With its rugged beauty, indigenous history, and independent spirit, there’s more to Colombia’s coffee triangle than the nation’s hallowed red beans. Antioquia’s fabled coffee country combines scenic majesty with exhilarating outdoor recreation and fascinating cultural attractions and touchstones. Sculpted Andean mountains and volcanic peaks with crystal-clear lakes rise above emerald valleys where coffee plantations hug century-old fincas, and national parks provide close encounters with the region’s incredible inventory of flora and fauna. It’s a magical place.
Steeped in Antioquian traditions, in the photogenic towns of Filandia and Salento, narrow streets lined with emblematic bahareque (bamboo and clay buildings with red-tiled roofs) lead to sedate plazas. Just a short jeep-ride away, the region’s crown jewels are the Valle de Cocora, with its skinny wax palms rising above furry grasslands and, for more intrepid travelers, the majestic snowcapped peaks of Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados, a mecca for amped-up hiking adventures.
While hardly destinations unto themselves, the commercial powerhouses of Pereira, Manizales, and Armenia provide the gateway to thermal springs, high-altitude lakes, nature preserves, and haciendas that still employ artisanal processes to produce prized Arabica coffee. As international coffee prices have fallen, enterprising landowners have diversified their crops and opened up their estates to tourism. Restored haciendas, exuding faded grandeur and stuffed with antiques and heirlooms, provide some of the country’s most evocative accommodation options.
Discovering Colombia’s Fincas
Colombia’s central coffee-growing region holds a special place in the nation’s consciousness. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Landscape for its coffee-growing heritage—Colombia first exported coffee in the early 1800s—coffee plants flourish in this triangle of vertiginous mountains where rainfall, altitude, and temperature strike a delicate balance that allows Arabica beans to thrive. Over the last decade, as coffee prices have fallen, Colombia’s coffee families have begun to open up their farms and estates and establish links with a growing network of adventure-tourism companies in order to capitalize on the region’s immense tourism potential.
With the same allure as the grand haciendas of Argentina, Colombia’s coffee fincas are located in gorgeous settings and combine evocative, authentic places to stay with outdoor recreation, amazing views, prolific wildlife, and compelling history. As well as tours that expound all aspects of the history and production of the coffee-growing business, fincas provide a unique immersion into Paisa history and culture. There are places for every taste and budget, ranging from the intimate and rustic to the utterly luxurious (with polished spaces, manicured grounds, well-conceived amenities, and haute cuisine). There aren’t many places in the world where you can wake up amid antiques to the buzz of a working coffee farm, eat breakfast (and drink unlimited coffee) while hummingbirds and butterflies hover and dart, then take a hot air balloon ride, zipline, or hike through the Andes mountains.
Set amid rolling hills, Hacienda Venecia ★★★ is an award-winning coffee farm with a restored paisa farmhouse that’s now a fantastic hotel with diverse accommodation options, a soulful ambience, innovative tours, and a real sense of place. Foodies gravitate toward the swanky Hacienda Bambusa ★★★, where gastronomic tasting menus are served over candlelight and a swim in the pool caps a day of rugged exploration.