For a city whose claim to fame is coffee, Pereira is surprisingly modern. Set in the heart of Colombia’s Eje Cafetero, or Coffee Zone, and at a crossroads between Medellin, Bogota, and Cali, the sprawling valley town sits below the imposing spine of the western Andes. The capital of the Risaralda department was founded in 1540 on the site of the present day Plaza Bolivar. Known for its pleasant weather and mineral rich soil, Pereira is becoming more and more popular as a vacation destination within Colombia.

Things to Do

Plaza Bolivar, the city’s best people-watching spot, is surrounded by cafes, shopping, and churches. A few blocks southeast is Victoria Plaza, sided by one of the city’s best malls. Matecaña Zoo is the most comprehensive zoo in Colombia with nearly 900 animals from all parts of the globe and an adjoining natural history museum. Learn about the coffee making process at the century–old Hacienda San Jose, one of dozens of coffee fincas within a short drive of the city center.

Restaurants and Dining

Pereira’s traditional foods are a typical fusion of Spanish and indigenous cooking styles that are heavy with meat, corn, potatoes, and beans, but the city doesn’t lack in creative fare. For contemporary Peruvian and Pan-Latin dishes there’s Chiwake, headed by Le Cordon Bleu chef Jaime Garzón. Meat lovers will be tempted by Argentine style asados at Bobadilla, while a romantic vibe can be had at Sazagua, a restaurant that is widely considered one of the best in Colombia’s entire coffee triangle.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Step aside Bogota and Medellin, Pereira, nicknamed the Night City, knows how to party. The city’s exciting nightlife centers on avenida Simón Bolivar and Avenida Circunvalar, major thoroughfares with many of the top nightspots such as Yii Bar. Come dance to Colombian rhythms like tropical music, salsa, merengue, and vallenato at Zanzibar.

Active Pursuits

Tapirs and spectacled bears, oh my! A short trip from downtown Pereira puts you in Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados, which is criss-crossed with mountain hiking trails and high altitude lakes, such as Laguna de Otun, a famed trout fishing and recreation spot. Towards Armenia, don’t miss exploring the Cocora Valley, a state park best known as the home of the Quindío wax palm, Colombia’s national tree, which can grow as high as 230 feet.