Day-by-Day on the Coffee Region tour
2020 Tour Dates - as of 2020, we are no longer accepting individual registrations. We will provide tours for groups. The following is an outline of our general tour. Groups can customize and dates are flexible.
This 13-day tour starts in the capital city of Bogota. Bogota offers much to see and do and you will no doubt want to spend a few extra days exploring the city, visiting museums, or climbing Cerro de Monserrate. We will be visiting La Candelaria District – the cultural epicentre of Bogota. You will enjoy the historic, cobblestoned streets, colonial buildings, museums, hotels, bars, 300 year old homes, churches and convents all tumbled together in this vibrant area.
Bogota is at 2625 m/8500 ft, so depending on where you live, you will likely notice the altitude. The tour spends 2 days in Bogota to give you time to acclimatize. You will find the temperatures cool in Bogota (low 20s/mid 60s), perfect for starting your Colombian adventure.
DAY 1 - Bogota
Meet and Greet in the Hotel, Bike Fit, Dinner
We will meet in the early afternoon on Saturday. We will introduce you to the staff, and over a cool beverage, we will distribute the jerseys and Handbooks – a useful guide and memento of the route you will be following over the next 12 days – and answer any questions you may have.
You will have time to chat to your fellow adventurers, and for those who did not bring their own bikes, we will take the opportunity to set you up on your rental bike. That evening, we will transfer by bus to a local restaurant for a scrumptious tapas dinner.
DAY 2 - Bogota
Breakfast, Ciclovia, Lunch, Free Afternoon, Dinner
Our second day starts with an early breakfast in the hotel and then right on our bikes to participate in the weekly Ciclovia. You will be amazed – since the mid 1980s, Bogota has been closing down several of its city streets every Sunday and holidays to allow cyclists, in-line skaters, walkers to move about freely. Up to 2 million people take part in these events which become Festivals in the Candelaria District.
We will take advantage of Ciclovia to do a city bike tour where we will enjoy the incredibly vibrant atmosphere on closed roads, visit a local market and enjoy local entertainment before returning to our hotel. At this point, the bikes will get loaded onto the trailer and our Colombian Backroads staff will depart to drive the bikes overland to the start of our tour in the coffee region.
In the meantime, we will get changed and go to a local restaurant to have ajiaco, a local specialty. This homey potato & corn soup has chicken, corn, avocado and capers to add to it and is a must-eat while in Bogota. The afternoon is free for you to wander around and enjoy all the street entertainment, visit museums (which are free on Sundays), relax, take a nap – whatever you want. We will set a time to meet for dinner in our hotel.
DAY 3 – Bogota to Zipaquira, Cali, Buga
Breakfast, Bus Transfer to Zipaquira, Guided Tour of Salt Cathedral, Bus Transfer to Airport, Lunch, Flight to Cali, Bus Transfer to Buga, Dinner
After another early breakfast in the hotel, we will load our bags into the bus and head out to Zipaquira to visit the not-to-be-missed Salt Cathedral. One of only 3 structures in the world, the Salt Cathedral is one of Colombia’s greatest architectural achievements. Featuring the 14 Stations of the Cross, each station is a tribute to symbolism and mining, culminating in the main nave where a mammoth cross is illuminated. We will hire an English speaking guide to take us through the mine/cathedral.
After our visit, we will return to Bogota and the airport in preparation for our flight to Cali. We will have lunch in the airport.
When we reach Cali, we will transfer to Buga via bus, get settled into our hotel. There may even be time for a swim before dinner in the hotel pool.
Guadalajara de Buga is one of Colombia’s oldest towns founded in 1555. Home of the famous Basilica del Senor de los Milagros, Buga provides a number of interesting walks to observe the architecture. This city sits in a valley bottom and is on the major trade route to the west coast.
DAY 4 – Buga to Roldanillo – 86 km
We will breakfast in the hotel and then set out on our bikes for our first full day of cycling. This day is our longest and also our flattest. We will be travelling through the Valle Del Cauca and will be cycling along the river for much of the way. This area is known for its panoramic views and outdoor activities.
After getting out of town, we have a short distance to travel on the main highway before heading north on a quiet road which will take us through a very agricultural area. We will likely witness sugar cane being harvested.
Our first stop will be for lunch at Rio Frio, just a kilometre off the main road. Continuing north on the highway after lunch we will reach our destination of Roldanillo, a small town famous for the National Paragliding Championships held there in January. Other attractions are the colonial buildings and the Museo Rayo containing the art collection of Colombian artist Omar Rayo.
Our lodging is a hotel on the centre square. This is one of only 2 places where we do not have a pool. You will find the town interesting to explore once you have stored the bike and cleaned up. Dinner is at a local restaurant.
DAY 5 – Roldanillo to Zaragoza – 66 km
You will enjoy a hearty breakfast before we set out for a second full day of cycling. We will continue north on this delightfully quiet but well-maintained road, continuing to pass agricultural lands. Traditionally, this area was inhabited by hunter-gatherers and we will likely find evidence of local potters as well as farmers.
Today’s ride is not quite as flat as our first day, but we are not faced with any major climbs. Cartago is a major centre that we will pass through on our way to the small town of Zaragoza. There are many artisans in this area and it is particularly known for its embroidery and weaving.
Our hotel is a resort on the outskirts of Zaragoza. Watch out for the resident parrot – although very pretty, viewing - not touching, is advised. Time allowing, we will visit an embroidery workshop in Cartago where you can see how labour-intensive this process is. We should still have time for a refreshing dip in the pool before dinner at the hotel.
DAY 6 – Zaragoza to Pueblo Tapao – 48 km
Following our breakfast in the hotel, we will re-trace our steps back to the round-about where we will head off to the east and into the first of the hills that we will encounter on our route. We will see much more varied terrain and vegetation today as we start to enter into the real coffee growing region and the district of Quindio.
We will pass a number of small towns before we reach our lunch location near Montenegro. After lunch, it is a short jaunt to our hotel, and just 300 metres from the entrance to a popular theme park – National Coffee Park. Take some time to explore the grounds of our hotel, observing the birds and the flowers. Dinner is once again in the hotel.
DAY 7 – Pueblo Tapao to La Espanola – 72 km
Eat a hearty breakfast, as you will be doing some significant climbing today. You will love the start of our ride. After a few kilometres of gentle rolling terrain, we have a lovely descent on a quiet road through the trees before crossing the highway and continuing into the town of La Tebaida. After La Tebaida, the terrain gets a tad more challenging and then we descend again to cross the river and have our lunch at Rio Verde.
After lunch, we have a choice. We can climb to the well-named Buenavista and after going through the town, we will stop for well-deserved cup of coffee at Hacienda San Alberto. Café San Alberto has a unique flavor and aroma due to the geographical and climatic combination of hot winds from the Quindio valley converging with the cold winds of the Colombian central range.
Our short break for coffee will be welcome as we continue to climb on these quiet roads and then we are rewarded with a wonderful descent down through Rio Verde once more, and the final kilometres to our hotel, another rural example of lodging.
For those who would prefer a different cultural experience, we can visit the Bamboo Centre and have a guided tour (Spanish only) through the grounds. We will then return through Rio Verde and back along part of the road we came in on to our hotel. Again we will be treated to a dip in the pool before dinner at the hotel.
DAY 8 – La Espanola to Boquia – 34 km
Today’s route is short because our day is full of activities. Starting off with breakfast, we will head out on the road towards Armenia. This Zona Cafetera, the coffee growing region of Colombia, is designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The volcanic soil is perfect for coffee cultivation and the topography provides the perfect cycling challenge.
Our first visit will be to a coffee growing station. We will have a guided tour of the plantation and experience the entire process from seedlings to roasting.
After our coffee experience and lunch, we will have a very relaxing stop at Armenia’s 15 hectare botanical garden which has the best mariposario (butterfly house) in the region. In the shape of a giant butterfly, the butterfly house contains up to 50 different species of butterfly. Make sure to climb the 22 metre look-out for a wonderful view of the guadua (bamboo) forest, orchids, ferns and palms. You will see hundreds of birds and maybe even a sloth or two. We will be guided by a volunteer.
We continue through Armenia and we will stop at a restaurant in town. After lunch, we continue up and down before joining the main highway going north. The last 4 kilometres is a wonderful descent into Boquia/Salento after turning off the main highway.
Our hotel is a ranch and tonight we will be treated to dinner and local entertainment provided by dancers all from this area. You will be enchanted by the rhythm and be prepared to kick up your heels at the urging of this local troupe.
DAY 9 – Flex Day
We have planned this day as a “rest” day and you have a few options of things to do:
· Rest at El Rancho, do laundry, read, hang-out
· Ride up the hill, through Salento and continue onto Cocora (14.5 km), ride back to El Rancho (29 km total)
· Ride in the van to Salento, take a Jeep Willy to Cocora, do a 10 km guided hike (approx), return via Jeep Willy
· Hike up the hill to Salento, have coffee and lunch, shop, walk back
Or some variation of these options.
Please note – you are on your own for lunch. Dinner will be at the ranch.
DAY 10 - Boquia to Cerritos – 75 km
Remember that wonderful downhill you had to the ranch on day 8. Well, it is now pay-back time. Your ride today starts with that little climb out of the valley and back up to the highway. Accessing the highway north is a bit tricky and then accessing the turn-off to Filandia is also tricky as we have to go north first and then turn around in order to take the exit to Filandia. It is claimed that because of its architecture, landscapes, and sociability of the locals, Filandia is one of the most beautiful and attractive towns in Colombia. It is certainly a traditional coffee town and very charming.
After the big climb to the highway, and more climbing to Filandia where we will stop for coffee, and outside of which we will stop at a local weaving shop, then after a little bit more climbing, we are treated to a wonderful descent into Quimbaya and Alcala where we will stop for lunch.
The afternoon ride is still up and down on some very pleasant backroads, until we reach the highway on the outskirts of Pereira. We will skirt along the western edge of the city before making our way to Cerritos, a suburb of Pereira.
DAY 11 – Cerritos to Anserma – 58 km
For our penultimate day of cycling, we start off gently after our workout the day before and have a lovely ride descending into a valley which is flanked on both sides by coffee plantations and other crops. We are travelling through a very rural area again, much like our first day, but with a few more hills.
You will enjoy beautiful vistas as we travel through this valley and as we ascend the final hill to Anserma. Anserma is much like Salento in topography – located at the top of a hill, it is a very walkable little community. We will enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
DAY 12 – Anserma to Chinchina – 62 km
This is the other day where breakfast will be outside of the hotel. We will have breakfast at a local restaurant before setting off for our final day of cycling. Enjoy the wonderful descent off Mt. Anserma.
We go a little ways along the highway we came in on before turning off on a backroad to head to Risaralda. You will be amazed at the view to be had here and your journey for most of this day will feel a little like being in the jungle – the vegetation is lush through this mainly farming area.
After another wonderful descent, we will cross the Rio Cauca for the last time, and stop in La Rochella for lunch. After lunch, of course, we have to climb out of the valley and make our way through more farming country to reach Chinchina.
Chinchina is known as Colombia’s coffee heart. There is a coffee factory here and a research centre. Our hotel is a couple of kilometres out of town and be prepared for the steep little driveway. You will be ready for fresh fruit juice and a swim in the pool before dinner
DAY 13 – Chinchina to Pereira, Bogota
Breakfast, Bus transfer to Pereira, Flight to Bogota
The day starts very early for our driver and Oscar who depart with the van and the bikes to drive back to Bogota. We have a more leisurely start to the day with breakfast in the hotel and a last wander around.
We will transfer by bus to the airport and with a little luck, will have time for a little tour of Pereira on our way to the airport before having to check in.
When we arrive in Bogota, we will say our good-byes to those who are leaving to return home or to carry on to other destinations in Colombia.
Anyone who has brought their own bike, the van should be back at the hotel we started in (and where you have left your bike boxes) by late afternoon.