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Zona Cafetera/Colombia

Introducing Zona Cafetera

With just the brew of altitude and precipitation, the terraced slopes of the Zona Cafetera yield nearly half of Colombia's coffee crop on just over 1% of the country's total area. The conjunction of agreeable temperatures, lush green valleys, and impressive snow-capped peaks make it perfectly adapted for curious travelers as well.

The region wasn't settled by the Spanish until the mid-19th century, when Antioquia began expanding southwards during the so-called colonización antioqueña. By 1905, the area had developed enough to become a department in its own right, which was called Caldas. In 1966 conflicting economic interests within Caldas led to its split into three smaller units: Caldas, Risaralda and Quindío.

The region's paisa roots are evident in everything from its architecture to its hearty, meat-based cuisine. It has three cities, each of which is a departmental capital: Mani- zales, Pereira and Armenia. None is beauti-ful or particularly interesting in its own right, but all make good bases from which to explore the surrounding region. Their lack of charm is due in large part to the region's seismic instability. The most recent catastrophic quake struck in 1999, severely damaging both Pereira and Armenia.

Nature is the real reason you come here, whether it's to explore the lush coffee plantations, which cover nearly every slope between 1300m and 1700m, or to trek through the spectacular High Andes.