlooking a beautiful backdrop and the breakfast was upstanding. If you get a chance to visit Santa Rosa do not pass up the opportunity.
Filandia is home to Mirador Colina Iluminada, a observation deck that overlooks the mountains and fields of the region. Some of the best photographs I’ve captured during my travels in Colombia come from Filandia. The view from the top of the observation deck spans hundreds of miles and it’s not as crowded as other well-known tourist destinations in the region. Mirador Colina Iluminada is a must-see if you visit Filandia.
Marsella is a long-established colonial town located 15-20 miles outside of Pereira. The drive is grueling (think mountainous dirt roads lined with heavy tropical foliage) but well worth the effort. The town is full of traditional colonial architecture. The buildings are splashed with colorful fresh paint and the town plaza is a sight to see. For lunch, have a bowl of ajiaco soup, it’s delicious in Marsella. Take some time and visit the Alejandro Humbolt Botanical Garden (Jardin Botanico Alejandro Humboldt) and finish the afternoon with some ice cream in the plaza! Also, I would consider the drive to and from Marsella just as enjoyable as the visit itself.
The Cocora Valley (Valle del Cocora) is breathtaking and a favorite amongst hikers and outdoor enthusiast. With its’ giant wax palm trees, jungle foliage, deep forests, and mountainous terrain the valley is a place of wonder. Spend the afternoon taking photos of the landscape or enjoy a horseback ride to a local coffee farm on a guided tour. The Cocora Valley is also home to the worlds largest palm tree, the Quindio wax palm which can grow to a height of over 200 feet. The Cocora Valley is located one hour southeast of Pereira and 20 minutes east of Salento (a town we will discuss in detail in another article). The Cocora Valley is a must-visit if you spend time in the coffee triangle.
Things to do in Pereira
Pereira is full of cafes, restaurants, bars, family-owned businesses and food! The culture is spectacular and the vibration is soothing. People take pride in their businesses and create stunning ambient environments full of vivid colors, tasty aromas and soothing music. Music can be heard almost anywhere you go. High-quality coffee is found in abundance and there are hundreds of boutiques to browse.
If you visit Pereira, you have to try the Pandebono! I love Pandebono, especially with coffee in the morning. After the morning coffee why not take a walk through one of the many local parks or do some shopping at one of the local boutiques. For lunch, try a local dish, I would recommend bandeja paisa or Ajiaco. If you want something a little more upscale but not too expensive by American standards I would recommend going to Pasteleria Lucerna, a local restaurant in the heart of Pereira. Make sure to stop at Plaza de Bolivar to take everything in. Also, Pereira now has a aerial cable car you can ride to several different destinations in the city.
You could spend days just walking around Pereira and exploring. There are so many different things to do. The nightlife is also amazing, there’s an abundance of niche bars and hang out spots throughout the city. Some of the bars are even themed (I went to a heavy metal bar decorated with 80s rock memorabilia that played rock videos all night on a giant television screen).
To conclude, it’s impossible to explain with mere words how amazing Pereira and the surrounding region is. We will continue to upload new content as time goes on (it’s just too much content for one article, we have thousands of videos, pictures and experiences to share with you).
The coffee triangle is what made me fall in love with Colombia and Pereira is located smack dab in the center of it all. I highly recommend visiting and if you have any questions feel free to send us an email.