Located in the northernmost part of the three departments which make up what is also known as the Coffee Triangle. Manizales is famous for it’s coffee, beauty pageants, yearly city celebration and bullfighting. In the Manizales Travel Guide we are going to show you The City of Open Doors.
Manizales Travel Guide
Manizales is the capital of the department of Caldas, and the Capital Taurina of Colombia. It was founded October 12th, 1849. The altitude is 2,160 meters above sea level (7,090 ft.) Be sure to plan accordingly, and note that if you aren’t accustomed to the altitude, then plan to move around mostly by taxi or bus. Things seem to be a bit spread out here, especially in the newer parts of the city where the blocks are longer.
This is an excellent city for cultural tourism. There are many green spaces, parks and recreation centers which participate in several special events per year. We are going to make some recommendations that will help visitors to Manizales appreciate the unique culture of a city which rides the saddleback of a high mountain.
#1 | Where to Stay in Manizales
We received so many inquiries from people wanting to learn more about Manizales that we have dedicated the entire month of January to an investigation of Manizales. In December, we were up there meeting with a few local hostels for our Coffee Axis Hostel Guide which we published on January 1st. We even went up and stayed a night in a local hostel during “Las Ferias.” Here’s what we learned.
Watch out for old beds. There are several hostels in Manizales, which are basically houses with used furniture that call themselves a hostel. Some are really nice and work out well for groups. Others look like they need some updating and remodeling. Follow customer ratings carefully.
Hacienda Venecia is a great destination for nature lovers. They have a boutique hotel, coffee lodge and backpacker hostel option. We recommend that visitors to Manizales plan to stay there for at least a couple days, especially if you want to get out in nature.
Casa de la 57. At the last minute I was online booking myself a room for Friday night, during the peak of the fiestas. This hostel was rated as “Superb” and I took it.
You are going to like the beds here. They weren’t overly hard like some places either, actually I felt pretty comfy in my bed. All bunk beds came with their own small TV. The bathrooms had hot water and great water pressure. Breakfast was delicious and featured good portion sizes.
My only reservation, is that I think it was a little overpriced for how empty it was, compared to what Booking.com seemed to indicate. It’s central location made it a good place to crash and get around the city from. Taxis were easy to call and visitors can catch a bus only a couple blocks away. Visit their Facebook page Here>>
#2 | What to Eat and Drink in Manizales
Over time we heard about places through other expats, or we encountered them on successive visits. If you want to recommend a place to us, email us at email@example.com, and thanks!
Barrio Milan – Zona Gourmet
For all things foodie, there is a sector made for you. Barrio Milan is the Zona G, or Gourmet district of the city. Here you can find bars, restaurants, ice cream shops and cafe’s. At the far end of barrio Milan you can even eat your dinner in an antique airplane with a great view of the mountains.
In the cable district, visitors can find plenty of good “tipico” options. If you exit the metro-cable station and turn left, the first block you will find a place only a block or so down that has a good typical lunch for 12,000 cop.
Aguardiente Amarillo de Manzanares, is a special type of aguardiente, or sugar cane alcohol, which is made in a nearby pueblo of Caldas. It has a very smooth taste and doesn’t have as much anise flavor as traditional aguardiente. Especially during the Ferias de Manizales, it is a much celebrated local favorite. Great souvenir.
Ron de Caldas, (Rum) was originally from Manizales, but has been moved to Medellin.
On one of the many high points in the city, sits an antique passenger airplane that has been converted into a restaurant. With great mountain scenery, nightlife and even a tree bearing car-fruit. Definitely a must-see for the pictures, and maybe even the food. We haven’t tried it yet, but maybe we will soon. Learn more Here>>
German food. We aren’t familiar with it yet, but it has been recommended by friends and is rumored to have some nice pretzels. More info >>
How to Get Local Artisan Chocolate
In Colombia there are two types of Chocolate.
Chocolate de la mesa, which is the hot chocolate you drink. It usually comes without any sweetener and is prepared in agua panela or milk with sugar.
Chocolatina, is an extra step or two in the chocolate making process that processes cocoa into into the creamy texture we crave. This is the sweet chocolate that foreigners typically associate with the word “chocolate.” Manizales has a couple local artisan chocolate makers. Order a box from each one and have it delivered to your hotel or hostel.
Santo Aroma is a well-known and widely distributed local brand of chocolate. You can find it in all the local cafe’s or artisan shops. They manufacture both “Chocolate de la mesa” and “Chocolatina,” which is the sweet one. Facebook them Here>>
Black & White, Chocolates Artesanales – Chocolate bon bons in all different flavors. Most distinctive flavor “Aguardiente Amarillo.” A well kept local secret! One won’t be enough. Facebook them Here>>
Where to Drink Coffee
Manizales has a long tradition of high quality coffee both for farming in the surrounding countryside, and for coffee shop preparations in the city. Here area few shops and even a coffee farm tour, which we recommend for coffee aficionados.
Hacienda Venecia Coffee Farm Tour. An excellent coffee tour, hostel & hotel accommodations, nature trails, a swimming pool and birdwatching. As a coffee plantation, this farm has over 100 years of history. Learn more about their special coffee, tours and accommodations Visit their website Here>>.
Cafe Lienzo. A coffee shop in the city, with excellent quality coffee, prepared by certified baristas. Coffee aficionados know that many shops have owners who themselves are baristas, but then teach the employees instead of having certified baristas. The distinction both in the preparation and in the quality of this coffee blew our mind. And, my travel partner liked it so much, he drank two. Check them out on Facebook Here >>>
el Solar. The most well hidden but extremely well placed coffee shop in the city. There is something about arriving in the metro cable and feeling the need for high octane fresh brewed Colombian coffee. The most well kept secret, is that there exists a small coffee shop with incredible green spaces that will make you feel like you aren’ t even in the middle of the city. We recommend their Leche Asado (when available) and their cappuccinos, to take the edge off the fall weather which is often typical to Manizales. Here >>
Santo Kaffeto is one of the first coffee shops in Manizales to start serving coffee in unique and distinctive ways. Santo Kaffeto has a lot of history and tradition in the Manizales coffee scene. They even have a coffee museum style exhibit and a small coffee shop tour available where they will teach you the basics of production with a focus on brewing and tasting. Check out their Facebook page Here>>
#3 | What to Do in Manizales
Situated in the saddle of a mountain, Manizales has some special attractions which set it apart from other cities in the coffee triangle. It can be hot due to the intensity of high altitude sun, but cold if there is a breeze, clouds or rain. We recommend traveling with an umbrella and light coat or medium weight sweater.
Parapente – Chipre – Parque de los Colonizadores
On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, in the Chipre sector near Parque de los Colonizadores, is a jumping off point for “Parapente,” or Paragliding. During the week you can contact the business and set an appointment. This sector features the best views and is the highest point in the city.
Chipre has some fun nightlife hot spots and street food vendors. You can’t only come at night. During the day you will see a massive sweeping view of the mountains of the Coffee Axis.
Climb the Cathedral – Sector Cable – Parque Fundadores
When you ride the Metro-Cable up to the very top, known as “Sector Cable,” or el Centro, this is the oldest part of the city and the heart of the financial district. Bring your camera because the old buildings here are beautiful.
If you like shopping, then check out Centro Comercial Fundadores, one of the biggest shopping malls in the Coffee Axis. For theater events, visit Teatro Fundadores, which often features a monthly variety of art, cultural events and theater.
Visitors can take a special cathedral tour where they hike to the very top of the top spire, which has a little cupola where you can see breathtaking 360 views of Manizales.
Recinto del Pensamiento – Thematic Cultural Park
This one we haven’t had the chance to visit yet, but their website indicates that visitors can ride “telesillas”, visit a special birdwatching area, walk through an orchid forest, relax in an oriental garden and visit a butterfly house. This one we plan to visit soon!
Gold Museum – Museo del Oro
Located at Banco de la Republica, if you call ahead, you can book a free city tour. Spanish only. Be sure to take a tour of the gold museum too where you will see a variety of local and indigenous treasure.
Botanic Garden – Cable Plaza Sector – Rosales
Located at University of Caldas, visitors can visit a botanic garden located on campus and near to Sector Cable Plaza. The botanic garden is behind the stadium and down onto the campus a little bit. Ask the security guards for directions, it is easy to find. Due to previous vandalism you must visit with a guide.
Coffee Farm Tour – Rural Tourism
In the rural areas of Manizales where the mountains are covered (almost), in coffee, you can experience the rural life at nearby Hacienda Venecia or Hacienda Guayabal. Hacienda Venecia offers a swimming pool, hostel, coffee farm tours and a variety of walking trails and group activities for visitors. Visit their website Here>>
At Hacienda Guayabal, visitors can enjoy up close and personal encounters with a massive variety of birds. One of the best places for birdwatching in the Coffee Axis, they also offer lodging, pool, a playground and play house for children, and coffee tours. Visit their website Here>>
Hiking in the Mountains – National Parks Nevado del Ruiz
There are two important volcanic mountain systems in the area: Nevado del Ruiz and Nevado del Santa Isabel. Both feature national parks and hiking opportunities. Check with your hotel/hostel for guided hiking tours and equipment rental.
When to Visit and Special Events
Temporada Taurina – Bullfights
A controversial Latin sport, the bullfighting of Manizales plays an important role in local tradition in culture. The pasturelands where the bulls roam are also a wetland, which has been protected and conserved – in part by the Bull farms.
As we mentioned earlier, it is also the Capital Taurina, or Bull Capital of Colombia because of the tradition and dedication to this event by locals. Good, bad or indifferent, it is worth your time to go to at least one bullfight in your life, then – you can truly say, if you like it, or not.
Ferias de Manizales – Beauty Queens – Artesan Fairs
Each year in the first few weeks of January, Manizales celebrates it’s founding with a series of parties, exhibitions, concerts, parades, a beauty pageant and bullfighting. During this period one of the most famous beauty pageants in Colombia takes place: The Reinado Internacional de Cafe.
We found one of the best events to be the Handcraft/Artisan Exposition at FeriaExpo. What we found there was a large cross section of the best Colombian arts and crafts from all regions of Colombia. There was even a small salon of international artisan goods from places like Mexico, Turkey and India.
#4 | Where to Find Local Art in Manizales
Manizales has always been identified as a place that fosters art and culture. Visitors can find all types. Jungle and rainforest scenery, exotic birds, nudes , bulls and even horses, were all themes we saw at the art expo during the Feria de Manizales 2018.
Over time we hope to add more information to this section as we become acquainted with more local artists. If you are a local artist, contact us by email to arrange for us to come visit and give a mention of your work.
Mario Jiminez Sanchez, is a Pintor Taurino. His passion is capturing the “Toro Bravo” in his natural habitat. Bulls are the royalty of the animal production in the Coffee Axis. Call or email for more information about available works and gallery location information. firstname.lastname@example.org or by cell +57 315 493 4273
#5 | Where to Find Theatre in Manizales and the Coffee Axis
Manizales is also the Theatre Capital of Latino-America. Each year it has a festival which brings theatre groups from around the world to participate in a weeklong event that feature plays, dramas, Shakespearan Theatre and even Colombia’s own special flavor of theatre.
Festival de Teatro. The Theatre festival is in February. Throughout the year visitors can find special theatrical events each month at Teatro Fundadores. During this week-long festival you will see local and international theater companies performing for an international audience. See the Facebook page for more info Here>>
This article came at the urging of several readers who have emailed us asking for more information about Manizales. In future months we will be doing a similar project for Pereira, Aguadas, Armenia and Cartago. Each month we will bring you a city or pueblo of the Coffee Axis and show you what to do, where to stay and what to eat.
As a general rule, we do avoid patronizing corporate chains and multinational businesses through the course of our travels. Obviously it cannot be fully avoided, but when we write here on PereiraCityGuide.com we are committed to supporting small, locally owned businesses that help to support their local communities.
Together we are working with our project participants to support and promote independent, local economies, which are based on mutual support backed by our #BuyLocal and #SupportLocal initiative, for strong communities and stronger families.
When you #BuyLocal and #SupportLocal you are helping us to increase and retain a high standard of life, while creating jobs for local entrepreneurs.