Top Hotels in the Coffee Triangle – Colombia

South of Medellin farmers found the perfect conditions for growing some of the world’s best coffee. Colombian coffee from this area is so good and the coffee culture so intact that UNESCO inscribed the region as the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia. More commonly called the Coffee Triangle, this area has become popular with travelers because of the laid back people, beautiful landscapes and (of course) the coffee. Here are our top hotels in the Coffee Triangle of Colombia including hotels in Manizales, Pereira and Quimbabya.

Top Hotels in the Coffee Triangle of Colombia

Hacienda Buenavista near Quimbaya

When this five room boutique hotel opened in 2014 it ushered in a whole new level of accommodation in the coffee triangle: exclusive, romantic, stylish, modern, gourmet, adults-only. Find out more in our complete review of Hacienda Buenavista.

Hacienda Buenavista - Coffee triangle, Colombia


Sazagua Hotel & Spa near Pereira

The small city of Pereira isn’t a tourist destination in and of itself (it’s more of a business hub), but Pereira is on the way from Medellin to the heart of the coffee region. The Sazagua, named after a chief of the Quimbaya people who used to live here, is on the outskirts of town where things are still rural and peaceful. The stately elegant hotel, which also offers a pool and a spa, makes a great break in your journey. Brass bathroom fixtures and original tile floors give the rooms a homey feel. Book room number one (pictured below) for even more space and an indoor hammock. The hotel restaurant is so good that people stop by just to eat or to have business meetings over a good meal. Bilingual waiters, a peaceful garden setting and a wide-ranging menu including homemade soups and salads (the Cesar salad was excellent with home-made dressing), pork, fish and lots of beef (the steak au poivre was succulent with a truly peppery sauce) keep everyone happy.

Sazagua Hotel & Spa near Pereira


Hacienda Venecia near Manizales

This working coffee farm offers a range of rooms including shared dorms with the use of a kitchen and private rooms in a restored traditional building called the Main House which dates back more than 100 years. Antique furniture, creaking original wood floors and breezy patios make it easy to relax and live like a coffee baron for a few days. There are no keys and no TVs. A good guided coffee tour, which explains coffee growing and processing, is offered and the owners also have a stable of paso fino horses and rides around the plantation can be arranged for experienced riders. Hiking and bird watching are also offered and there’s a pool. Guests returning from activities are greeted with fresh juice and the kitchen turns out delicious traditional meals. An innovative bamboo gazebo, designed by a local architect, is a great place to relax as the resident peacocks stroll the grounds.

Hacienda Venecia near Manizales


Finca Villa Nora near Quimbaya

This family run country hotel dovetails perfectly with the culture of Colombia’s coffee country. The two story house was built more than 120 years ago and it retains its traditional paint job, wide wrap around veranda and original wood and tile floors. It was loving restored and modernized as a seven room hotel a couple of decades ago and all rooms have private bathrooms and antiques from the original house. The place is perfectly built to catch the breezes and make the most of the bucolic agricultural land and Andes views that surround it. There’s a pool and a sprawling garden favored by all sorts of bird, a free coffee plantation tour is offered and excellent estate-grown coffee and gourmet traditional meals are served.

Finca Villa Nora near Quimbaya


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Where We’ve Been: September 2016 Road Trip Driving Route in Peru & Brazil

We spent July and August traveling in a relatively small area around Cusco and the Sacred Valley in Peru so we logged very few miles. Boy, did we make up for it in September with more than 1,900 miles (3,000 km) driven from Cusco, Peru to Porto Jofre deep in Brazil’s Pantanal area. An additional 550 miles (885 km) were covered by plane from Porto Velho, Brazil up to Manaus in the heart of the Amazon and (a first for us on our Trans-Americas Journey) a 22 hour bus ride from Manaus back to Porto Velho via Brazil’s infamous BR-319 road which is a remote, rough, dirt “highway”. Brazil is big, people. Here’s our road trip driving route for September 2016 in Peru and Brazil.

September 2016 Road Trip Driving Route – Peru & Brazil

Our road trip driving route for the month of September actually began on August 30th when, after nearly two months, we broke away from the Cusco region. From Cusco we drove over the Andes and down to Porto Maldonado in the Amazon where we took a side-journey by boat into the Tambopata Nature Reserve.

We left Porto Maldonado and crossed into Brazil which turned out to be the easiest, fastest and most remote border crossing yet. We knew we were really in the middle of nowhere when the mileage sign near at the border indicated we were 2,217 miles (4,373 km) from Rio de Janeiro. Did we mention that Brazil is big?

Peru Brazil Border miles to Rio road trip driving route

We knew we were going to clock some serious miles in September when we saw this mileage sign at the Peru-Brazil border.

For the rest of the month we crossed the Amazon in one way or another. After crossing the border we visited the surprisingly tidy and pleasant city of Rio Branco where we should have stayed longer. Then we continued on to Porto Velho where we took our plane/bus side-trip to Manaus and back.

Once back in Porto Velho we made a 1,000 mile (1,600 km) bee-line to the Pantanal region where we traversed another notorious road, the Trans-Pantaneira Highway, to reach Porto Jofre where we finally saw jaguars in the wild.

You can see all the action in our drive-lapse video, above, which was shot by our Brinno TLC200 Pro HDR Time Lapse Video Camera which is mounted on the dashboard of our truck. Watch as we cross the Amazon region (minute 4 through 12) where, you will note, much of the landscape, except for a few pockets of protected jungle, has been deforested to make way for large cattle ranches. Minute 13 through the end of the video lets you follow along on the Trans-Pantaneira highway which was so filled with wildlife it was like our a South American Safari.


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Back to the Past – Santa Fe de Antioquia, Colombia

Santa Fe de Antioquia is a popular weekend getaway for paisas (people from the department of Antioquia) who are living in Medellin. They make the 50 mile (80 km) drive from the busy city to go back to the past and enjoy all of the things that have earned this town, founded in 1541, a place Colombia’s elite Pueblos Patrimonio network: colonial architecture and churches, cobblestone streets and a pleasing sense that there’s nothing much to do but grab a beer and soak it all in. You could travel there as a day trip, but we found reasons to stay.

Parque Principal Santa Fe de Antioquia Colombia

Parque Principal in Santa Fe de Antioquia, Colombia.

Getting to Santa Fe de Antioquia

On our way from  Medellin to Santa Fe de Antioquia, which was the first capital of Antioquia province before Medellin took over, we made a quick stop at the picturesque Puente de Occidente (Bridge of the West). When the bridge was finished in 1894, the 950 foot (290 meter) span which crosses the Cauca River, was the longest suspension bridge in South America and the 7th longest in the world. These days the bridge, which is a National Monument, has been restored but only light traffic (motos, small vehicles and foot traffic) is allowed to use it.

Puente de Occident Santa Fe de Antioquia Colombia

Puente de Occidente (Bridge of the West) was the longest suspension bridge in South America when it was completed in 1894.

Exploring Santa Fe de Antioquia

As we mentioned, the main reason to visit Santa Fe de Antioquia is to grab a beer and soak in the Colonial atmosphere. However, we do have a couple of recommendations about two specific things to do and see in town.

Plaza Santa Fe de Antioquia

One of many picturesque plazas in Santa Fe de Antioquia.


colonial architecture Santa Fe de Antioquia Colombia

Restored and preserved Colonial architecture like this is one reason that Santa Fe de Antioquia is part of Colombia’s Pueblos Patrimonio group of historic towns.

Jorge Robledo Ortiz is a lauded Colombian poet and the founder of Santa Fe de Antioquia. Not surprisingly, there’s a charming little museum dedicated to his life,  accomplishments and local legacy. For a glimpse or artists shaping modern Santa Fe de Antioquia, head for La Comedia. This bar and restaurant is a magnet for creative types and doubles as a movie theater. It’s a relaxed place to eat, drink, people watch, enjoy the excellent soundtrack and appreciate the rotating art shows.

Santa Barbara church Santa Fe de Antioquia Colombia

Santa Barbara church in Santa Fe de Antioquia.

colonial architecture Santa Fe de Antioquia Colombia

Colonial architecture, lovingly preserved, in Santa Fe de Antioquia.

In Santa Fe de Antioquia we stayed at the Hotel Mariscal Robledo which is located on a small plaza.It’s been in business since 1946 which explains why the place is filled to the rafters with antiques (or old dusty junk, depending on your POV). They offer a wide range of rooms, a big, inviting pool, and a tranquil atmosphere. But don’t take it from us. Actors Tara Reid and John Leguizamo are up on the celebrity guest wall, so there’s that.


A church view from one of the patios at the Hotel Mariscal Robledo in Santa Fe de Antioquia.

pool Hotel Mariscal Robledo Santa Fe de Antioquia Colombia

The pool at the Hotel Mariscal Robledo in Santa Fe de Antioquia.

Piasas Santa Fe de Antioquia Colombia

Local paisas hanging out in Santa Fe de Antioquia.

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Seven Down, 43 to Go: Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants

One of the great things about writing about travel is that it often intersects with food. Food is a universal experience (everybody’s gotta eat) and trying new types of food is a major reason why people travel in the first place. Our experiences of places are certainly enriched by the chefs, restaurants and meals we encounter, so with the release of the 2016 list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants last week we wanted to tell you about the seven restaurants on the list that we know well. We assure you that we’re doing our best to get to the other 43…

Central – Lima, Peru

This restaurant, helmed by Virgilio Martínez and Pía León, was voted #1 on the list for the second year in a row so it’s fitting that we start our list here. During a 13 course “Mater Ecosystems” tasting menu lunch at Central a few months ago it was easy to see why the place gets so many accolades. Inspired by the wide range of ecosystem and elevations in Peru, which produce a corresponding richness of ingredients and cooking styles, our meal included ingredients like juice made from the pulp that surrounds cocoa beans, quinoa colored with cactus fruit, and dried potatoes all masterfully combined into dishes with names like “Spiders on a Rock” and “Marine Soil.” It’s edible art and the kitchen tweezers are obviously getting a workout.

Bonus: whet your appetite with Martínez’s new book “Central” which features delectable photography by Nicholas Gill.

Central Restaurant - Lima, Peru

Restaurate Leo – Bogotá, Colombia

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: love it or hate it, the food being prepared at Restaurante Leo by Chef Leonor Espinosa is some of the most daring and creative cuisine in this rising culinary capital. And we’re not the only ones who think so. Leo is at #16 this year, way up from its debut on the list at #33 in 2015. Go for the tasting menu instead of ordering ala carte to get a real sense of the scope and scale of Chef Espinosa’s vision of modern Colombian cuisine made by honoring and preserving traditional ingredients and techniques. Find out more about Leonor Espinosa in our story about the queen of Colombian cuisine.

Restaurate Leo - Bogota, Colombia

Osso Carneceria y Salumeria – Lima, Peru

Rezo Garibaldi did not open Osso in order to get on any lists. He opened Osso so he could put his considerable skills as a butcher and meat lover to good use. He just ended up on everybody’s favorite food lists along the way. This year Osso is at #27 on the list of Latin America’s 50 Best, a well-deserved jump up from #34 last year. But Renzo is not resting on his laurels. Read our story about  Renzo’s next meaty moves to find out what he’s about to debut in Lima.

Osso Carneceria y Salumeria - Lima, Peru

Andres Carne de Res – Chia, Colombia

Colombia’s ultimate party restaurant, which hangs on at #49 on this year’s list (down from #42 in 2015), is best enjoyed with a group of meat and booze loving friends. Don’t bother with the city location. It’s not the same. Instead, head to the original, cacophonous location in nearby Chia where up to 3,000 revelers can be fed and watered at the same time. First, read our story about how to survive Andres Carne de Res.

Andres Carne de Res - Bogota, Colombia

Harry Sasson – Bogotá, Colombia

This place, at #40 in the 2016 rankings (down from #24), was arguably the first fine dining option in Bogotá and its creator, Harry Sasson, is the country’s original celebrity chef. Located in a renovated mansion which looks olde timey from the front but thoroughly modern inside, the restaurant has spectacular architecture and a vast menu. For grand dining it’s the place. Read more about Harry Sasson and his iconic flagship restaurant in our story about Colombia’s original celebrity chef.

Harry Sasson - Bogota, Colombia

Isolina – Lima, Peru

We were a little surprised (but happy) to see this place as a new addition to the 2016 list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants at a respectable #41. Located in the arty yet sophisticated Barranco neighborhood of Lima, this two story restaurant is a great place to try traditional dishes involving organs (though less adventurous fare is on the menu as well). With so much to try and such huge portions it’s a good idea to bring friends and order family style. Cocktails are stellar as well. Isolina is casual and unassuming but the food is solid and like nothing you’ll get at other name restaurants in Lima.

Isolina Restaurant - Lima, Peru

Criterion – Bogotá, Colombia

Jorge and Mark Rausch are an influential culinary duo in Colombia and their gleaming Criterion restaurant, on this year’s list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants at #29, (down from #18 last year), is a cornerstone of Bogotá’s Zona G fine-dining area where they let their French training shine. Read our story about Criterion for more.

Criterion Restaurant - Bogota, Colombia

Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants hit list

While every restaurant on the 2016 list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants is compelling, here are the list makers we’re most excited about checking out in the near future.

A Casa do Porco – Sao Paulo, Brazil

As the name would imply, this place, which debuted on the 2016 list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants at #24, is all about pork. Our love of pork (we did the pig), that extremely high debut and big praise from Osso’s Renzo Garibaldi make this a must-stop for us.

D.O.M. – Sao Paulo, Brazil

The highest ranking restaurant in Brazil, at #3 on the 2016 list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants and #11 on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, draws inspiration from the Amazon and presents the results to eager city eaters. We can’t wait to see what that’s all about.

Gustu – La Paz, Bolivia

Danish chef Kamilla Seidler, who was also named the Best Female Chef in Latin America for 2016, is at the helm of Gustu. At #14 on the list, Gustu is part Bolivian food revolution and part philanthropic endeavor in a city not necessarily known (yet) for gastronomy.

Maido – Lima, Peru

Hot on the heels of Central is Maido where Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura’s Nikkei cuisine (a combination of Peruvian and Asian) holds down the #2 position.


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