Colombia´s excitingly diverse cultural fabric is woven from three major strands: Indigenous, Spanish, and African. Manizales, located at the very heart of the country and coloured with a bold European tinge, is where you can trace the Spanish strand most readily. A relatively young city, it remains as proud as the band of twenty paisa adventurers that first colonised the ¨abrupt topology¨ of this area in 1847.
This ¨City of Open Doors¨ was built on coffee, and this exquisite little bean still holds a prominent position in the city´s consciousness. It´s the capital of the Caldas department and, along with Armenia and Pereira, forms Colombia’s Coffee Triangle, a region of fascinating biological diversity, outrageous views and, of course, incredible coffee.
Its peculiar topology makes Manizales one of the most spectacularly located cities in Colombia. Owing to its location in the Andes, the city is dwarfed by the snow-capped mountains that loom spectacularly over its horizon. This is also responsible for the no less than eight microclimates within the city´s boundaries themselves, and the surrounding region´s boisterous biodiversity.
Manizales is a university city, with a lazy 15,000 students attending the 5 institutes of higher learning here, and, thanks to this, its cultural scene is thriving. Theatre, ballet, and music concerts are all commonplace throughout the year. Manizales is also proud of its tradition in another, perhaps more controversial art, that of bullfighting. The healthy student population also means the city boasts a great, relaxed nightlife. The main cluster of bars are found in El Cable, near Cable Plaza shopping centre. For sightseeing, a must-see is the Gothic Cathedral of Manizales, rare in Colombia for its Italian architectural design; as are the tantalisingly sweet views and obleas on offer at Chipre, a favourite weekend haunt of locals. Ecotourists will delight in ecological reserves such as Ecoparque los Yarumos and the Rio Blanco Reserve, or the beautifully ominous presence of the snowcapped Nevado del Ruiz a bit further afield.