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  • Exploring Manizales, Colombia | 9 Things to See & Do

    5°06′N 75°33′W 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. Coffee 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 EXPLORE MORE | ARMENIA, COLOMBIA: A COFFEE REGION CAPITAL CITY WORTH VISITING 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. DETAILS | 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. BY THE NUMBERS: | 106 meters (348 feet) high, from the base to the top of the lightning rod that sits above a cross on the tallest spire | 800 square meters of stained glass, mostly of Biblical passages | 2,300 square meters in size (24,756 square feet) | 5,000 person holding capacity | 1939, the year the new cathedral was finally completed EXPLORE MORE | 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT ADVENTURING IN THE COFFEE REGION If you want to learn more about the history of the cathedral, which is more often referred to as the Manizales Cathedral, as well as more information on the settling and modernization of the city of Manizales as a whole, then we definitely suggest signing up for the tour of the church. The tour starts on the outside of the cathedral where the tour guide (in Spanish) will describe the overall building process of the church. Then you will go upstairs to another small room and watch a video (this time with English subtitles) on the history of the city - including its numerous run-ins with fire - the history of the many churches that have sat on that spot and more information on the long process of finishing the church. After the video you will get to start the climb up to the top of the tallest spire. If you are afraid of heights this part of the tour can be a bit scary - but we promise the view from the top is worth it. Altogether, we would say if you only have a day in Manizales then this is one of the things definitely worth doing. The views from the top plus the ability to learn more about the area as a whole is pretty fantastic. We would 10/10 recommend this tour. DETAILS | COST: 12000 COP ($3.02 USD // €2.66 Euro) per person | TIME: 70 minutes | BRING: a camera and sunglasses (though make sure to hold on to them tightly at the top) and some money - the tour ends in the cathedral's cool coffee shop | FUN FACT: one question we had during the tour was "what is the difference between a church and a cathedral?" It turns out there are two differences: firstly, a cathedral is bigger than a church in size and secondly, it is run by a bishop instead of a priest or clergyman. INSIDER TIP: even if you are afraid of heights (like Madalyne is) we still suggest doing this tour. The first climb up to the base of the spire goes along a narrow catwalk but there are thick railings and a cage completely around you (it feels quite safe). Then it is just a climb up a nice wide metal spiral staircase to the very top. If you don’t look down you can totally make it up (promise!). 3. Explore the Other Churches While the Basilica of Our Lady of Rosary Cathedral might be the most popular religious building in Manizales it is definitely not the only one. The city is full of beautiful churches (iglesias) and many of them are easily within walking distance of the main square (Bolivar Plaza). | Iglesia Nuestra Senora Carmen: this cream and orange colored church is easily visible from the cable car. It is approximately 1 kilometer from the cathedral. | Basilica Menor de la Inmaculada Concepcion: easily reached via Carrera 23, this bright white and red church is located on the side of Parque Caldas, which is a popular area for street food late in the day. The basilica is about half a kilometer from the cathedral. | Parroquia Los Agustinos: another easily accessed religious site in Manizales is this ornate, white parish located along Avenida Gilberto Alzate. The building is easy to see as it completely stands out from the other buildings along the road. It is roughly ⅔ kilometers from the cathedral. EXPLORE MORE | GET-OFF-THE-BEATEN-PATH IN PIJAO, COLOMBIA 4. Check Out the Simón Bolívar Statue (El Bolivar Condor) One thing to know about Colombia is that they love Simón Bolívar, aka The Liberator. So much so that all towns will more than likely have a statue of him in their main square/plaza. While Pereira might have a naked Simon Bolivar riding a horse, Manizales takes it a step further and makes Bolivar into a half-man, half-condor. Yes it is as amazing and wild as you think. The massive statue, which was created by artist Rodrigo Arenas, was meant to symbolize the transformation of Bolívar from a regular human to a spiritual condor (which also happens to be the national bird). The statue can be seen in Plaza Bolivar, located right in front of the Manizales Cathedral in the downtown area. DETAILS | WHERE: the Plaza Bolivar is situated between Carrera 21 and Carrera 22. The exact location is here. | SEE: besides the large Simón Bolívar statue, you can also see the historic and beautiful main government building of the Caldas department across the way. 5. Ride the Aerial Tramway (Cable Car) We are definitely the type of people who love riding any form of aerial transportation (if we are being honest this might be why we love skiing so much…). So you can bet the first thing on our Manizales to do list was to ride the aerial tramway/cable car. Opened in back in 2009, today the cable car has two lines: one connecting the downtown area (el centro) with the main bus station and the other connecting the bus station to the nearby town of Villamaria. We hopped on the cable car at the bus station where it was super easy to figure out (just look for the signs saying ACESO CABLE AEREO right as you hop off the bus). You simply buy your ticket at the window and then scan the paper to get in line. Each car holds 10 people but it seems like they consider it "full" after 6 people. The ride from the bus station to Fundidores Station (the closest station to downtown) took around 15 minutes. DETAILS | COST: it costs 2300 COP ($0.58 USD // €0.51 Euro) per person, per ride; you can also bring bikes on board, but this might cost extra | ROUTES: right now you can just ride from the main bus station (terminal de transportes) to the downtown area or over to the neighboring town of Villamaria. It looks like there are plans for a third route to the university area but we don't know the extent of that construction. EXPLORE MORE | EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RENTING A MOTORCYCLE IN CARTAGENA 6. Walk Around the Universities & Explore the Museums Manizales is home to a number of different universities, to the point where some studies say that it is the second largest university city in the country. In fact, it might have the most universities per capita than any other city in Colombia. In total, you can find 7 different universities and colleges; including, Universidad de Caldas (University of Caldas), Universidad Nacional de Colombia (National University of Colombia), Universidad de Manizales (Manizales University) and Universidad Catolica de Manizales (Catholic University of Manizales). Many of the universities are home to world-class museums, most notably the University of Caldas which has the Museum of Art, Museum of History, an Archeological Museum and a Botanical Garden within its campus. To reach the University of Caldas you can either take a bus down Avenida Santander (one of the main roads in the city) or walk around 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from the downtown area. The exact location is here. 7. Explore Rio Blanco Located just on the outskirts of town, the Rio Blanco Reserve (Reserva del Rio Blanco) is an amazing place to get back to nature and see some animals - especially birds. The reserve is home to over 380 different species of birds (pajaros), as well as numerous types of mammals, butterflies and orchids - many of which are endemic (only found there). If you want to fully immerse yourself in the stunning landscape of Rio Blanco then we suggest reaching out to them (at least two days in advance) and booking a night at the reserve's hotel. This allows you to get the full experience of viewing the birds, for many of them are most active in the early morning and late evening. DETAILS | COST: free to enter, but you need to reach out to the reserve ahead of time so they know you are coming (it is privately owned) | LOCATION: the reserve is about 25 minutes from downtown Manizales. You can get a taxi to take you (though you will likely have to walk the last couple of kilometers due to river crossings) or reach out to the reserve's driver. Find all of this information in this in-depth guide to the nature reserve. EXPLORE MORE | THE ULTIMATE ADVENTURE GUIDE TO RIO BLANCO RESERVE 8. Soak & Stay at Some Hot Springs Due to the region's often volatile volcanic history, it is not super surprising that you can find numerous hot springs (termales) dotted around the area. Within a short radius of Manizales alone you can find everything from luxury hotels with hot springs that look like pools to more rugged springs in forested campgrounds. Depending on what kind of soaking experience you want to have - and how much money you are willing to spend - you can find the right termales for you. Below are a few good ones. | Hotel Termales del Ruiz: this might just be the most expensive hot spring hotel in the area (maybe Colombia...), but if you want to spend some time in complete comfort and soak away all of your worries - plus get an awesome view of the mountains - then this spot is perfect. Bonus points for it being the closest to the national park entrance. Cost: 588,745 COP ($147.94 USD / €130.39 Euros) // Book Your Stay | Hotel Termales El Otoño: one of the highest-rated hot spring resorts/hotels in the area, this quiet spot is located on the main road up to the national park. Altogether the hotel offers three different thermal pools to soak in, as well as a hot spring water park (yes that exists). The hotel is just under 30 minutes from Manizales. Cost: 274484 COP ($68.97 USD / €60.79 Euros), note some of the hot springs/waterpark services cost extra // Book Your Stay | Hotel Termales Tierra Viva: just a bit further down the road from El Otoño (towards Manizales) is another hot spring resort/hotel, though this one does not offer a waterpark... Instead, it focuses on total relaxation and includes services like massages, facials and pools surrounded by a dense garden. Cost: 260000 COP ($65.33 USD / €57.58 Euros) for the hotel or 30000 COP ($7.52 USD / €6.64 Euro) for a day pass to the hot springs // Book Your Stay | Termales La Gruta: if you are just looking to soak for a bit and don't want all of the luxuries that come with doing it at a resort or hotel, then your best bet would be to stop by Termales La Gruta, which is located off of the main road into the park and about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from Hotel Termales del Ruiz. These hot springs are really just a couple of stone pools with a few covered areas for overnight tent camping. You do have to pay to enter (it is privately owned) but we suspect it is cheaper than the three termales above. 9. Visit Nevado del Ruiz & Los Nevados National Park One of the most unique and beautiful natural attractions close to Manizales has to be Nevado del Ruiz and the greater Los Nevados National Park. While Ruiz is often easily visible from the city (and in fact we have heard people regularly have to clean ash off of their cars because of the volcano, that's how close it is) it actually takes a fair amount of time to reach the mountain and the national park. In total, expect to spend just under two hours driving between the city and the final stop at the base of the mountain (known as Valle de las Tumbas/Valley of the Tombs). The valley sits at 4,450 meters (14,599 feet) and is one of the best places to get up close and personal with the mighty volcano - including seeing remnants of past eruptions and even snow. And, if you are really lucky, you might even be able to see the Nevado del Ruiz glacier - one of the last remaining tropical glaciers in the world. Now, Los Nevados National Park is a massive park, meaning there are a lot of areas to explore. While you do need a guide (or your own personal car) to enter the Nevado del Ruiz/Brisas section, for many other the other areas you can actually enter by foot and without a guide. We were lucky enough to spend 4 days trekking in the section close to Cocora Valley and Salento. If you are just looking to do an epic hike or multi-day trek, then we highly recommend heading towards the southern part of the park where you can still find epic landscapes. Including, places like the Paramillo del Quindio - which looks a bit like a Martian landscape - and Nevado del Tolima, another volcano (though one that is slightly less active). Learn more about trekking in Los Nevados National Park in this article. DETAILS | COST: as far as we know, you must enter the Nevado del Ruiz/Brisas section with a guide. This can cost anywhere between 288969 COP ($72 USD // €64 Euro) to 522837 COP ($131 USD // €115 Euros) depending on the company and the tour. Other sections of the park - including areas close to Salento and Pereira - are mostly free to enter (if not going with a guide). | WHERE: Valle de las Tumbas (Valley of the Tombs) is an hour and 45 minutes from Manizales. This is the end of the road and really the closest you can get to the volcano. Along the road in you can stop at a few restaurants, hot springs and near the end, a refugio. EXPLORE MORE | YOUR GUIDE TO ADVENTURING IN LOS NEVADOS NATIONAL PARK MANIZALES | THE NITTY-GRITTY \\ How to Get to Manizales Bus The easiest and most common way to reach Manizales is by bus. The main bus station (terminal de transportes) is located on the far south side of the city. From the bus station you can easily reach the main city center by taking the cable car to Fundidores Station (estacion). This will be the second stop on the downtown line. The bus station has numerous bus companies serving it, making Manizales a great spot to base yourself if planning to explore other towns/spots in the Caldas Department. COMMON BUS ROUTES FROM Manizales: Aguadas, Salamina, Honda, Medellin TO Manizales: Pereira, Armenia, Medellin, Bogota We took a bus from the main bus terminal in Pereira (one of the other three coffee capitals) to Manizales and it was a really easy ride (though veeeeery curvy). We believe you can get a bus between the two major cities all day long for there were numerous bus companies running the route. DETAILS | COST: 13000 - 15000 COP // $3.26 USD // €2.88 Euros for one ticket | TIME: 50 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on traffic in the two cities (especially Pereira) INSIDER TIP: if you are someone prone to getting car sick/motion sick, we highly suggest taking some medication before the ride. The road up to Manizales is very curvy and the bus drivers will often go quite fast. Both of us got car sick during the ride up and we actually had someone throw up (yuck) on the ride back down. They do sell Dramamine (motion sickness medication) at the bus stations. Book your bus ticket ahead of time (and check out possible bus routes) at Busbud. EXPLORE MORE | YOUR GUIDE TO BUS TRAVEL IN COLOMBIA Plane If you don’t want to take a bus to Manizales there is also the option to fly into Aeropuerto de Nubia, which is located on the southeast side of town. But we have heard the airport is quite small and doesn’t run many flights in and out. It is more likely that you would fly into either Pereira or Medellin and then have to bus to the city anyway. DETAILS | COST: flights from Bogota (the capital of Colombia) cost between $59 - $64 USD // €52 - 56 Euros | TIMING: there are usually two flights a day (usually 7 days a week); one in the early morning (~ 6:35 AM) and one in the afternoon (~ 2 PM) | AIRLINE: Avianca seemed to be the best airline for finding flights in and out of Manizales. Search their website here. \\ How to Get Around Manizales Manizales, even though it is relatively big, is quite easy to get around. The most common way is to simply walk - especially if you are only planning to be in the central/downtown area (el centro). GOOD TO KNOW: the city is quite hilly - so much so that we started to compare it to San Francisco in the USA, a town famous for its up and down topography. The one street we found to be the least hilly was Carrera 23 - which is lucky since that is also the most walking friendly street in downtown. Other common forms of transportation in Manizales include riding the cable car (especially from the bus station to downtown), taking a taxi, or trying out the public buses. You also have the ability to rent a bicycle from one of the public bike sharing stalls. This public service costs 20000 COP ($5 USD // €4.43 Euros) per year for Colombians, so we suspect it is quite cheap if you are looking to rent a bike for the day. The only issue with this is that you may or may not need a Colombian number (cedula). The easiest bike sharing station is right next to the Fundidores Cable Station and Fundidores Park. INSIDER TIP: Manizales is actually rated as the most bike friendly city in all of Colombia. If you have a bike - or are looking to bike around the city - you will find numerous bike lanes and bike aware drivers. \\ Where to Stay in Manizales Hostal Mirador Andino This is probably one of the coolest hostels in all of Colombia. Located steps from the Fundidores Cable Car Station and easily within walking distance of almost all of the top things to do listed above, Hostel Mirador Andino is an amazing place to stay and base yourself for exploring Manizales. The hostel offers private rooms and dorms, as well as access to a kitchen and a big sun deck (incredible views of Nevado del Ruiz included). The owners have decorated the hostel with all sorts of interesting items - including Thai religious statues, intricate historic furniture, Victorian-era paintings and photos from all sorts of places and time periods. It honestly feels like you are staying in the house of some exciting National Geographic explorer. DETAILS | COST: 170000 COP ($42.59 USD // €37.65 Euros) for a private room with a private bathroom, 68000 COP ($17.04 USD // €15.06 Euros) for a bed in a dorm | AMENITIES: a big, well-stocked kitchen, a covered patio with a bar (and amazing views), fast internet and great travel resources (books, maps, pamphlets, etc.) | LOCATION: the hostel is easily seen from the cable car (the name is written in big red letters). It is located right next to Parque Fundidores along Carrera 23. Exact location here. Book Now on Hostelworld \\ Where to Eat in Manizales There are numerous restaurants and bakeries (panaderias) located along Carrera 23, the main walking road through downtown. If you want to try some traditional food then we suggest seeking out a common Colombian breakfast in the region, the bandeja paisa or bandeja frijoles (a large meal consisting of beans, rice, an arepa, plantains, avocado, an egg and different types of meat). Other popular foods that are worth trying are pandebonos (a type of bread that is gooey and slightly salty, delicious), grilled plantains with cheese (this is easily found on the streets and in the plazas), thick arepas con chocolo (a thick circular “cake” made of sweet yellow corn) and lots of fresh fruit. Finally, no visit to the coffee region - and especially the “Coffee Capital of the World” is complete without sampling the local café. While you can easily find little tintos (small cups of coffee) along the streets, we also recommend visiting a few local cafes or better yet, visiting some of the local coffee fincas. DETAILS | COST: things are relatively cheap in Manizales, even though it is a pretty popular and busy city. You can expect to pay… 12000 - 15000 COP for breakfast/lunch ($3 USD // €2.66 Euros) 1500 - 3000 COP for a cup of coffee (700 COP for a small street cart tinto) ($0.40 USD // €0.33 Euros) 1500 COP for a pandebono ($0.40 USD // €0.33 Euros) 2000 - 3000 COP for a cup of cut fruit like mango and pineapple ($0.50 USD // €0.44 Euros) GOOD TO KNOW: the city doesn’t really start to come alive until mid-morning so if you are thinking of heading out to grab a coffee or breakfast we suggest waiting until at least 8 AM, even later if it is the weekend. Similarly, like many other areas of Colombia, many places are closed on Sundays. Manizales might be most famous for its coffee production and proximity to a certain active volcano, but after spending a good three days in the vibrant city we started to realize there was much more to it than what first meets the eye. If you are looking for an exciting city to explore - especially one that easily combines urban comforts with the great outdoors - then we cannot recommend Manizales, Colombia enough. If you have any questions about the city, or about the Colombian Coffee Region (or just Colombia in general) then please leave a comment below or reach out to us directly here. MANIZALES TRAVEL MAP INTERACTIVE MAP OF THE TOP 9 THINGS TO SEE + DO IN MANIZALES LIKED IT? PIN IT! EXPLORE MORE IN COLOMBIA SANTA ROSA DE CABAL TERMALES SALENTO CARTAGENA RIO BLANCO SAN CIPRIANO LA CARBONERA WAX PALM FOREST GREAT ADVENTURES BANOS, ECUADOR TREKKING THE QUILOTOA LOOP, ECUADOR OXAPAMPA, PERU RAINBOW MOUNTAIN, PERU

  • An Adventure Guide to the Rio Blanco Nature Reserve

    5.0663° N, 75.4486° W A QUICK GUIDE TO EXPLORING THE BEAUTIFUL RIO BLANCO RESERVE NEAR MANIZALES, COLOMBIA; INCLUDING HOW YOU GET THERE, HOW TO STAY IN THE RESERVE AND WHAT TO DO. One thing you quickly realize about Colombia is that it has a hell of a lot of birds. In fact, it has the most bird species of any country in the world (around 1,954 species or about 1/5 of the total birds!). If you are like us and absolutely love heading out in search of birds then you will definitely want to add the Rio Blanco Reserve (Reserva del Rio Blanco) to your Colombian travel itinerary. Below is everything you need to know about visiting this beautiful reserve; including, how to get there, where to stay and what exactly to do. EXPLORING THE RIO BLANCO RESERVE \\ What is the Rio Blanco Reserve Located just on the outskirts of the bustling city of Manizales, the Rio Blanco Reserve (Reserva del Rio Blanco) is one of the most diverse areas in the world. The reserve encompasses 4,932 hectares or 12,187 acres and is home to roughly 380 species of birds; including, two types of mountain toucans, Golden-plumed parakeets, mountain tanagers and a couple of types of antpittas - a small bird that mostly lives on the ground (it has comically long legs). The Rio Blanco Reserve is also home to: | 60 types of mammals, including anteaters, armadillos and orange-colored squirrels | 180 types of butterflies (mariposas) | 40 types of orchids, all of them endemic (a species that is native to a single defined geographic location) The reserve actually supplies 35% of the drinking water for the whole department of Caldas, of which the nearby city of Manizales is the capital. Because of this, the reserve is managed by a water company called Aguas de Manizales and not the Colombian government. The only real difference because of this - as far as what you will experience as a visitor - is that you do need to get permission to enter the reserve ahead of time (aka you cannot just show up). To get permission you need to first contact the reserve at least two days in advance. We got their contact information straight off of the company/reserve's website (we simply Googled it). Luckily, they were super quick to respond to all of our questions and it was really easy to get the okay to enter. INSIDER TIP: we also decided to spend the night at the reserve, which we HIGHLY RECOMMEND! If you want to spend the night you likewise will need to contact them in advance (we did it 5 days out). They will give you the price (see below) and then send you a link through email to pay online. You HAVE TO pay online for the room - they do not accept cash. Find more information on the booking process and lodging available in the reserve see below. \\ Top Things to Do in Rio Blanco Birdwatching One of the top reasons to visit Rio Blanco is to do a bit (or a lot) of birdwatching. The reserve is home to nearly 400 species of birds, including many that can really only be found within its boundaries. This includes such species as the Golden-plumed parakeet, Black-billed mountain toucan, Crimson-mantled woodpecker and over 5 species of hummingbirds. In fact, the reserve is such a well-known birding destination that people from all over the world come to spot some very specific species (most notably the aforementioned parakeet and the Bicoloured Antpitta). While we were staying in the reserve we met five other birders - all from various countries - who had booked a birding-specific tour of the country. Similarly, the Rio Blanco Reserve is also a popular stop on the Central Andes Birding Trail. While you can explore the reserve and go birding by yourself, they do also offer guiding services - either for a full-day or half-day. We decided to get a guide for the full day and we were so glad we did because during our 9-hours of birdwatching we probably spotted around 70 new types of birds, many of which we would have totally missed if we went just by ourselves. Plus, at least in our case, our guide (Luz) spoke really good English and we could ask her questions about not just the various types of birds, but also the reserve itself, the overall area of Colombia (the Caldas department and the eje cafetero) and Colombia's incredible diversity. DETAILS | COST: a guide costs 60000 COP ($14.90 USD // €13.15 Euro) for a half-day & 100000 COP ($24.83 USD // €21.92 Euro) for a full-day | TIMING: we learned that the birds are most active from sunrise (~ 6 AM) to around 10 AM and when it is cloudy out | BRING: binoculars are a must, as are comfortable shoes for walking around in all day Hiking If you want to explore Rio Blanco but don't really have any desire to look for birds you can also just simply hike around the area. The reserve encompasses 4,932 hectares (12,187 acres) - meaning there are plenty of areas to explore. One important thing to note though is that the type of trails you will be hiking on will more than likely be dirt singletrack, so unless you stick to just the main road that crosses part of the reserve, expect thick jungle forest and rougher terrain. Similarly, according to our guide (who grew up in the reserve), Rio Blanco is split into three sections: the lower, middle and upper. The lower section includes the river, the middle section is the cloud forest and the hotel area and the upper section is way up close to the border of Los Nevados National Park (and the páramo biome). According to her, only the lower and middle sections are really accessible to travelers and even then you would likely need a guide to make sure you don't get lost in the thick forest. But that being said, there are luckily two trails in the reserve that are relatively easy to follow: | El Robledal Trail: 7 kilometers/4.3 miles long, 2.5-3 hours | Forest Trail: 3 kilometers/1.8 miles long, 45 minutes Both of the trails start at the reserve entrance (the gate). Learn more about the two hiking trails here. \\ How to Get to Rio Blanco Hire a Driver Your best option for reaching the Rio Blanco Reserve is to contact and get a ride with Rodrigo, a local driver who has a Toyota 4Runner and who regularly picks up people heading to the reserve. We were given Rodrigo’s number from the reserve's booking agent (via email). While he was out of town on the day we headed up to Rio Blanco, we did contact him for the ride back down to town. He was easy to reach via WhatsApp and was prompt in picking us up at the time we asked for. All in all, if we were to head up to the reserve again we would 100% get Rodrigo to take us. DETAILS | COST: 40000 - 50000 COP // $9.93 USD // €8.76 Euro | TIME: 20-25 minutes from downtown Manizales to the Reserve Taxi Now if Rodrigo happens to be unavailable, your other option is to grab a taxi - though it is likely they will only be able to take you as far as the reserve boundary due to there being an unpassable river crossing. The ride from downtown Manizales to the river should take around 15 minutes and cost around 20000 COP ($4.96 USD // €4.38 Euro). From the river crossing it is a pretty easy 1.6 kilometers/1 mile walk to the reserve's entrance (here). You will know you made it to the entrance to the reserve because there will be a metal gate blocking the road. Simply ring the doorbell and wait for one of the guards to come meet you. If you have spoken to the reserve ahead of time they should know you are coming and will let you in (the guard we met had our name written down). Once through the gate, it is another 2.6 kilometers/1.6 miles up to the hotel along another dirt road (this took us about 45 minutes to walk). If you do end up taking a taxi up to the reserve, consider letting the hotel staff know so they can (possibly) send someone to pick you up with a motorcycle along the road. Though if you do end up having to do the whole walk (around 4 kilometers total) expect beautiful scenery and great views. If you take a taxi, make sure to tell them you are heading for the Rio Blanco Reserve and also show them exactly where it is (including the hotel location) on a map (there is another area close by that is incorrect). We recommend the app for this since it shows exactly where the gate is and where the hotel is in the reserve. Similarly, make sure to reach out to the reserve ahead of time to get the correct address. INSIDER TIP: our taxi driver was very confused about where we were heading when we told him we were staying the night at the Rio Blanco Reserve because he didn't know the reserve had a hotel. After asking a couple of other drivers and people about the hotel - and getting the response of it not existing - we all started to get a bit worried. Luckily, the last guy we met before reaching the dirt road up to the reserve confirmed the existence of the hotel (whew). Moral of the story: be confident and clear about the location of the reserve and its hotel. And if worse comes to worst, you may have to walk 5 kilometers to reach it. \\ How to Stay in Rio Blanco If you are looking to totally get away from the noise of the city and just be immersed in nature and wildlife - mostly birds - then we recommend spending at least one night in the Rio Blanco Reserve. How to Book Like we mentioned earlier, you do need to contact the reserve ahead of time to let them know when you want to come stay and the number of people in your party. You will do almost all communication with the reserve by email (in Spanish). Once all of the details have been sorted they will send you an invoice for the price of the room(s) and then you put in your credit card to pay online (they do NOT accept cash for the rooms at the reserve). The Hotel We didn’t really know what to expect from the Reserve’s “hotel.” All we knew was that the price per night (276,700 COP) was a bit more expensive than most places we had stayed at before in Colombia. Much to our surprise, the hotel turned out to be absolutely incredible and 100% worth the price. It consisted of two buildings set up on a hill with views of the Manizales valley and the thick cloud forest. The first building was the kitchen/restaurant and dining area with a few smaller bedrooms. The second building - the one we stayed in - consisted of four big bedrooms each with its own large comfortable beds, private bathroom and patio. But one of the best things about the hotel was the numerous bird feeders set up around the property that allowed you to see many different species of hummingbirds, wrens, tanagers and even squirrels and a small-sized mammal called a tayra (which looks a bit like a weasel). DETAILS | COST: 276700 COP // $69.02 USD // €60.50 Euro | AMENITIES: private bathroom (with towels), a space heater (it gets quite cold at night), private balconies/seating area, incredible views and relatively strong Wi-Fi \\ How Much Does it Cost If you are planning to just visit the reserve for the day (not spend the night) we believe it is free to enter. But you still need to let the reserve know ahead of time the dates you are planning to visit. As mentioned above, there is a restaurant available for breakfast, lunch and dinner (though we suspect you will also need to let the reserve know ahead of time if you plan to purchase food). All of the food we had was vegetarian (they do also serve meat) and absolutely delicious (seriously, it was so, so tasty). They also have coffee, tea and hot chocolate available. What the Food Costs (per person) | BREAKFAST (desayuno): 13000 COP // $3.24 USD // €2.84 Euro | LUCH (almuerzo): 18000 COP // $4.49 USD // €3.94 Euro | DINNER (cena): 18000 COP // $4.49 USD // €3.94 Euro The breakfast included eggs, an arepa with cheese, fresh fruit, coffee and hot chocolate. While lunch and dinner included soup, rice, vegetables, faux-meat (super tasty), juice, dessert and more hot chocolate. \\ What to Bring to the Rio Blanco Reserve There are a few important things to bring with you to the reserve, especially if you are planning to head out and go birdwatching: | Hiking Boots: we kind of spaced on this and only brought our trail running shoes. While we did pretty much stick to the dirt road, it would have been nice to have some boots for the really muddy areas and for a bit of extra support. | Binoculars: as you would expect, birdwatching means looking at a lot of birds - some of which are relatively far away and hard to make out. Therefore if you have some binoculars with you, definitely bring them. You will be glad you did when you get an up-close view of a colorful mountain toucan :) | A warm jacket/sweater: due to the reserve's high elevation - the hotel sits at 2,560 meters/8,400 feet - it gets quite cold at night. You will be grateful for your cozy jacket (and maybe a hat) the moment the sun sets and the temperature starts to drop. | Sunscreen & bug spray: like almost everywhere else in Colombia, you will want to make sure to have both sunscreen and bug spray handy. The days can be pretty sunny and due to the elevation, the UV rays can be quite intense. Similarly, the reserve is mostly cloud forest so bugs - especially the horrible no-see-ums (a little biting bug) - are very prevalent. Other useful things to bring with you are a good book for reading during your downtime (or cards), a hat and sunglasses, a camera with a long lens for photographing all of the birds, a rain jacket, and thick socks (for warmth and for walking around in all day). \\ Contact Information for the Rio Blanco Reserve Below is the email we used to communicate with the reserve before actually visiting. It was through this communication channel that we reserved and paid for the room and got more information on securing a birding guide and contacting Rodrigo for a ride. EMAIL: HOURS: the staff is available Monday - Thursday, 7:30 AM - 12:30 PM & 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM and Friday, 7:30 AM to 2:00 PM. The Rio Blanco Reserve is one of the best places in Colombia to observe many different species of birds - including many that are endemic to the area (aka only found there). If you have any interest in spotting birds (pajaros in Spanish) then we cannot recommend this beautiful place enough. Similarly, even if you aren't that into birds, we still recommend checking the area out and maybe booking a night at the hotel. It is truly a magical place and definitely one of our favorite natural places in all of Colombia. If you are looking for more information on the Rio Blanco Reserve, or just want to learn more about exploring Colombia's numerous natural areas, then make sure to leave a comment below or reach out to us! LIKED IT? PIN IT! EXPLORE MORE ADVENTURING SAN CIPRIANO, COLOMBIA VISITING SALENTO, COLOMBIA HIKING AROUND THE COCORA VALLEY TREKKING IN LOS NEVADOS NATIONAL PARK

  • 5 Must-Have Items for Slow Traveling in Colombia

    PACKING FOR A LONG-TERM TRIP - A MONTH OR MORE - CAN BE A BIT STRESSFUL. THIS GUIDE WILL HELP YOU FIGURE OUT EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED TO BRING FOR AN EXCITING SLOW TRAVEL ADVENTURE IN COLOMBIA. Possibly one of the most stressful parts about planning and prepping for an upcoming trip is packing. The wide array of decisions you have to make - do I take those shoes or these? Will I need one jacket or two? - can be taxing and just plain not fun. And this stress only doubles if you are planning to head off on a long-term trip (say a month or more). We felt this pressure on our first slow travel adventure to Colombia. The idea of packing for a three-month trip was daunting. Plus, we didn't know what sort of services and stores would be available in the (likely) chance we forgot something important (turns out we did: our handy laptop charger). Luckily, for round two in Colombia we were much less stressed when it came to packing. That was because we knew exactly what to expect and what was available (almost everything). Including, plenty of places to buy shoes, rain jackets, and all manner of electronics. This helpful guide will give you an idea of what you should pack yourself if planning to slow travel through Colombia. It also outlines five items we think are absolute MUSTS if you are planning to explore and adventure around the country. 5 Must-Have Items for Traveling in Colombia Binoculars Colombia is a paradise for birdwatching and animal viewing in general. In fact, Colombia has the most bird species in the world as well as the sixth most mammal species. Similarly, Colombia as a whole is ranked second in overall biodiversity (behind Brazil, a country 10x its size). This means you have a very strong chance of seeing various animals on your travels - no matter where you are staying. What we are trying to say is that you definitely should come prepared for some amazing animal viewing opportunities - especially when it comes to the feathered and flying kind. Luckily, you can easily find a pair of binoculars that are compact and light enough to store either in your checked bag or in your carry-on/day bag. These binoculars are small enough for your day bag, but hardy enough for all manner of adventures - be it in the jungle, the mountains or the desert. Hiking Boots Colombia is full of adventure - from trekking through dense jungle to hiking around volcanoes to mountain biking back dirt roads, there is a whole lot to do. So you definitely want some boots that can handle all challenges and weather. And mud. There is always mud. In our opinion, hiking boots are one of those items that you should focus on buying the best quality, even if that means spending a bit more up-front. Purchasing gear that will last you for years to come is always better than just buying for a pair that may stand up to a couple of tough adventures. In terms of sustainability (and even economics), it is always better to think about quality over quantity. We really like Asolo hiking boots - especially the ones that are made of 100% leather (like this one) - because they can stand up to many different terrains, including dense snow and dry, rocky deserts. INSIDER TIP: if you are looking to purchase hiking boots while in Colombia, we recommend checking out Bumerang Boots, a small leather boot company based out of Pereira. You can buy the shoes in their main store (here) or head to their shop on Calle Real in Salento. Reusable Water Bottle By far one of the most important things to pack for a trip to Colombia - and really for anywhere in general - is a reusable water bottle. Now, while having a water bottle with a built-in filter is awesome; luckily, for the most part, the water in Colombia - including in places like Cartagena, Armenia and Salento - was actually safe to drink straight from the tap. Similarly, when we went on our 4-day trek in Los Nevados National Park we didn't even need to use a water filter since the water was completely safe to drink (you could literally see the source of the water right above you). But, with all of that being said, if you have the chance to get a water bottle with a built-in filter, do it. You will be grateful you did once you choose to travel to other places that have unsafe water. Below are two great travel water bottle options: | Hydrapak Stash Collapsable Water Bottle (1L): this is a great water bottle to have along with you on your adventures because it can collapse down and take up very little space in your bag. Plus, it only weighs 3.3 ounces (0.2 pounds) when empty. | Grayl GEOPRESS Water Purifier: though the price of this water bottle is steep (just under $100 USD) it is definitely worth it when you think of the time and money you will be saving by not buying plastic water bottles. Plus, you will also be doing your part to help decrease the amount of single-use plastic that eventually ends up in landfills, oceans, and waterways and your carbon footprint overall. Compact + Durable Day Bag Colombia has a lot to offer the adventurous traveler. And luckily, it is very easy to base yourself in one place and then head off on various day trips. Some of the best places to make your home base are Bogota (great day trips include visiting Zipaquirá and Chingaza National Park), Medellin (so you can head to Guatape and Las Orquídeas National Park), Santa Marta (where you can easily reach Minca and Tayrona National Park) and our personal favorite, Salento (where you can easily reach Cocora Valley and Los Nevados National Park). GOOD TO KNOW: it is really easy to get around Colombia, either by using their comprehensive and efficient bus system or by booking a cheap flight through Avianca or LATAM. If planning to travel the country this way - which we highly recommend - then you will definitely want a good-sized, easy-to-carry day bag in your travel set. Below are a few recommended bags: | Topo Designs Rover 20L Pack: this bag is compact and hardy enough for storing on all manner of Colombian transportation (including buses and Willy jeeps). Plus, 20 liters should be plenty of storage space for everything you may need for full-day adventures (including a water bottle, camera, and light jacket). | Patagonia Arbor 28L Lid Pack: if you are looking for even more space in your day bag (maybe for your laptop) then consider this 28 liter pack from Patagonia. Some of our favorite specs from this bag is the fact that it is made from durable recycled polyester material and the numerous interior pockets to help keep all of your gear organized (it even has a handy laptop sleeve). Sun Shirt + Hat Colombian weather is pretty constant 365 days a year. For the most part, it goes like this: sunny, rain showers, sun, repeat. Depending on where you are located, the amount of sun and the amount of rain simply increases or decreases. Keeping this in mind, we recommend packing at least one sun shirt and some sort of hat (the wider the brim the better). While living in Cartagena we pretty much lived in our lightweight, wicking sun shirts because the colorful Caribbean town is bloody hot (and humid). But even in a town like Salento, where the weather is much cooler and rain is pretty much your constant companion, a sun shirt and hat are still necessary (thanks to the town's elevation - 1,828 meters/6,000 feet - when the sun does come out it comes out strong). We personally like long sleeved sun shirts just for the added protection (bonus points for being a natural bug repellent) and hats that have a wide enough brim to cover both your face and neck. Below are some great options: | BackcountryTahoe 2 Sun Hoodie: this lightweight shirt includes both a hood and those handy thumb holes. It also has a UPF 50+ rating when it comes to overall sun protection. Plus, there are numerous colors available for both men and women. | Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat: this sun hat might scream summer-RVing-dad vibes but you will be grateful for its long back flap and wicking material the moment you walk around the beaches of Baru or the historic streets of Cartagena. Other things to consider bringing with you while slow traveling through Colombia is a handy, lightweight Kindle (for all of that downtime waiting for the buses), a compact Colombian wildlife book (especially one with all of the birds - like this one), and an easily packable rain jacket or poncho. \\ Packing for a Specific Area Colombia has a lot of different regions and biomes within its nearly 1.2 million square kilometers. Including, the hot and humid tropical Caribbean coast (home to places like Santa Marta, Tayrona National Park and Cartagena), the equally humid but way more wet Pacific Coast (home to Buenavista and San Cipriano), the high Andes and the Llano plains (home to Bogota) and of course the Amazon. GOOD TO KNOW: the country is actually split into 6 very clear regions = the Andes mountain range, the Pacific Coast, the Caribbean coast, the Llanos (or plains), the Amazon Rainforest and the insular area (which is made up of islands in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans). Below is a brief outline of what you need to pack with you if you are planning to travel to any of these cities or regions. Cartagena This popular Caribbean city is very hot and humid. Similarly, the main activities in Cartagena include hanging out on the beach (either at the city beaches or at the ones nearby, including Baru) and walking around the beautiful historic Old City. Therefore it is important to make sure you have clothes with you that are both lightweight and wicking but also protect you from the blazing sun. You will also want a pair of comfortable sandals that you can walk around in all day - both in town and on the beach, a hat or sunglasses and a backpack to carry your water in. EXPLORE MORE | THE TOP ADVENTURES IN CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA Bogota The capital city - which sits at 2,640 meters or 8,660 feet (making it the third-highest capital in the world after La Paz, Bolivia and Quito, Ecuador) - is unsurprisingly quite chilly, especially at night. Therefore, make sure to have a warm jacket or sweater (or both) handy if planning to explore the city. Medellin This popular travel destination is nicknamed, the “City of the Eternal Spring” so you can expect a healthy mix of sunshine, warm days and a bit of light rain. Therefore come prepared with a light jacket for the cool evenings, comfortable walking shoes (especially if planning to explore nearby Parque Arvi), and a compact backpack that fits on the popular metro (the only one in Colombia). EXPLORE MORE | 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT TRAVELING TO COLOMBIA'S COFFEE REGION The Coffee Region It rains a looooot in this area of the country - which includes popular places like Salento, Filandia, Armenia and Pereira - so make sure to bring a nice rain jacket, a couple of dry bags for all of your important gear (like cameras) and sturdy boots for the ever-present mud. If planning to spend a long amount of time in Colombia (we recommend at least one month) you need to come prepared with all sorts of adventure gear. Luckily, most of the items are pretty self explanatory and you likely already have them in your travel set. Similarly, if you happen to forget something at home or realize you actually should have brought that one item you figured you wouldn't need (we are guilty of that) you can easily pick it up in many of the bigger cities like Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena. Colombia has a ton to offer the slow traveler so if you are considering switching to a more laid-back, deep-dive kind of experience, we highly recommend doing it in this stunning South American country. If you have any questions about slow traveling (or just traveling) in Colombia then please leave a comment below or reach out to us here. You can also simply email us at LIKED IT? PIN IT! EXPLORE MORE WHAT IS SLOW TRAVELING? WHY WE CHOSE TO SLOW TRAVEL IN COLOMBIA WHAT IT COST TO SLOW TRAVEL IN CARTAGENA WHAT IT COST TO SLOW TRAVEL IN ARMENIA

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  • Travel Better | Backroad Packers

    SLOW AND SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL DOESN'T HAVE TO BE HARD. In today's interconnected world, it is no longer a harrowing, backbreaking challenge to reach far-off destinations - no matter how far away and how exotic they may seem. If you are willing to spend the time (and sometimes money) you can reach practically any place on this planet. And while this is great for those of us who want to explore those once remote locals, in many ways this interconnectedness can also lead to many negative side effects - especially on those once pristine lands. ​ ​ THIS IS WHAT WE MEAN ​ ​ \\ 5% of total carbon dioxide emissions are caused by tourism-related transportation, with airplanes being the biggest emitter. ​ \\ Overtourism, defined as "the impact of tourism on a destination, or parts thereof, that excessively influences perceived quality of life of citizens and/or quality of visitor experiences in a negative way" aka overcrowding as a result of an overwhelming number of visitors to a specific location. Popular spots dealing with this today are Amsterdam, Machu Picchu, and Bali. ​ \\ More development means more environmental degradation , which in turn means increased habitat loss for animals, increased loss of natural resources (especially water), increased air pollution and increased amounts of garbage (especially plastic). ​ \\ 90% of ocean plastic is derived from land-based sources, with the biggest travel sector offenders being plastic water bottles, disposable toiletries, plastic bags and bin liners, food packaging and cups. ​ ​ ​ SO HOW DO WE TRAVEL AND STILL DO GOOD BY OUR PLANET? Luckily, around 83% of people worldwide believe sustainable travel is important and something we should push towards. The only problem? An overall lack of education and resources. This is where Backroad Packers comes in. We want to educate you on how to continue (or start) traveling without making a negative impact on the places you are exploring. Traveling more sustainably, more mindfully, and more slowly allows you to see the world, have unforgettable adventures and make lasting memories without making lasting negative impacts. Being a sustainable traveler doesn't have to be a challenge, in fact, when you get down to the core of it, it is really just about making small, simple changes. Easy. ​ With the help of our guides + tips you can easily become a sustainable traveler yourself. start here Out of gallery WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL? SIMPLE TIPS FOR SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL WHAT IS SLOW TRAVEL? SIMPLE TIPS FOR SLOW TRAVEL keep exploring The Ultimate Guide to Bus Travel in Colombia Top Sustainable Travel Destinations What it Costs to Slow Travel in Cartagena, Colombia The Difference Between Slow Travel and Sustainable Travel Top Tips for Slow Traveling Why We Chose to Slow Travel in Colombia sign up for a personalized slow travel consultation submit Thanks for submitting! explore more slow + sustainable travel inspiration

  • Backroad Packers | Slow + Adventure Travel

    WE NEED TO CHANGE THE WAY WE TRAVEL In today's modern age of travel, you can practically go anywhere. The world has become smaller, closer, more attainable. But in a way, it has also become easier to see a place without actually connecting with it. A traveler can now simply stay above the surface and visit a place without getting to know it. But it doesn't have to be that way. Instead of focusing on simply checking a place off your must-see list, try to connect with the culture, the people, the natural scenery. Spend time learning about its history, its cuisine, its little quirks that make it so special. This idea of breaking through the surface is what we call "slow travel." ​ Backroad Packers is about inspiring fellow travelers to take the time to visit a place and explore it more deeply. To adventure within its bounds, sustainably & slowly . We do this through in-depth travel guides, insightful stories and tips, beautiful photography and videography, and even curated, personalized slow travel consulting . ​ If you are curious to learn more about slow travel, as well as sustainable and adventure travel overall, then you have come to the right place. So with that, welcome! \\ recent dispatches from the blog Exploring Manizales, Colombia | 9 Things to See & Do An Adventure Guide to the Rio Blanco Nature Reserve 5 Must-Have Items for Slow Traveling in Colombia Pijao, Colombia | A Short Travel Guide NEVER MISS AN ARTICLE GET SLOW + ADVENTURE TRAVEL INSPIRATION RIGHT TO YOUR INBOX. (PSST...YOU'LL ALSO GET ACCESS TO OUR MONTHLY NEWSLETTER FULL OF INSIGHTFUL SLOW TRAVEL TIPS!) subscribe thank you for subscribing! slow, sustainable & adventurous travel Backroad Packers is all about guiding you to explore the world slowly, sustainably, and adventurously. We do so with in-depth travel guides, insightful stories + tips, videography, and photography. The world is a big place, let's go explore it ➳ explore the blog \\ where do you want to go? NORTH AMERICA SOUTH AMERICA ASIA NATIONAL PARKS some of our favorite destinations Out of gallery VIETNAM COLOMBIA PERU | EXPLORE ALL DESTINATIONS | find exactly what you are looking for we are luke + madalyne, aka backroad packers. We are two adventurers in love with exploring the world in a slow and sustainable manner. For us, connecting with cultures, landscapes and people is one of the biggest reasons we travel. ​ Backroad Packers focuses on inspiring, helping & guiding like-minded travelers like you to do the same. So if you are excited to travel better and interested in adventuring longer, then you have come to the right place :) more about us let's get social we want to help you travel better Backroad Packers is focused on guiding travelers to slow down and explore the world sustainably & adventurously. We not only provide in-depth adventure travel guides , but we also want to personally help people see the benefits of slowing down and traveling sustainably . Reach out for a personalized slow travel consultation today! reach out explore even more of our adventures youtube “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” — Ibn Battuta

  • North America | Backroad Packers

    NORTH AMERICA As two native North Americans - by way of Colorado in the United States - we feel like we know the area (countries) pretty well. But that is one of the great things about North America - even when you feel like you have a good idea on what it's like, it will constantly surprise you. Over the years we have explored, adventured, road tripped and trekked all over the countries of Mexico and the United States. ​ One of the best things about these two countries is the ability to spend so much time in them and still not see, feel, taste or explore everything. In fact, while we were raised in the United States of America, neither of us have visited all 50 of the states (at last count we had explored 28 of them). And even though we have visited more than half, we still have only scratched the surface. The USA really is just bubbling with amazing off-the-beaten-path adventures. ​ As for Mexico , a country that shares one of the longest land borders with our home country, we will admit that we have only explored the smallest bit of the magical country - most notably the Baja Peninsula and the city of Monterrey (and surrounding national parks). Mexico is one country we always want to head back to, not only because of its beautiful landscape, but because of its rich culture, warm, welcoming people and amazing opportunities to slow down and just soak it all in (and the tacos & margaritas too). ​ Honestly, if you are looking for a spot to just dive deeply into then definitely consider exploring the United States, where all 50 states - yes all of them, even you Oklahoma - have something amazing to offer. Or plan a trip around all 63 national parks - including some of our favorites Capitol Reef , Everglades and Olympic. Or head further south and adventure in clear blue water , swim with whale sharks, hike a volcano or just east some darn good tacos. ​ Explore by adventure below, or choose a specific country instead. explore the top adventures Out of gallery BIKEPACKING THE KOKOPELLI TRAIL HIKING FROM CRESTED BUTTE TO ASPEN IN COLORADO CLIMBING IN POTRERO CHICO explore the best national parks Out of gallery SEQUOIA + KINGS CANYON NP LASSEN VOLCANIC NP EVERGLADES NP explore all north america travel guides 6 Tips for Vanlifing in the Winter The Ultimate Kokopelli Bikepacking Guide 72 Hours in Crested Butte, Colorado 5 Things to Know About Hiking from Crested Butte to Aspen 72 Hours in Estes Park, Colorado 72 Hours in Moab, Utah The Best Ski Resorts in Colorado 72 Hours in Pagosa Springs, Colorado | Winter Edition The Ultimate Guide to Monterrey, Mexico Unexpected Adventures in La Huasteca National Park, Mexico Your Guide to Climbing in Potrero Chico National Park Escaping the Cold in Baja California Can’t Miss Winter Destinations in the American Southwest 72 Hours in Fort Collins, Colorado Idaho Panhandle, The Prettiest Area You Have (Probably) Never Heard About The Best Places to Explore in Estes Park, Colorado get out and explore faster

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