It’s always worth going out of your way to check out the dramatic works of Colombian sculptor Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt. The Monumento al Esfuerzo, which takes center stage in Plaza Bolívar ★★, is no exception. The masterful bronze sculpture embodies the spirit, determination, and resourceful nature of the first migrants to the region and pays homage to Francisco Antonio Cano’s seminal (and idealized) work Horizons, which is displayed in the Museo de Antioquia in Medellín. Dominating the plaza’s eastern flank, fronted by palm trees, the distinctive La Inmaculada Cathedral ★ (Calle 21 no. 12–20) has an eye-catching triangular facade, which is loved and loathed in equal measure. Whatever your opinion, the modernist church certainly leaves an impression; it’s worth a peek inside for the contemporary stained glass windows and bronze statue of Christ. On the northeast side of the square, there’s a more traditional bronze Bolívar sculpture by Roberto Henau Buritacá.
The massive Plaza de Mercado ★ (which spans 3 blocks), 3 blocks northwest of Plaza de Bolívar, is the setting for the Parroquia de San Francisco ★ (Calle 15 no. 17–24; tel. 6/745-3230). The largest church in town is constructed from eye-catching red stone; inside there’s impressive stained-glass work. The church, originally built in 1934, was severely damaged by the earthquake in 1999. Five blocks north of Plaza de Bolívar, leafy Parque Sucre ★ is an agreeable place to watch life unfold, with a 100-year-old ceiba tree, a pleasant cafe, a newspaper kiosk, meandering street vendors, and a fishpond.
At the northern reaches of the city, Armenia’s cultural highlight is the Museo del Oro Quimbaya ★★ (Carrera 14 no. 40N–80; www.banrepcultural.org/armenia; tel. 6/749-8169; Tues–Sun 9am–5pm; free). A taxi from Plaza Bolívar will cost around COP$6,000, or take any bus labelled “MUSEO” or “LIMITES.” While the collection may be small, it is beautifully curated, and every piece is exquisite. Along with a swift but engaging outline of the region’s pre-Columbian history, there are stunning gold statuettes, figurines, and jewelry fashioned by the Quimbaya people, who were revered for their metal working skills.
Well worth the short taxi ride south of the city, the Jardín Botánico del Quindío ★★ (Avenida Centenario no. 15–190; Km. 3 Vía al Valle, Calarcá; www.jardinbotanicoquindio.org; tel. 6/742-7254; daily 9am–4pm; COP$20,000) draws the crowds to its world-renowned mariposario (butterfly farm), an incredible showcase of more than 1,500 butterflies (50 species). You can happily spend a few hours here meandering through the garden’s 10-hectare forest that preserves more than 850 species of flora, including guadua, palm trees, ferns, heliconia, and orchid. There’s also a bird observatory, an insectarium, a lookout tower, a maze, and a small natural history museum.
Included on many tours of the region, the Parque Nacional del Café ★ is a rather cheesy theme park which is part-museum (which extols the region’s coffee production and heritage) and part-playground (rollercoasters, traditional fun fair rides, sugar-laced treats). You can hike or horseback ride through the valley, learn about the shiny red beans in the interactive (child-oriented) coffee museum, and visit a mockup of a traditional campesino house. Don’t miss the bizarre Show de Café, an extraordinary (and quite compelling) folkloric extravaganza with music, dance, and acrobatics. The park is at Km 6 Vía Montenegro, Pueblo Tapao (www.parquedelcafe.co; tel. 6/741-7417; open Wed–Fri 10am–6pm, Sat, Sun and holidays 9am–6pm). Admission is COP$25,000 to COP$59,000 depending on package/rides included; a 20-minute taxi ride will cost around COP$35,000, or buses leave from Armenia’s main terminal—destination “Pueblo Tapao”—every 30 minutes at least.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.