There is nothing poignant about generic tourism, so I’m not going to write much about it – the photos will suffice. However, Armenia does have a bunch of attractions, mainly natural, plus the ubiquitously advertised “Parque Del Cafe”. Unless you have an infant who’s enamoured with waiting in huge queues for average entertainment, don’t go there.
To be honest, you should skip this post unless you’re the kind of person who travels by googling things like “top things to do in Quindio”.
The first thing we did was take a taxi to Salento, the first European settlement in Quindio. Lily’s head was in my lap, so I used it as a rest for my notepad. When we got up to the town it was full of travellers, perhaps the highest density of tourists I’ve ever seen in Colombia. Local shops and hotels in the region cater for tourists’ affinity for chintz. It was the first (and last) time I’ve seen a Miller Lite advertised.
Or “lechona light”, for that matter, but that’s what the sign said. To give an idea of how unlikely it is that you could sell a “light” version of lechona, it’s made by emptying a pig skin, getting rid of the bones, mincing the meat together with rice, peas and spices, then taking the mix and putting it back inside the pig skin before putting that in the oven. The result is a stuffed pig. How can that be light?
Lechona “light”. Those sunglasses are fat-free
From Salento we took a Willy (what they call their jeeps) up to the Cocora Valley to go horseriding. Our horses were strong and excitable, galloping when prompted and seemingly happy enough. They clattered clumsily up the steep rocky inclines and across romantic riverbeds. Nature, danger, romance, vistas and exercise – amazing. Do it if you’re in the area.
We had a chaperone jog along beside us, which was a bit awkward, but considering I have no idea how to ride a galloping horse (at one point while riding I was bucked up in the air and was no longer touching the horse at all), it was good to have a minder.
Near the top we dismounted and walked up through a cloud forest full of 65m tall palm trees. Our destination was a mockingbird reservation. There’s little to say other than what the following video can cover. Just that if you’re thinking of going, do – again, it’s totally worth it.
Oh, and don’t wear shorts when riding horses. By the time we got back down to where we’d rented them, my leg hair had either been pulled out or rubbed into tiny dreads. We returned the horses, then got in a Willy that didn’t have a working speedometer, fuel gauge or thermometer back down the hill to Salento. We ate, climbed the famous staircase up to see the view over the town (not great, not bad) and went shopping. The town’s artisanal craft stores lining the main road are designed meticulously around their themes, with enough imagination to avoid the traditional tackiness of commerce-focused tourist shops.
A quick note on prices – it was a $120,000 COP (£25) return taxi from hotel to Salento. For the same price in La Barra, we got a night’s stay and three meals (45,000), 2 motorbike rides (24,000), 2 coco locos (30,000), 4 beers (12,000), a coconut snack (2,000) and a half bottle of biche (7,000). Everything in this region is made expensive by the sheer number of tourists here. Watch your wallet.
The view over Salento
Again, there’s little to say about this. Just look at the photos. But butterfly houses in general are stunning places. Butterflies are a privilege to see, and everyone should get to visit a butterfly house at least once. You put a bit of orange juice on your fingers, the the butterflies come and land on you. What’s not to love? The only downside is the botanical garden force you to do a 90 minute tour of their reservation first, with a lot of talk about trees that nobody in our group appeared to care about at all.
On the other hand, the Parque del Café was rubbish. It’s also misnamed, because it has nothing to do with coffee. If you understand that it will be rubbish before you go, it’s possible to have a good time. Prepare yourself for 30 minutes waiting for a 1 minute ride. The only thing we loved was the go cart racetrack. Lily and I absolutely killed it, coming in 1st and 2nd place.
Just after getting drenched on the water rollercoaster. Excuse the awful suncream stains on my shirt!
All in all, the adventures we took in coffee land cost us 500,000 COP in extras, including one terrible meal for 110,000. Plus 435,000 for the hotel, plus 872,000 in cash, plus 100,000 for Parque del Cafe means these 4 days cost us 1,907,000 COP (about £400).