Although Salento is the golden child of Colombia’s coffee region, there’s a little underrated town about 45 minutes away that deserves much more attention. This quaint pueblo is called Filandia, and is a must for anyone looking for an authentic experience in the Zona Cafetero region. It’s also much less frequented by foreigners than other areas of the region, and for this reason, it’s likely that you’ll be one of the only non-Colombian tourists there. Unlike most posts that I write, this one is going to start with where to stay, because that actually dictated my entire experience in Filandia, which was magical to say the least.
WHERE TO STAY
Casa Muy ChaCho
You know you’ve found a special place when after two days, you’re hugging the hostel owners goodbye and feeling really sad to leave. That’s exactly how I felt about Casa Muy ChaCho and the wonderful French couple that run it. Charlotte & Jordan made it extremely clear from the moment that I arrived, that their home was my home, and it felt like I was staying with friends more than staying at a hostel.
Casa Muy ChaCho is a small finca 30 minutes outside of Filandia, and is the perfect place to seek peace and quiet, and feel close to nature. The main house is where the kitchen and one of the private rooms is located, in addition to the very trendy “hang out” area which is filled with hammocks, swinging chairs and couches to lounge on.
A few yards away is the other house which has the dorm room and an extra bathroom. The finca is small, but big enough for a vegetable garden, multiple fruit trees and plenty of green grass surrounding the property. The finca is also surrounded by beautiful views of other fincas, home to hundreds of coffee plants.
I loved waking up to the sound of birds chirping and making fresh orange juice from oranges picked straight from their trees. It really is the perfect place to call home for a little while, and to relax and refresh, especially for any backpacker that’s been non-stop traveling. From Casa Muy Chacho, you can enjoy a tour of some nearby fincas and coffee farms, get to know some of the friendly neighbors, and hike to a nearby waterfall (all of which I will cover in the next section). I absolutely loved my stay at Casa Muy ChaCho and can’t wait to go back to visit my favorite French couple again!
WHAT TO DO:
Go on a tour of a local coffee farm:
Across the street from Casa Muy ChaCho, is a coffee plantation that guests of the hostel are welcomed to visit and get a private tour of the many acres of land boasting coffee, pineapples, plantains, yucca, avocados and more.
Alfredo, the man that has looked after this farm for many years, took about an hour out of his day to show us around the beautiful multi-acre farm.
He showed us the coffee plants, including what ripe beans look like as well as what damaged beans look like. He talked a little bit about the challenges that coffee farmers face, including a certain insect that can destroy the plants with ease. (Shoutout to my friend Tina for translating for me!!!)
He also chopped off a fresh pineapple for us with his machete, and it was easily the freshest pineapple I’ve ever tasted in my life. After showing us around for a while, we were invited for a fresh fruit juice, and spent an absurd amount of time playing with the farm dogs before heading back to Casa Muy Chacho. However, we didn’t leave empty handed. Alfredo and his wife insisted that we take a pineapple, yucca and a bunch of other fresh fruits straight from the farm back with us.
This is one of those off-the-beaten-track authentic experiences that connect you to a place forever. And not just the experience itself, but the amazing people you meet that add to that experience. I would highly recommend asking Charlotte & Jordan to take you over for a tour of this farm. They also sell coffee for those looking to take a piece of the experience back with them (and to support awesome people, as well).
Hike to a secret double waterfall:
Also near to Casa Muy Chacho is a beautiful waterfall that is only about a 30 minute hike through nearby fields and forest (also private land that welcomes guests of Casa Muy ChaCho).
The land is only occupied by cows, birds, and beautiful butterflies, so you’re sure to feel connected with nature. The hike winds down into the forest and along a small river that will lead you to a double waterfall. It was definitely much bigger than I expected, and was a nice easy afternoon activity to get to know some of the surrounding land.
Treat your tastebuds at Helena Adentro:
Rated as the best restaurant in the entire region, Helen Adentro can’t be missed during your visit to Filandia. The food was so good that we went back twice! The berenjenas de finca (an eggplant bruchetta type appetizer) are some of the best flavors I’ve come across in Colombia. In addition to finger-licking-good food, the atmosphere is fun and the decor is beautiful! It’s bright with natural light, and filled with fun and colorful accents throughout the restaurant. This is the type of place that considers every single detail, so it’s no wonder they are numero uno!
Take a (small) break from coffee at Jahn Salón de Té:
You’ll be spending the majority of your time in Zona Cafetero drinking coffee, which of course is not even close to a bad thing, but it was nice to take a break one afternoon at Jahn Salón de Té. This tea house specializes in home crafted teas, with some very unique blends like cocoa and hot pepper.
An added bonus is the views of the main square that it offers. Floor to ceiling shudder windows open to expose the perfect weather and colorful little pueblito before you. The cafe is decorated beautifully with quintessential Colombian color and a touch of rustic charm. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon relaxing and enjoying the slower pace of life out in the country.
Relax & people watch in Filandia’s main square:
Filandia’s main square is reminiscent of Salento, but is a lot smaller and whole lot more quaint. Like most of Colombia, it’s incredibly bright, with just about every color combination possible painted among the many cafes, restaurants, balconies and buildings – I mean, even the church is colorful!
What I found most entertaining was the little peddle operated jeeps circling the plaza (pictured above). The little kids driving these jeeps were having the time of their lives and offered amusement for everybody else!
Although the main square is adorable and is sure to keep you occupied with coffee drinking and people watching, make sure to wander down some side streets so you don’t miss any of the epic color combinations like the one above!
Along these streets you’ll find cute shops, small food vendors, and a taste of local life.
From the town center you can also hire a private jeep to take you outside of the city to some of the nearby fincas, but it will cost you! I recommend waiting for one of the collectivos to take you, as it will only cost you about 3,000 COP ($1 USD). This is what we used to get to and from Casa Muy Chacho. Just be aware that they run very infrequently and stop service around 6pm, so you’ll have to time it right. Also, the ride is often packed to the max, so get ready to get up close and personal with some new friends! If you’re lucky, you’ll have the opportunity to stand on the back of the truck bed and hold on for dear life, which is sure to be one of the more exhilarating car rides you’ve taken.
HOW TO GET THERE:
From Bogota or Medellin, you can either take a very long bus ride (5-7 hours), or very short flight (1 hour) right into Pereira. From Pereira, you can take a short, 6,300 COP ($2 USD) bus ride straight to the Filandia town center. The bus company we took from Pereira is called Expreso Alcala S.P, but I’m sure there are others. The Pereira bus station is pretty large, with a million different ticket windows, but if you head to the second floor and ask someone, they can point you in the right direction.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary stay at Casa Muy ChaCho for my opinions, but all opinions are my own. I only recommend places I would stay myself!