Manizales: A Fascinating City in Colombia’s Zona Cafetera
A traveler's guide to Manizales, a beautifully set city in Colombia's coffee region. Tips on where to stay, best things to do, top attractions, and safety advice.
Manizales is a mountainous city near Nevado del Ruiz volcano and coffee center of Colombia. It's also an important base for tourists as it lies in the Zona Cafetera and serves as a gateway to Los Nevados National Park, the town of Salento and nearby Cocora Valley.
All points mentioned above make local people proud, and the combination with beautiful surroundings creates a special atmosphere in the city.
Manizales should be on everyone's Colombia travel itinerary, while exploring this amazing country. In this quick city guide we provide you with traveler's tips on where to stay, what to do and how to get there.
Where to Stay IN MANIZALES
When short on time, choosing where we are going to spend the next night is a quick process of mostly reading other guests reviews and comparing price and quality.
That's how we ended up in the Golden Frog Mountain Hostel which is conveniently located in the city center just about 10 minutes walk from the cable car station.
Rooms in the hostel are exceptionally clean, showers have hot water (which is surprisingly not that common here in Colombia), and there is a really nice kitchen for guests where you can prepare your meals and save some money.
The personnel is very helpful and speaks good English which makes everything much easier if you don't speak Spanish. T
he hostel became our base for exploring the area and helped us safely store our stuff while trekking in Los Nevados National Park. What surprised me the most was the strong and reliable wifi which helped me a lot when backing up some of my photos.
The hostel is traveler friendly and belongs among one of the most classic backpacking options we've stayed so far during our travels in Colombia.
People can hang in the main lobby area, chill out in the hammocks or relax on the roof terrace.
Those features don't make it a party hostel though, and we enjoyed a calm sleep here before and after our hike in Los Nevados.
What to Do AND SEE
The city of Manizales is set in beautiful landscape scenery and offers lots of things to do for every type of traveler.
Would you like to swim in hot springs, climb the glaciers on nearby volcanoes, or would you rather have one of the best coffees in the world?
If you've answered yes to any of those questions, then Manizales is the place to go, and every good hotel or hostel will help you to arrange one or multi-day activities.
The city's downtown offers nice and clean one-way street Carrera 23, where you can leisurely stroll and later visit Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Rosary (corner of Carrera 22 and Calle 23).
Also Monumento a los Colonizadores and ride by Cable Aereo are a must when visiting Manizales.
When in Manizales, visiting Salento is a must for coffee lovers and for those who want to see unique wax palms, the same goes for hikers heading to Los Nevados National Park.
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How to Get Around
Most tourists will arrive at the modern Bus Terminal (Terminal de Transportes) located on the main road.
From there, it's easy to use the cable car to get to the city center on the top of the hill where you can find a large number of accommodation options. One ride costs COP 1 900.
Other options are taking a taxi or using a public bus. Just make sure when you take a taxi to tell the driver to use taximeter or ask for the price if they don't have one.
How to Get There
For us, coming to Manizales from Jardin was a 7 hours-long and painful drive by van with an unexpected transfer in La Pintada.
But the majority of tourists will usually arrive from either Bogota or Medellin which still takes several hours, but the bus is much more comfortable. Another option is to fly in by plane as there is La Nubia airport 8km away from the city.
Manizales is a university city with lots of students and is considered safe in general. Watch out for the petty theft and avoid certain areas after dark.
You can also read our useful article about Staying Safe in South America.
Weather & What to Pack
When packing before your visit consider bringing a good waterproof jacket as there are only two seasons in Manizales - wet and dry. The average temperature is around 17°C throughout the year which makes it a very nice place to stay and live.
Here are 5 essential things to pack for Manizales.
Waterproof Drybags | To keep your valuables and electronic safe.
Lip Balm with Sunscreen | Lips are also exposed to weather, including the sun and cold, dry air.
We've also written an in-depth South America packing list where you will find more useful tips and advice on what to pack.
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