The 10 Most Beautiful Villages in Colombia

Planning a motorcycle tour in Colombia?

There really is no better way to escape the chaos of the cities than saddling up and hitting the highway, forging onward as the traffic dwindles and then finally disappears, and empty roads open up before you, inviting a world of endless possible adventures. Of course, not all of us can afford to ride without plan or purpose. You’ll most likely want to map out the majority of your route, including picking out your stopovers, many of which will end up being small towns. In truth, many of Colombia’s small towns have little to offer besides a cheap feed and a bed for the night. On the other hand, there are some truly delightful rural pueblos and small towns which make worthy destinations in their own right.

The 10 villages on this list were picked for their aesthetic appeal and inviting, small town atmosphere. So, start planning your dream ride and be sure to visit at least a few of Colombia’s 10 Most Beautiful Small Towns.

1. BARICHARA, SANTANDER

Barichara (population 7,063) was an obvious choice for the top spot. Immensely atmospheric and visually stunning, the laidback charms of Barichara are apparent the second you set foot on its cobblestone streets. A compact colonial hillside town, Barichara sits atop a plateau overlooking the Suarez River canyon. The steep, narrow streets are lined with whitewashed, terracotta-roofed homes, and the further up you climb, the more the views of the surrounding valley intensify. Although Barichara has its share of fancy boutique hotels, it doesn’t feel like a tourist trap. Life moves at a leisurely pace, the locals are genuinely welcoming, and once the day-trippers are gone, evenings in the plaza are serene and romantic.

Barichara is 20km from the adventure tourist mecca of San Gil and 118km from the state capital, Bucaramanga.

 

2. JARDÍN, ANTIOQUIA

 

A lovely, unassuming gem couched in the emerald green hills of Antioquia, Jardin (population 14,777) is among the most visually alluring townships in the Zona Cafetera, or Coffee Triangle. With brightly painted buildings, a lively plaza perfect for people watching and plenty to see and do in the surrounding countryside, Jardin is slowly attracting a trickle of visitors straying from the gringo trail. The cable car ride to the Alto de las Flores mountain peak culminates in fantastic views Jardin’s verdant countryside.

133km south of Medellin, Jardin has enough to tempt you into several days’ stay, with excursions to nearby coffee farms, waterfalls and prime birdwatching habitats.

 

 
 

3. JERICÓ, ANTIOQUIA

 

Another overlooked town in the Zona Cafetera, Jericó (population 12,100) is mainly visited by domestic pilgrims journeying to the hometown of Colombia’s first saint, Mother Laura Montoya. Religious significance aside, Jerico is quite possibly the most picture-perfect pueblo in Antioquia (and maybe even all of Colombia), its storybook-like appearance materialising out of the misty mountains, a village-scape of elaborate old churches and immaculate streets lined with Crayola-coloured houses and flower-draped balconies.

Don’t leave without hiking up Cerro Las Nubes for a soul-stirring view of the southern Antioquian mountain ranges.

4. GUATAPÉ, ANTIOQUIA

 

Guatapé (population 5,600) is hardly a hidden secret, but as a contender for the most colourful town in Colombia, this curious little village on the shores of a massive man-made lake was bound for backpacker fame.

It’s almost impossible to pinpoint Guatape’s architecture to any particular time period. There’s a fantasy-like, Legoland quality to the block-shaped houses in meticulous, symmetrical rows, all hand-painted in bold colours and embellished with ornate frescoes (called ‘zocalos) depicting everything from family professions to forest creatures to favourite pop culture icons. Guatape’s primary attraction is the hike to the top of the nearby La Piedra Peñol, a 2,135m high monolith. 650 stairs criss-cross the bizarre-looking rock like a gigantic zipper. Reach the top and you’ll be rewarded with a rather stupendous view of the Guatape Reservoir’s meandering waterways and islands.

Guatapé is an easy two hour, 83km day trip from Medellin.

 

 
 

5. PIJAO, QUINDIO

 

Coffee tourism has swept through to the Colombian countryside in a big way, but has so far passed right over Pijao (population 10,250), an impossibly pretty little town where life feels simpler, and visitors are sure to share a few cups of arabica brew with the irrepressibly welcoming locals.

Despite being relatively unknown to the outside world, Pijao was the first South American town to join the ‘Cittaslow’ or ‘slow city’ movement, a community-based movement focusing on sustainability and preserving cultural heritage. Pijao is well worth a detour for serious coffee enthusiasts, with some of the best plantation tours and finca homestays found in nearby countryside.

 

6. VILLA DE LEYVA, BOYACÁ

 

Largely intact colonial towns are somewhat of a rarity in Colombia, which makes Villa de Leyva (population 16,984) all the more enchanting. Founded in 1572, the entire town was declared a national monument in 1954 and has remained perfectly preserved ever since, with no modern architecture detracting from its beautifully whitewashed Spanish buildings.

The focal point of the town is the Plaza Mayor. 14,000 square metres wide and completely covered in cobblestone, the largest square in Colombia is a stunning sight, framed by immaculate 16th century mansions.

Curiously, one of Villa de Leyva’s most visited attractions is not from the colonial period at all. The vaguely Gaudi-inspired Casa Terracotta just outside town is a whimsical, wonky construction made entirely from clay.

160km from Bogota, Villa de Leyva is a popular weekend escape from the city.

7. SALAMINA, CALDAS

 

Salamina (population 18,740) is a quaint coffee country town. For now, it remains unconcerned with catering to the whims of tourists and is just happy to be itself – a sleepy, deeply traditional town which just happens to boast some of the most beautiful heritage architecture of any Colombian pueblo. Coffee growers who struck wealth in the early days decorated their homes with elaborate woodwork, embellishing the doorways, balconies and window frames that give Salamina its distinctive aesthetic.

The main landmark is the all-white church, an ivory tower looming large over Salamina’s pastel-hued homes and colourful plaza.

Hot travel tip – the giant wax palms of the Valle del Cocora, Salento’s most famous tourist attraction, also grow prolifically in a valley near the village of San Felix. About 30km outside of Salamina, here you have a good chance of having the company of the trees entirely to yourself.  

 

 
 

8. MOMPOX, BOLÍVAR

 

Once a thriving port town, plonked on an island in the middle of the mighty Rio Magdalena, when the trading boom came to an end in the 19th century, Mompox seemed to simply become trapped in time, forgotten by the outside world for generations. Much of Mompox has changed little since the colonial days. It was granted World Heritage protection in 1995.

Today, Mompox is experiencing a second wave of prosperity, as tourists from Cartagena (136km to the south east) flock to stroll the nostalgia-laden stone streets of a town that resembles a Hollywood period film set, or Gabriel García Márquez’ magical, make-believe settlement of Macondo. A few of the riverside merchant mansions have been converted into bars and boutique hotels, while the silversmith workshops along Calle Real del Medio are an atmospheric highlight.

 
 

10. MONGUÍ, BOYACÁ

 

Sitting at a breathtaking 2,900m above sea level, Monguí (population 5,000) is an idyllic highland pueblo. Built on the side of a mountain, practically every corner of the town has panoramic views of the valley below. A 17th century Franciscan monastery dominates the plaza, where local farmers in their ruanas (traditional woollen ponchos) congregate to sell fresh produce. The 17th century Calicanto Bridge is watercolour-painting-picturesque, constructed from a concoction of clay, lime and bull’s blood.

The 20km road from Sogamoso is a ascends steeply through truly beautiful mountain scenery. Mongui is also a great base for exploring the surrounding paramo (Andean tundra landscape).

 

9. LA PLAYA DE BELEN, NORTE DE SANTANDER

 

La Playa de Belen (population 8,546) is a squeaky clean village with just a few streets leading to a miniature plaza dominated by the two white towers and golden domes of the San Jose church. Everything in the village – the houses, streets, sidewalks and even the potted wall plants decorating the sides of buildings – have been perfectly planned and pristinely maintained. What makes Playa truly remarkable is its otherworldly setting in a valley surrounded by undulating, weathered rock formations.

Just a few minutes outside of town is the incredible Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area, a geological wonder made up of rugged rows of erosion-worn brownstone pedestals and columns.

The 269km route from Mompox to La Playa through dry canyons and lush river valleys is one of the most spectacular rides in northern Colombia.

RENT A MOTORCYCLE IN COLOMBIA:

Colombia moto tours

 
 

Colombia – Home of the World’s Happiest People

Ask a random person what the Colombian people are most famous for, and the answer may well depend on whether they’ve met many Colombians in their time.

Someone well acquainted with a Colombiano or two might tell you that Colombians are some of the most irrepressibly friendly folk you’re ever likely to meet. They might describe your stereotypical Colombian as energetically social, outgoing and a little boisterous at times. This ‘typical’ Colombian is passionate when speaking their mind yet almost invariably warm and polite, deeply affectionate among friends and kind to strangers. The Colombian loves to party, venerates and adores their family, and is so enthusiastic about life in general their non-Colombian friends can occasionally find them exhausting.

In other words, Colombians, as a whole, are a pretty damn happy bunch of humans.

But don’t just take our word for it.

There’s hard, scientific evidence that proves Colombians are some of the happiest people on earth.

 

COLOMBIA: HAPPINESS WORLD CHAMPIONS

 

The annual Gallup International poll attempts to rank the overall happiness of a country’s population by asking questions like: As far as you are concerned, do you personally feel happy, unhappy or neither happy nor unhappy about your life?” Whether this question is really an accurate way to measure human happiness on a collective scale is up for debate, but it seems to work well for the Colombians.

Colombia has topped the rankings for the World’s Happiest Country several times in the last few years. Most recently, they were declared the planet’s most contented citizens in 2016. In the last survey conducted in 2017, Colombia narrowly missed out on first place to the Fijians, who we’ll readily admit are worthy competitors in the World Happiness stakes.

BUT WHY ARE COLOMBIANS SO HAPPY?

 

If you’ve been to Colombia, you’ll have quickly discovered just how outwardly cheerful, positive, welcoming, and at times downright exuberant the vibe is in much of the country. Even in a big, seemingly stressful city like Medellin, you can walk the streets and expect to be greeted with genuine smiles, polite curiosity and affable conversation wherever you go.

In Medellin, I poised the question to a local Paisa. “Why are you Colombians so damn happy all the time?”

TINY TRIUMPHS IN TRYING TIMES

 

Not so long ago, life wasn’t so easy for my Paisa friend. In fact, growing up as a young man in 90s Medellin wasn’t just tough, it was downright dangerous. Even before the drug war broke out, Colombia was already weighed down by decades of conflict and political unrest. For generations of Colombians, poverty, powerlessness and the ever-present threat of violence were part of everyday life.

My Paisa friend explained that trauma and grief are an inextricable part of the Colombian collective psyche. But both despite this, and because of it, so are resilience and the determination to seek out and treasure every precious moment of enjoyment, humour and love amid times of tragedy. How else, he asked, would we Colombians have survived? “We focus on the good things in life, no matter how small.”  

FIVE MORE REASONS WHY COLOMBIANS ARE SO CHEERFUL

1. NATIONAL PRIDE

 

Colombians are a patriotic bunch and unabashedly vocal when it comes to talking up their country’s natural beauty, it’s magnificent culture and its beautiful people. They’ll tell you all about Colombian coffee (the best in the world), Colombian salsa dancers (the best), Colombian emeralds (also the best in the world) and proudly assure you that Colombian Spanish is the best Spanish spoken in the world.

 
 

2. FOOTBALL

 

Football is more than a game in Colombia, it’s a unifying force. Attend a football match in Colombia and the atmosphere is exhilarating and emotional, as parties erupt across the stadium and fans celebrate with wild abandon. At the 2014 World Cup, Colombia scored their best ever performance, making it to third place. By the way the entire nation carried on, anyone would think the championship was theirs.

 
 

3. HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS

 

With around 20 national holidays each calendar year, Colombians spend a considerable amount of time in celebration mode. A plethora of regional holidays held around the country mean even more excuses for unabashed public revelling. Expect outdoor concerts, colourful parades and public streets inundated by surging masses of enraptured dancers. Some of the most famous festivals include the Barranquilla Carnival, Medellin’s Festival de las Flores, Feria de Cali (Cali’s annual salsa fair) and the Carnaval de Negros y Blanco (Pasto’s extraordinary six day long ‘Black and White’ carnival).

 
 

4. MUSIC AND DANCING

 

Music and dance lie at the very heart of Colombian culture. Colombian music is a vibrant melting pot of Spanish, European, Afro and Latin Caribbean influences, all of which can be heard in the country’s defining genre, cumbia, with its tropical rhythms, hip-switching grooves, explosive horns and stirring vocals. Colombians embrace all styles of Latin music – the more danceable, the better! Passionate, sensual, romantic, energetic and spirited, Colombia’s love of Latin rhythms plays an undeniable role in the shared willingness to embrace the joys of life wholeheartedly.

 

5. OPTIMISM

 

An April 2013 edition of Time Magazine featured a photo of then Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on the cover and the blurb and headline “the Colombian Comeback. From nearly failed state to global player – in less than a decade”. This, in a nutshell is the story of contemporary Colombia. While things are far from perfect, they’re improving at a rate almost nobody predicted less than two decades ago. Colombia is working hard to build up and maintain a politically stable landscape. As it does so, it opens doors to a new era of economic and social progress, and a more self-empowered, optimistic and hopeful Colombia. Colombians are a people of faith – faith in a better tomorrow.

RENT A MOTORCYCLE IN COLOMBIA:

Rent Motorcycle Colombia

 

The Top 10 Paved Roads in Colombia

One of the things we love most about riding in Colombia is there’s barely a road in the country – be it a major highway or a hidden back road – that isn’t either insanely fun to ride, incredibly scenic, or both.

While many adventure riders come to Colombia for the challenge of pitting man and machine against miles of untamed dirt, for riders who want nothing more than to glide over smooth, sweeping, sealed tarmac for hours on end, this post is for you.  

For Mike Thomsen, el jefe at Motolombia, naming his 10 favourite paved roads in Colombia took a lot of deliberation. So many of Colombia’s best long-distance rides are on well-maintained, sealed roads, meaning you can easily extend your twisty fix for days without ever running out of pavement.

To pick out the best paved routes for world class, knee-scraping motorcycle riding in Colombia, we’ve narrowed our selections down to routes between roughly 100 and 200km. Depending on how you travel, they might make up just a part of your day’s touring, but they’re certain to stand out as high points in your memory.  

 

1. MARIQUITA TO CHINCHINA VIA ALTO DE LETRAS

 

140km

 

Starting in the town of Mariquita in the State of Tolima, this ridiculously steep route takes you through a mountain pass known as Alto de Letras. Alto de Letras is notorious among cyclists as reputedly the longest climb in the cycling world, boasting a punishing elevation gain of 3,800m in 80km!

For those tackling the endless ups-and-downs of the route with the benefit of an engine between their legs, the almost sheer vertical climbs and dizzying descents will produce nothing but pure elation. Mariquita sits at 492m altitude, and the first part of the ride is through lush, tropical vegetation. Alto de Letras itself crosses the northern slopes of Colombia’s fifth highest peak, the permanently snow-capped Nevado del Ruiz (5,311m). There’s a sense of otherworldly beauty to the landscape here as you ride through and above the clouds, and with luck you’ll be treated to glimpses of the mighty summit.

Most of the cyclists you’ll see on the way up to the pass will eventually peel off to recharge in Manizales for the night, but the good stuff continues on to Chinchina, with another 60km of tight hairpins and swooping round-the-mountain curves on a highway in near-pristine condition.

2. CAMBAO TO FACATATIVA

 

100km

 

Cambao to Facatativa forms part of a popular route among riders between Manizales and Bogota, avoiding the busier Highway 50 via Honda to the north. Starting from Cambao on the banks of Colombia’s longest river, the Magdalena, this 100km stretch takes you from the fertile river valleys up to the altiplano (high plain), with about 50km of constant, winding, back-and-forth uphill and some truly gorgeous viewpoints of the rural surroundings. Right before you hit the altiplano, things get very twisty indeed, but the beautifully paved road is an action-packed joy to ride all the way until it rejoins Highway 50 50 for the final, relatively flat spurt to Facativa.

 

3. AGUACHITA TO SARDINATA VIA LOS ESTORAQUES

 

100km

 

This rarely visited route makes a great detour if you’re heading north out of Bucamaranga. It skirts past the Los Estoraques Unique National Area, known for its semi-desert landscape that includes a long, rugged spine of brownstone columns and pedestals, jutting dramatically out of a dry, dusty valley in the Catumbo River basin. After Los Estoraques, the road gets all kinds of loopy, and with little traffic to contend with, there’s plenty of opportunity for expert level, footpeg-scraping entertainment.  Including a visit in the national park, this route is likely to take you all day. The charming little village of Sardinata is a good place for a night’s stopover.

 

4. SAN GIL TO BUCARAMANGA VIA CHICAMOCHA CANYON

 

100km

 

San Gil has a reputation as Colombia’s adventure sports capital, but perhaps the best adventure it has to offer is the 100km Route 45A to Bucaramanga. The route starts with a 30km uphill climb on its way to the township of Aratoca (1,702m) before beginning its stunning descent into the Chicamocha Canyon. The road weaves and dips its way down to the bottom, and from almost any vantage point, the views are extraordinary, with steep canyon walls rising to meet you at each turn and the Chicacomocha River appearing and disappearing beneath you. To ascend from the canyon requires looping your way around a series of switchbacks, then a bridge crossing over the rapids of the Umpala River. After that there’s a mix of relatively relaxing straights and fast corners – watch out for traffic on the approach to Bucaramanga.

5. PASTO TO LA UNION TO MOJARRAS

 

135km

 

The 30,000km route that makes up the Pan-American Highway is made up of too many epic rides to count, but within Colombia’s borders, we nominate the 135km stretch between Pasto and Mojarras, which takes Highway 25 east out of Pasto and passes through La Union. The Pan-American has some of the most impeccably maintained surfaces in Colombia (with remarkably little traffic to boot) allowing for fast, sweeping turns through a seemingly endless series of delicious curves, interspersed with exhilarating blasts through tunnels carved into steep mountainside as the road drops towards the bottom of an arid canyon. The stark contrast in scenery between the volcano-encircled Pasto (altitude 2,527m) and the dry, desert landscape around Mojarras is an extraordinary testament to the diversity of Colombia’s environment.

 

6. BOGOTA TO VILLAVICENCIO

 

125km

 

Once you escape the grinding traffic of Bogota, there are awesome mountain roads sprouting from every direction. We particularly love the all-sealed route to Villavicencio, which makes a super high gradient climb through the mountains south of Bogota before transforming into a slithery canyon road with lots of dizzying downhill drops on its way to Villavicencio. Villavicencio sits at the foot of a mountain as is known ‘La Puerta la Lano’ or ‘Gateway to the Plains’. Pass Villavo and there’s nothing but flatlands for days straight, as you cross the spectacular Llanos Plains to the Venezuelan border.  

 

7. LA VIRGINIA TO SUPIA

 

125km

 

This ride through lush mountain scenery makes a great day’s exploration if you’re staying in coffee country, as La Virginia is reasonably short spurt from Pereira or Salento. This fun, curvy but not too crazy route takes you through some of the Zona Cafetera’s finest beauty spots, riding next to hillsides verdant with coffee plantations and lush sub-tropical forest. The end point, Supia, is a cute coffee town in the foothills and the perfect place to recharge with a cup of the local brew.

8. MARINILLA TO DORADAL

 

125km

 

This ride starts 50km east of Medellin just past the International Airport. At Marinilla, the traffic peters out and a serpentine highway spreads out before you, delivering over 100km of twisty tarmac, with the occasional bunched-up hairpin section, all set against an incredibly lush, steamy mountain backdrop, dotted with tiny villages that truly reflect life in rural Antioquia. Finally, there’s a relatively straight dash into Doradal, who’s main claim to fame is its proximity to Hacienda Napoles, Pablo Escobar’s former ranch.

 

9. VALDIVIA TO EL HATILLO

 

135km

 

Heading south towards Medellin on Route 25, you’ll meet this beautiful stretch of sealed rural road, high up in the Antioquian mountains. Although the road is narrow, with lots of dark, tree-lined passageways, its countless curves are mostly expansive and sweeping, providing plenty of opportunities to get low down and dirty. Pretty much all above 2,000m altitude, the route takes you through some picturesque, rarely visited towns, where any adventure rider is sure to be a curiosity

 

10. CALDAS TO FREDONIA TO JERICO

 

100km

 

Our final pick is the delightfully convoluted route between Caldas, a lovely rural township 21km from Medellin, to Jerico in southern Antioquia. From Caldas, the highway is relatively fast and straight – the fun begins when the route starts to zig-zag up and down the mountains, with a super-tight, wriggly section to navigate right before Fredonia. From there, the road worms its way south to a bridge crossing over a majestic stretch of the Cauca River. This route encompasses some of the most wild and spectacular backcountry in all of Antioquia.

A Motorcyclist’s Travel Guide to the Zona Cafetera (Colombia’s Coffee Region)

The vast, fertile tract of countryside at the foothills of the Cordillera de los Andes is known as Colombia’s Zona Cafetera (Coffee Zone). Also referred to as the Eje Cafetero (Coffee Axis), and the Coffee Triangle, the area is Colombia’s most important coffee growing region.
Covering the departments of Quindío, Caldas and Risaralda, this once remote backwater has earned a reputation for producing the finest coffee arabica beans in the world.
Mecca for worshippers of the coffee religion, the Eje Cafetero has plenty to offer the unconverted too – lush, mountain landscapes, tiny townships with cute Colonial architecture and some of Colombia’s most magnificent national parks.
For motorcyclists, the Eje Cafetero promises world-class road riding. Take on countless twisties on traffic-free backroads, explore rarely-visited rural villages and visit waterfalls and hot springs, all without leaving the comfort of the tarmac.

GETTING TO COLOMBIA’S COFFEE TRIANGLE

 

With your own set of wheels, getting almost anywhere within the Coffee Triangle is a breeze. Coffee exports have made the Eje Cafetero the most developed region in rural Colombia, and the vast majority of roads here are sealed – no off-road experience necessary!
The regional capital, Armenia is 280km from Bogota, and is an easy, straightforward 2 hours, or roughly 180km from Cali.
Manizales is the closest major city from Medellin. While it’s only 200km south, roadworks, landslides and heavy vehicle traffic mean the journey can sometimes be slow-going. 

WHEN TO VISIT AND WEATHER CONDITIONS

 

Mild temperatures and decent rainfall define the climate year-round, so there’s really no good or bad time to tour the Zona Cafetera.
A typical day will flip flop between warm sunshine and showery patches, plus the occasional heavy downpour. Early in the morning and after rain, beware of low-hanging mist obstructing visibility.
Yes, it does get a little wet here, but the scenery wouldn’t be nearly as vibrant and the coffee not nearly as tasty otherwise.

WHERE TO STAY

MANIZALES

 
 

The capital of Caldas Department, Manizales is one of the three main cities in the Coffee Region, alongside Pereira and Armenia. Overlooked by most tourists who head straight to the villages closest to the plantations, for a taste of ‘big city’ life in coffee country, Manizales is easily the most pleasant of the coffee capitals. Home to around 400,000 residents, Manizales nevertheless enjoys a relaxed and friendly small city vibe and has a handful of handsome Spanish-style Colonial buildings. A university town, Manizales lays claim to the best nightlife in the region.

SALENTO

 
salento-colombia
 

Firmly entrenched on the ‘Gringo Trail’, once sleepy Salento absorbs the majority of tourists visiting the Coffee Triangle, due, in part to its location, 30 minutes from one of the biggest drawcards in the region, the giant wax palms of the Valle de Cocora.
Still, Salento has more than enough charm to hold its own. With looming mountains in the near-distance and coffee plantations stretching all the way to the edge of town, Salento’s streets are lined with white-walled colonial houses, their doors, window frames and balconies painted in whimsical combinations of rainbow-bright colour.
While tourists can sometimes seem to outnumber locals, Salento is hardly Disneyfied. The businesses are locally owned, the natives friendly and the vendors undemanding.
Meeting other travellers and arranging tours is no problem in Salento. Accommodation is plentiful, with many guesthouses able to accommodate gated parking for your moto.

 

FILANDIA

 
 

20km from Salento. Filandia has almost twice the (permanent) population of the aforesaid town yet feels far quieter, slower, and more like itself – unconcerned by the trappings of the backpacker economy. The cheerily painted facades of Filandia’s residences are vivid and varied as the most colourful Salento street. The tourist crowds of Salento can sometimes feel a world away, and visitors will find quickly find themselves easing into Filandia’s languorous pace of life.
Once you’ve done a coffee plantation tour or two, there’s not much to do in Filandia itself other than wander lazily from café to café, and exchange banter with the friendly locals, which is exactly what gives Filandia its irresistible charm.

 

SALAMINA

 
 

While Filandia has its fair share of fans, Salamina’s status as a ‘secret gem’ remains safe for now. An isolated pueblo of some 19,000 souls, Salamina is almost 4 hours from Salento and a 70km journey along a scenic secondary road south from Manizales. Salamina shares the same distinctive heritage architecture as other coffee towns – white walls and rainbow-hued timberwork. Its leafy plaza sits overlooked by an all-white church with a looming ivory tower.
Why go out of your way to see yet another Colonial coffee town?
Salamina may well be the single most beautiful village in the entire region, and is recognised as one of the 17 pueblo patrimonios (heritage towns) by Colombia’s official tourism department.
Secret Tip: 25km east of town, giant wax palms (the very same type that make the Valle de Cocora Salento’s most famous attraction) grow prolifically in an undulating valley near the village of San Felix. While it’s not quite as dramatic as Cocora, you have a good chance of having the company of the trees entirely to yourself.

FINCA AND HACIENDA STAYS

 
 

Coffee fincas (farms) are blanketed across huge swathes of the Eje Cafetero, and for those who want to get a bit closer to the source of their morning espresso, many fincas provide lodging in hacienda style accommodation. Some haciendas are incredibly luxurious, befitting the tastes of the wealthiest of plantation owners, while others are more humble, homestay-like affairs. Some fincas offer free food and lodging in return for volunteer work.

 

MOTORCYCLE TRAVEL IN COLOMBIA’S COFFEE TRIANGLE

 
coffee-stay

Conveniently located, extraordinarily scenic and packed with things to do (from leisurely coffee tastings to intense multi-day hiking excursions) the Zona Cafetera is a great addition to any two-wheeled touring itinerary. the mountain scenery is spectacularly lush and evergreen and no matter where you point your tires, the Andean roads deliver curves till the cows come home.
If you’re inexperienced or not a fan of riding off-road, the Zona Cafetera is perfect. You can easily plan a route sticking exclusively to sealed roads without missing any of the major sights and attractions.
A great introduction to motorcycle touring in Colombia, Motolombia run a 3 Day, all-tarmac Coffee Taster Ride from Cali, stopping in at Salento, Filandia Valle de Cocora, a working coffee finca, hot springs, waterfalls and more.

STILL READING? CHECK OUT THIS TOP SECRET BONUS ROAD WARRIOR’S COFFEE COUNTRY DAY TRIP

 
coffee-road-colombia

While nearly every road in coffee country is as curvaceous as it is scenic, we highly recommend putting a half day aside to take the road less travelled and experience one of the absolute best rides in the region. Between La Virginia (60km north of Salento) and Supía is a smooth and winding blast north along a quiet stretch of Highway 25.
Featured in our Top 10 Paved Roads of Colombia list, this 100km one way trip is tonnes of fun without being overly demanding, with lots of swooping curves and some truly stellar scenery.

 

RENT A MOTORCYCLE IN COLOMBIA:

Rent Motorcycle Colombia

 

 
 
 
  •  

Colombia – One of the Most Biodiverse Countries on Earth

There’s no doubt about it, Colombia has arrived on the global tourism stage in a big way. It’s not just an improved international perspective on safety that’s led to Colombia’s rise as one of the world’s fastest growing tourism destinations. Back in 2008, the Colombian tourism board ran a series of ads touting the country’s cultural, historical and natural wonders.

While many travellers are familiar with Colombia’s cities – the charmingly colonial Cartagena, the stately metropolis of Bogota and the buzzing urban playground of Medellin, it’s Colombia’s still largely undiscovered natural wonders that are perhaps its most valuable tourism assets.

One Nation – Dozens of Unique Ecosystems

 

Biodiversity refers to the variety of and variability of plants, animals and other lifeforms in a given region.

If you were to guess which country claims the title of ‘Most Biodiverse’, and immediately thought of Brazil (the country whose borders contain the majority of the Amazon Rainforest), well, you’d be right.

What far fewer people realise is the country coming in a close second for biodiversity lies right across the Brazilian border. Neighbouring Colombia is home to a confirmed 1,845 species of bird – more than anywhere else on the planet. Colombia is second in variety of plant species, amphibians, butterflies and freshwater fish, third in reptiles and fourth globally in biodiversity of mammals. One in every 10 species of living flora and fauna on record can be found in Colombia.

So how is a country around seven times smaller than Brazil almost comparable in terms of biodiversity? A quick glance at a map yields a compelling explanation.

 

Fringed by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, with an inland border cutting through the Amazon Rainforest, Colombia is carved into several distinct regions by the Andean mountain ranges. Within the country are 53 million hectares of forest and 22 million hectares of savannas, arid zones, wetlands and snow-capped mountain peaks. Its coasts are home to tropical coral reefs, lagoons, mangroves and jungle-flanked beaches. Fourteen per cent of the country is comprised of protected national parks, natural parks and sanctuaries.

 

Why Biodiversity is the Key to Colombia’s Tourism Future

 

Many of Colombia’s least developed areas – the Amazon regions, the Pacific Choco region, and the eastern plains – are also among its most biodiverse. Unfortunately, the biodiversity of these regions is under pressure from industry (particularly mining and deforestation), causing the destruction of wild habitats and disrupting the natural balance of sensitive ecosystems.

There’s little doubt the most remote communities in Colombia are in need of infrastructure, funding and employment opportunities. Now, environmental groups in Colombia are pushing for these regions to embrace their biodiversity and support ecotourism initiatives that help protect diversity rather than industries which contribute to its destruction. With ecotourism among the fastest growing tourism sectors in the world, Colombia is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the boom and conserve its precious environmental resources at the same time.

 

Four of Colombia’s Best Ecotourism Adventures

 

Caño Cristales, Serranía de la Macarena National Park

Possibly the most iconic natural wonder in Colombia, Caño Cristales (known as ‘the River of Five Colours’) is the name given to the Guayabero River tributary, which due to a unique phenomenon caused by the brightly coloured blooms of an aquatic plant called macarenia clavigera, becomes a shimmering rainbow of vibrant colours between June and December each year. While bright pink is the most common colour, the river’s shallow, crystalline waters run with a variety of hues including blue, green, yellow and orange. Outside the season, the park is closed to visitors to allow the surrounding environment to recuperate, and eco protection rules are strictly enforced including mandatory guides, a cap of 200 visitors per day, a ban on sun screen and insect repellent when visiting the water and limited areas where swimming is permitted.

Motolombia visits Caño Cristales once a year on the epic River of the Gods guided off-road expedition, giving you an entirely unique perspective of the park’s ruggedness and isolation beyond the standard tourist trail.

Chingaza National Park

Less than half a day’s ride from Bogota, this enormous National Park makes for both an accessible and challenging expedition through a range of unique Andean ecosystems. Ranging in altitude from 800m to 4,000m, the park encompasses vast swathes of silent paramo wetlands, alpine woodlands and snow-capped mountain ranges. Guided multi-day hikes provide you with the chance to observe rare wildlife such as the jaguar, puma, woolly monkey, mountain tapir and spectacled bear.  

El Cocuy National Park

300km north of Bogota, El Cocuy is perhaps the most visually striking national park in the Colombian Andes. Home to Colombia’s largest glacial land mass, Cocuy’s dramatic landscape is alternately lush and desolate, consisting of wind-swept valleys, glacier-gouged lakes, frozen tundra and mist-shrouded forest. The park offers several trails ranging from day-hikes to endurance-testing weeklong expeditions. Experienced climbers can tackle the permanently icy summits of El Concavo (5,200m) and Pan de Azúcar (5,120 m).

Wildlife Expeditions in Los Llanos

Well off the beaten path, Los Llanos is an area of vast tropical grassland spanning north western Colombia and southern Venezuela. For wildlife enthusiasts, Llanos is perhaps the most productive region in the country for up-close encounters with animal inhabitants including anteaters, anacondas, jaguars, capybaras, caiman, armadillos, capuchins, howler monkeys and ocelots. It’s a veritable birder’s paradise, supporting thriving populations of waterfowl, macaws and birds of prey. The immense size and relative inaccessibility of Los Llanos mean guided excursions are the best way to explore this environmentally and cultural unique Colombian region. Just a few eco-conscious operators organise wildlife and birdwatching focused trips out of the regional capital of Yopal, a 40-minute flight from Bogota.

Written by: Fiona Davies (extreme pillion rider and adventure travel writer)

RENT A MOTORCYCLE IN COLOMBIA:

Rent Motorcycle Colombia