EVERYTHING A TRAVELER NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT EXPLORING MANIZALES, COLOMBIA, INCLUDING THE TOP 9 THINGS TO DO + SEE, WHERE TO STAY AND WHAT TO EAT.
We may have decided to head to Manizales because it would finally complete our trifecta of visiting the three Colombian Coffee Region Capitals (the other two are Armenia and Pereira). But by about hour 3 we all agreed this was one super cool city - and one definitely worth checking out if you are a traveler into art, culture, museums, and the great outdoors.
Manizales - aka the "Coffee Capital of the World" - is situated in the middle of the Andes mountain range - meaning lots of hills, epic mountain views and easy access to hiking and biking trails (and lots of wildlife). If you want to mix urban city exploring, including checking out museums, religious buildings and authentic cuisines with fresh air and adventure, then definitely consider adding Manizales to your Colombian travel itinerary.
Below is a complete guide to the vibrant city, as well as the Top 9 Things to See & Do.
MANIZALES, COLOMBIA: YOUR GUIDE TO COLOMBIA’S COFFEE CAPITAL
\\ A Quick History of Manizales
Manizales was founded in October of 1849 by a group of 20 Antioquians (people from the Antioquia region), most of whom were poor farmers looking to find a new place to settle down. This group would become known as The Expedition of the 20.
The early settlers faced harsh conditions - mainly from already established landowners (known as the Compañia) who were not interested in having new neighbors. Eventually, the local government agreed to give the land to the settlers and by the end of the year they had chosen to name the new town Manizales (mani = a gray granite rock that is commonly round in the region's rivers).
By the 1900s the city was a thriving community and an important junction for local trading. Two major events helped shape the city into what it is today. The first was the Great Fire (Incendio) of 1922, which burned down all of the buildings on multiple blocks of town (but only killed one person) and the opening of the Metro Cable (also in 1922).
The cableway ran 72 kilometers (44.7 miles) between Mariquita in the Tolima Department and Manizales and was mostly used to transport coffee between the coffee growing region and the Magdalena River, one of the most common ways to transport goods throughout the country and beyond. Overall, the cableway consisted of 376 metal towers (excluding the Torre de Herveo, which was made of wood and is one of the few towers that still exists), 8 engines and 22 stations. The cableway was finally closed in 1967.
Historically, the city’s main economy centered around the cultivation and production of coffee. This led to the creation of many new types of employment opportunities and the building of numerous factories. Today, while some of the factories still remain in Manizales, many others have either completely moved out of the city or decreased operation (this has led to a bit of an unemployment problem in town).
Presently, Manizales is still the main hub of the Colombian coffee sector due to it being the base for the Departmental Committee of Coffee Growers of Caldas, the companies Almacafé and Cenicafé, as well as a number of other industries involved in the whole process of coffee (like farming machines and exporters).
CITY NICKNAMES: City of Open Doors and the World Capital of Coffee
\\ Where is Manizales
Manizales is located in central Colombia. It is the capital of the Department of Caldas, which is one of the three departments that make up the Colombian Coffee Region (or the Coffee Axis, eje cafetero).
The city is situated in the Colombian Central Mountain Range, which is part of the much larger Andes Mountains. Due to this, the city is very hilly - something you notice right away once you start walking around. The town is also located quite close to Nevado del Ruiz, an active stratovolcano that can be seen from town on clear mornings (you can actually see the volcano smoking from the city).
Besides threats from the volcano - whose most recent major eruption was in 1985 - other issues include landslides and earthquakes.
MANIZALES ELEVATION: 2,160 meters // 7,090 feet
MANIZALES POPULATION: 552,155 in the metro
Weather in Manizales
The city is considered to be a subtropical highland climate, meaning for almost the whole year you can expect spring-like weather and very limited temperature fluctuations. In Manizales, the temperature almost always hovers around 70° F (21° C) no matter the month. That being said, they do see a fair amount of rain: often up to 59 inches a year (1,500 mm). In fact, the only two real seasons are wet and dry and they will alternate every three months.
Due to the lack of drastic changes in weather, you can pretty much visit any time of the year and get nice, mild weather. The only time this might not be the case is in October, which, on average, is the wettest month of the year.
TOP 9 THINGS TO DO IN MANIZALES
1 | Sunset at the Mirador
We were told that Manizales is known as the “Sunset Factory” for its almost 100% rate of stunning sunsets. Therefore you have to absolutely head up to Mirador de Chipre for at least one sunset (if not all of them).
To reach the mirador from the central area, first start by walking up Carrera 23 until you reach Parque de Agua. From there keep walking up Calle 12 towards Chipre Tower (Torre Chipre), which looks like a large white water tower. From the tower you will start to see numerous food stalls, many of which sell ice cream (helado) or a sweet treat called an obleas, which is a thin cracker-crepe with arequipe (or other sweet fillings) inside.
Keep walking up the road for another 500 meters or so until you reach a wide patio area with tables and benches and more food stalls.
💬 INSIDER TIP: along the way to the mirador there are numerous statues and pieces of street art. If you have the time, head up a bit early so you can check them out before the sun sets.
| COST: it is free to enter the mirador, but you do have the option to purchase many different types of food and drinks; including, coffee, hot chocolate, baked goods, hot dogs and wraps. A hot chocolate cost around 3000 COP ($0.75 USD // €0.66 Euro) while a wrap cost 8000 COP ($2.01 USD // €1.77 Euros)
| LOCATION: the mirador’s exact location is here. It is located right next to Monumento a Los Colonizadores (Colonization Monument).
2 | Tour the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Rosary (Catedral Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario)
If you are looking to get an amazing birds-eye view of the city - including views of the surrounding mountains (like Nevado del Ruiz) then we highly recommend taking a tour of the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Rosary, aka the highest church in Colombia and the third highest in all of Latin America.