If you’re spending any amount of extended time in Colombia, then Buenavista, in the department of Quindío, needs to be on your list.
I’m serious. Buenavista is a peaceful and picturesque escape from the frenzy that travel can be. If you’re anything like us, you get to Colombia, thinking you have X amount of time to see this, this and this. And then you quickly realize that you really should see these other things, and also that you just don’t have enough time. I’ve met travelers who have been in Colombia for 2 months, 3 months, even 11 months and STILL haven’t seen everything.
There’s a lot to see in Colombia, and it can be overwhelming. If this sounds at all familiar, then Buenavista is where you need to be. It is an escape from the hustle and bustle, the constant feeling of needing to do things, and perhaps most importantly, your ticket to a truly authentic Colombian experience.
If this sounds up your alley, keep reading for things to do, where to stay, and how to get to Buenavista, Colombia.
Buenavista is possibly the quaintest town in Colombia. It is a town where life is simple and time runs slow. Upon arrival, you might notice it is pretty nondescript: a few colorful buildings, a handful of arepa stands, empanada stands, bunuelos, a pool hall, church, cafes… pretty typical. On its face, this is not any different from other small towns you’ve no doubt visited, besides its spectacular view of the valley (hence its name, buena vista).
People come to Buenavista to rest, relax, and live the good life. There’s not too much to do here, and that is what makes it amazing. This is your key to having an amazingly authentic Colombian experience in every way.
We arrived in Buenavista after one month in Colombia, and this little town exceeded our expectations and blew us away in every which way. When you get here (and at this point, if you’re still reading this, YOU MUST COME), you may not be very impressed. Take it in. Let it settle. This town isn’t here to impress tourists. This town just is. Here, you may not run into any tourists. Or maybe you will — it’s only two long streets, intersected by less than a dozen cross-streets. Notice the details. This is where it’s at, your true Colombian experience.
There’s only ONE thing you MUST do in Buenavista and that is to go to Don Leo’s coffee farm. If you’ve been in Colombia for any amount of time, you’ve probably been to a coffee farm. But this really isn’t about the coffee farm, it’s about the man behind the coffee farm, Don Leo. Don Leo is a Colombian campesino through and through, and his story which he begins over a cup of coffee in the plaza, is a window into Colombia’s complex history. You will learn about the guerrilla, the paramilitares, and the culture behind coffee-growers (aka, caficultura) all through the lens of a campesino.
After one month in Colombia, Don Leo’s tour became the most defining moment of our trip. You cannot miss it. For 35,000 COP (yes, that’s it!!), Don Leo will meet you in the plaza in the center of town for a cup of his own coffee served exclusively at Cafe Extasis. From there, he will walk you to his farm, Finca La Alsacia, just down the road and tell you a story unlike any you’ve heard. For more on Don Leo and his incredible story, be sure to check out our blog post here.
Don Leo’s tours run every day at 10am and 2pm (provided people show up) and include coffee and a meal. You just have to text his wife at +57-314-761-0199 the day before, and do let her know in advance if you need translation.
Aside from Don Leo’s tour, Buenavista is where people live the good life and take it easy, and you should too. Enough rushing around, you’ve done enough of that. Do whatever comes organically. This town’s not in a rush. It’ll meet you at your pace, whatever that is… unless your running… or fast-walking… Didn’t you read what I said earlier? Time moves a little slower here.
For some inspiration on what else you can do here:
- Watch the sunset from El Mirador (see first image of this post)
- Grab a high quality coffee from Coffee House Terraza
- Play a game of pool or billar
- People watch in the plaza (or be watched by people)
- Try the best cheese empanadas we’ve found in Colombia
- Hike to Tres Cruces (only if you really want some elevation training)
How to Get There
It’s important to first note that there are multiple towns called Buenavista in Colombia. This Buenavista is in the department of Quindío, in the coffee region of Colombia, south of Medellin. To get here, take a one hour bus ride from the Armenia bus terminal. Buses leave every 30min until 5pm, after which, they leave at 6:30pm and 8:15pm.
You can get to Armenia via bus from the bustling capital of Bogota or beautiful city of Medellin. It’s a long bus ride of relatively equal duration from either city. If you are already in Colombia’s coffee region, likely in either touristy Salento or local favorite Filandia, you’re less than 3 hours away with a connection in Armenia.
Where to Stay
There’s only one hostel in town, Panorama Cafe Hostel, and it is 100% where you should stay! The hostel has an INCREDIBLE terrace overlooking the valley and it’s a short 5 minute walk from the plaza. Dorms are 35,000 COP and private rooms are 80,000 COP. We cannot recommend staying here enough!
Alternatively, you can stay at El Gran Mirador, a hotel uphill from the plaza with incredible views, with rooms starting at 80,000 COP. El Gran Mirador is a steep hike up from the plaza, and you may want to take a Willys (a Jeep-like 4×4) from the plaza to get there; it should only be ~15,000 COP.
For a truly authentic finca experience, you can stay at Don Leo’s. Private rooms start at 70,000 COP, and you will want to take a Willys down and back up the hill with your bags (the finca is steeply downhill from the plaza). A Willys will cost you 15,000 COP one-way. If you stay here, just be prepared for bugs and no hot water — again, a true rural experience!
Where to Eat
Haven’t you heard? The key to happiness is low expectations. Obviously, you’re not going to find five-star meals in this little town. Nonetheless, we really enjoyed our meals at the following:
Coffee House Terraza
Coffee House Terraza has the best cup of coffee you’ll get served in this town, not only because of the quality of the beans but also for the quality of the espresso-pull. The latte art is an added bonus. If you’re not in the mood for coffee, and if Jonathan is working, ask him to make you a cerveza granizada, it’s a fruity blended beer drink and it’s as delicious as ice cold beer is refreshing.
Come for a nice dinner with a view. They’re famous for have a special coffee trout and coffee rice, which is basically either cooked in a coffee-based cream (not my style). The trucha al ajillo was the best trout I’ve had in Colombia and the chicken and vegetarian dishes were delicious as well.
Come for the freshest french fries and a Colombian burger. If you haven’t tried a Colombian burger yet, do it here. The burger con todo is packed with 11 ingredients between the buns (sauce excluded). Extra points if you can name them! See answer below.
La Barra Gourmet
We were impressed by their menu del dia, which was filling and only 8,000 COP per person
The Empanada Place
Their cheese empanadas will knock your socks off. It’s not really called the empanada place, but it’s just at the corner of the plaza, caddy-corner to La Barra Gourmet. Get the double-cheese empanadas, or doble-queso. It’s a deep-friend puff pastry — you guessed it — filled with cheese. Who cares if it’s made from scratch or bought frozen (this is Colombia anyway, they’re not known for their food), this will probably be the best empanada you’ve had in your life.
Where to Go Next
From Buenavista, you will likely want to go back to Armenia (1hr bus) and from there, the world is your oyster. Take a 3-hour bus to the salsa capital of Colombia Cali, or circle back up through the coffee region, or make your way to Medellin or Bogota (Bogota is a slightly better road-trip from Armenia) to fly out to your next destination.
There you have it, our ode to Buenavista Colombia, our favorite place in the Zona Cafetera! From us to you, happy adventuring!
- All prices and durations are as of late August 2019.
Answer: Con todo, or with everything, this burger has: lettuce, carrots, cucumber, beef patty, bacon, ham, quail egg, tomato, cheese, onion, potato chips. Yeah.