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The fifth highest cathedral in the world – Colombia

Along with Fernando, who I met on the trip to Santa Isabel, I explore today Manizales. Manizales is primarily a student city. We see a lot of students under the big wooden tower chatting with friends and watching others strolling along the avenue. We pass an old cable car that used to transport coffee. Previously, people also used this cable, but some fell off and others sometimes had to stay seated for hours in the cold because the cable car stopped working. Now there still hangs a bronze trolley. I stay the night over in one of the Mountain Hostels Manizales which is great! Super service and good atmosphere!

The city makes me feel like I'm in a mountainous town in Europe, such as Switzerland or Austria. We walk to Plaza Bolivar where we see the great neo-Gothic Cathedral Basilica. They told me it is the 5th highest cathedral in the world (106m or 347ft). It costs 10.000 cop to climb the cathedral with a guide (there are also guides who speak English). First we learn about the origins of the cathedral and then we climb the many stairs. The view of the city is really fantastic. The guide shows us the landmarks. Before we go back outside, we drink a coffee in the restaurant of the cathedral.

We then take the metro cable to Villa Maria. This is a small village which is known for its delicious chorizo's (Colombian meat). We go to the 80-year-old restaurant, Marco Sáenz. It looks closed, but the neighbor says that we have to ring the bell. After we have done this, a friendly woman answers the door. She immediately opens her restaurant for us. She also leads us to the room where the sausages are hanging to dry and tells us about the origins of their company.

The chorizo is really good with lemon. Of the mazamora (corn with milk) I'm not a big fan. Learn more about Colombian food here.

Once arrived back in town, we take a bus to Chipre. Chipre is the highest neighbourhood in Manizales. We walk straight to the tower. Here you can skywalk. It costs 10.000 cop per person.  The entrance to the tower costs 3.000 cop. I get a harness and walk with the guide around the tower. Waw! The view from here is more spectacular than that from the cathedral! Incredible! The guide also shows me everything and names the parts of the city.

Later, we go to the monument Los Colonizadores. The entrance is free and Eryka gives us an explanation of the monument. It really is a beautiful work of art!

In Chipre are a lot of nice restaurants and bars. We eat their typical dessert: the oblea! That is a flat biscuit with arequipe. You can also obtain other filling. I find it very tasty.

Tonight I sleep in Kumanday hostel. A very cozy and clean hostel. The receptionist is super friendly and I sleep in a 4 person dorm. The mattresses are good.

At 8.30 am I am picked up by a taxi to go to hostel Hacienda Venecia. Hacienda Venecia is half an hour outside the city. Diana gives me a tour of the hacienda which is very spacious and there is a large swimming pool in the garden. Diana tells me that you can also camp here. Throughout the day fresh coffee is available for free. Their own coffee!

10am Our coffee tour in Hacienda Venecia begins. Ruben tells us that coffee actually comes from Ethiopia. He says there was a goat herder who noticed that his goats who were chewing on coffee beans became active. He made tea and drank it down. He felt that he himself was active so after he tried roasting beans. There are many different stories. Some people say that coffee was discovered in Arabia.

Ruben also tells us that coffee in Colombia is the whole year available because it is 5 degrees above the equator. On the farm they have 25 permanent employees and 200 seasonal workers.

We, ourselves can taste the coffee. You have light roasted coffee beans, medium roasted and high toasted. There are several samples on the table with all the different smells. We have to guess what the smell is. I'm super bad in this. The other girls do a lot better. One in three they guess correctly. There is, for example: cinnamon, vanilla, ...

A little later we walk through the coffee plantations. We pick some berries. The red berries are tasty and sweet inside, very delicious to suck on. Like a candy. Ruben gives us some more information about the plantations and the growth of coffee plants. Very interesting. Then we walk through the beautiful nature to their main finca next door. Here you can also sleep, but you also pay some more because it is the luxury category. Very beautiful! Typical stylish rooms, a nice kitchen, cozy pergola, nice pool and above all very peaceful. I get a refreshing lemonade while Diana leads me around.

Together with Monica I go to her house. She brings me to Finca Romelia. Her house stands at the top of the mountain and offers a stunning view of the valley. We walk down the mountainside among the tangerine trees. It smells delicious! Monica has a nice positive energy and chatters about the area and the flowers and the plants. We also see small mangoes and beautiful red flowers that hummingbirds find so tasty. 

We walk up to the big house of her parents, 2 super friendly people. Her father, Jose, would immediately show me his orchid collection.

He also shows me all the certificates they have obtained. I've never seen so many orchids together! Well over 400 different species.  There are a large orchids but also miniature orchids which you should look with a special glass. This has always been a hobby of them, but as they grew older, Marisa and José played with the idea of sharing their wonderful collection with the outside world. Fortunately!

I eat a delicious lunch and then I get a tour of the conservatory with the mini orchids. In the garden I see a Barranquero (Blue Crowned Motmot)  , a beautiful bird with a bright blue head.

Later that day I do a bike ride with Kumanday hostel.  Normally, the bike tour is always through the city, but because I've seen the city, we go the other way. We ride up a hill. Waw! That was puffing! I urgently need to do something about my condition.

While these bikes are the best bikes that I have ever ridden. Apparently this brand, GW, was also used by the Colombian mountain bikers during the Olympics. Class bikes. On top of the hill we have a wonderful view of the city! We are just in time to see a beautiful sunset.

There is a man with his car and his radio plays the song "Latinoamerica" from Calle 13 (Puerto Rico). Simply enjoy! (Colombian music) I just love this side of the globe!

On the way back we stop at a local restaurant where we eat sausages with criolla potatoes. Delicious!

I really enjoyed Manizales and will certainly come back! THANK YOU ALL!


1. Reserve your table quite in advance if you want to go for a romantic dinner in the restaurant at the Cathedral Basilica! It is on the 2nd floor.

2. A ticket from the city by underground cable to Villa Maria cost 1.500 cop/pp one way.

3. Bus from then terminal to Villa Maria metro costs 1.600 pesos per person. The bus ride takes half an hour.

4. Weather in Manizales can be changeable, so always carry your rain jacket with you and your sunglasses!

5. The orchid tour with Monica cost 60.000 cop / pp included pick-up in Manizales (=35min) and a drink. They offer this also in English. 

Here you can find information about How to get to Manizales.

Here you can read another travel story about the hike to Santa Isabel Snowy Mountains on a Volcano, close to Manizales.