October 25, 2018, 4:13 pm
People I speak to who are traveling or have traveled through Colombia always rave about the Coffee Region. The fertile triangle that sits between Medellín, Bogotá and Cali never disappoints travelers due to its rural charm, beautiful sprawling mountains, and of course – the delicious coffee around every corner. While researching for my first visit to the Coffee Region, I got so caught up drooling over pictures of the area, I didn’t properly prepare.
Here are four things I wish I knew before going to the Coffee Region in Colombia, so you don’t make the same mistakes:
Traveling on a Colombian holiday
In my defense, I knew it was a Colombian holiday weekend when I decided to go to Salento in the Coffee Region, but I took the trip anyway because that weekend was best for my schedule. What I didn’t know was how packed the little tourist town would be. Same goes for the bus station in Bogotá when I left on a Friday to take an overnight bus to Salento – it was absolutely crammed with people. I’m not saying you shouldn’t travel around Colombia during holiday weekends, you just need to know you will be dealing with more crowds and longer lines if you travel during a festivo or puente. Since Colombia has so many official holidays where many people are off work, it’s always good to check a Colombian holiday calendar like this one before you head out to explore the country.
Not packing layers
I knew the Coffee Region could get chilly, especially at night. But I didn’t realize the weather was so fickle. (FYI, Bogotá’s weather is fickle as well.) During my tour to small pueblos around the Coffee Region, it would be cold enough to need a jacket with medium thickness (not a sweater but not a parka), then the sun would blast through the clouds and the sweating would begin and I even got a sunburn. To prepare for the variety of weather conditions in the area, layer your clothes, wear sunscreen and bring an umbrella or rain poncho.
Not scheduling enough activities
There are some cities or areas you can explore on your own for hours and never run out of things to see. The Coffee Region is not really one of these places. Whether you’re staying in Salento or another small town in the area, chances are you are going to enjoy meandering through the charming town square surrounded by shops, then find yourself looking for something to do. Luckily, there are plenty of activities and Coffee Region tours. On the first full day of my trip, I took a tour of the small pueblos in the area and got to ride standing up in one of the many jeeps used to transport people and coffee. The views were incredible. I also took a coffee farm tour where they walked me through each step of the coffee production process and then I hiked through the incredible Cocora Valley. I’m glad I scheduled these day tours and activities because without them, I would have just been bouncing from shop to shop in the main plaza for the whole trip.
Not allotting enough time in Cocora Valley
I didn’t arrive to Cocora Valley until 2:30 p.m. That was a big mistake because it wasn’t nearly enough time to see the towering wax palms and hike through the valley then up into the cloud forest. (The hike usually takes 5 hours.) Since I didn’t start early enough, I finished the hike in the dark, constantly doubting if I was going in the right direction. When I finished the hike, all the jeeps that take people back to Salento had left for the night. I ended up riding back with restaurant employees who took pity on my stupidity. Don’t make the same mistake I did, hiking along a rocky river bank at night is not fun.
If you’re interested in visiting this region of Colombia, why not do so on a Coffee Zone tour? With an expert, English-speaking guide and plenty of activities and day tours, you will be sure to avoid the mistakes I made and have a wonderful time.
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