Though not beautiful in itself, Armenia is set dramatically between a lush valley and one of the highest stretches of the Cordillera Central. Founded in 1889, the city quickly grew into the center for the region's coffee trade, and in 1966 it became the capital of the newly created Quindío department. Unfortunately, disaster struck in 1999 when a catastrophic earthquake destroyed almost a third of the city center.
The city rebuilt itself with remarkable speed and determination, and it's bustling and prosperous once again. Of course, the need to rebuild so quickly has given the city a rather makeshift feel. However, there are a few surprisingly slick new buildings, and the area around Plaza de Bolívar is a pleasant enough place for a stroll.
The city also makes a good base from which to explore the Quindío, Colombia's second-smallest department. It shares a part of the mighty Parque Nacional Los Nevados and has several smaller nature reserves. It is also a short drive from the Parque Nacional del Café - the Disneyland of the coffee bean.