Pereira (Colombia) is a place where Colombian coffee comes from, where the landscape is all mountains, the trees are tall, and the weather fluctuates quite heavily. Each valley is its own small town or city. Some are fairly wealthy, some not so much. The region rates its neighborhoods on a scale of 0 to 5 in terms of quality of life and quite a large portion of the area is unrated.

My friends live in Risaralda, a small town with lovely gated neighborhoods, located not too far from Pereira. Here I had some fantastic vegan food at Semillas Comida Sana. Both Risaralda and Pereira are typical Colombian small towns with mixed architecture, a city square, and street art spread throughout the alleyways. Most people, however, come here to visit the surrounding natural sites, coffee plantations, and hot springs. 

Pereira, Colombia: Mountains, cities, and delicious sweet drinks. View of the rolling hills and tree tops

Venturing up into the hills

A few hours up the mountains, passing many small towns, is Valle Del Cocora (Cocora Valley) in the Central Cordillera of the Andean mountains. In the heart of it is a wonderful restaurant surrounded by mountainous peaks and covered by the kind of greenery I have never seen before. The clouds drift down through the trees creating a peaceful yet chilling atmosphere. Here we had a lovely lunch – arepas, plantains, and fried fish. A must-have is a cup of Canelazo: hot passion fruit juice served over rum or a local liquor with a cinnamon rim if chose to spike it. As the temperature kept going down I had to trade my shorts for pants, and running shoes and ask for a refill on the Canelazo. 

Pereira, Colombia: Mountains, cities, and delicious sweet drinks: two hot passion fruit drinks poured into glass teacups with cinnamon rim

Once the sun set in the early evening we drove down the highway into Salento. This city is known for its colourful buildings which you may have seen gracing airline promotions and postcards. Even after dark this place is bustling with life. The shops are open, music is playing, and people are strolling the streets. Before dinner, we popped into a beer shop to grab a couple of bottles of Bogota’s best beer, BBC, for the walk. Their selection is quite large and the Chapinero Porter definitely made it on my list of favourite beers.

On a Tuesday night, quite a few places were closed early but we came across a strange-looking bar with neon lights in the front room. This exterior was in no way an indication of what was inside. Past the entry, we found a dimly lit magical forest-like passage leading guests to tables around the backyard. This entire space is only lit by candles and a few string lights wrapping around the palm trees. This place is Camino Real and looks very different during the day. On the menu are typical Colombian dishes, a selection of seafood and sausages (I had mine wrapped in bacon). 

Pereira, Colombia: Mountains, cities, and delicious sweet drinks: close of of blue balconies lit up by the street lights

Finding wellness and relaxation

Pereira is rich in minerals and hot springs. Naturally the next day we drove up another mountain to Termales El Otoño, one of the more luxurious spots with a spa, restaurant, cottages, and pool-side service. There are a few different temperature pools with artificial waterfalls. Some pools are lit up at night and some are private to the cottages. While you keep warm in the healing water you can have another cup of Canelazo (I had a few :). You can easily spend a day relaxing here and the view, even from the parking lot, is absolutely stunning.

Termales El Otoño pool with people in it, you can see the mountain in the back of the building

Unfortunately getting to Pereira is not easy. There are very few flights into Pereira daily and the most popular ones are by Viva Air – one of the worst airlines I have ever flown with. But this small airport is currently under expansion, promising more flights and airline types in the near future.

In the gear bag: Fujifilm X-T100 with an XF50mmF2 R WR lens. To see the trip on Instagram look up #xoColombia18

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