Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is the week leading up to Easter. It’s a big deal here. It’s a religious week where people attend church services and make loads of sweets from different fruits, my favorite being coco con leche (coconut with milk).
For many PCV’s, Semana Santa is vacation time! I took the chance to go to the Eje Cafetero, or Coffee Triangle, in the interior of the country. Let me tell you, it’s worth being on your travel to-do list. Sam, my site neighbor and travel buddy, and I chanced heading to Buenavista, a smaller, lesser known pueblo, to start. If you’re familiar with San Alberto coffee, it’s from this town. It’s an amazing little pueblo built in the hills. There is some local tourism and the hostel we stayed at advertised Buenavista and Pijao, the neighboring pueblo, as hidden treasures for travelers who like to go off the beaten path. They aren’t kidding. We arrived at the hostel in Buenavista and were offered coffee before even seeing the dorm room we were staying in. Pretty fitting for the Coffee Triangle. Now, full disclosure, I don’t like coffee. However, I’ve been told coffee from the Eje Cafetero is delicious, very smooth and a little sweeter than coffee grown in other regions. The majority of Colombian coffee is exported and, because of that, many Colombian’s drink instant coffee. Therefore, I did try multiple coffees, as I was there. Nothing swayed me to the dark side, however.
Here’s a little taste of Buenavista…
The next morning we decided to catch a Willy (a jeep) and head over to Pijao for a few hours before going to Salento. We asked the Willy driver (how can you not love saying that?) to drop us at a particular coffee shop but he thought we meant somewhere else. This worked in our favor, as he brought us up a steep hill to a hostel that gave us some great views and a cute puppy. What more can you ask for?
We then went to Salento. It’s touristy, but for good reason. There’s an amazing hike in the Valle de Cocora, going through hills and a cloud forest to see giant palm trees. Think Truffula Trees from The Lorax. In fact, if you want to be as cool as we were, read the story as you sit amongst the trees.
There’s also lots of amazing food and coffee finca tours. One of the restaurants, Brunch, let’s you sign the wall. There’s a corner for PCVs. And the food is amazing. Peanut butter brownies, anyone? We met up with Michael, an RPCV who just finished his service recently and is working near Medellin now, Max, one of his colleagues, and a new friend, Ann-Marie. Along the way we met others at our hostel, people jumped in and out of outings and games, and had a great time. It’s chilly in the mountains and there were even large, fluffy blankets to use in the evenings. Fluffy blankets, people! After the heat of the coast, this was paradise. We had a jam-packed few days, eating everything, hiking, touring a coffee finca and learning about the whole growing process, meeting up with other volunteers, and more. It’s definitely worth a couple days to check out!
Recommendation status: GO! And make sure to get a mix of the more and less touristy pueblos.
Fun fact to end: If you are shopping (outside of Colombia) and want legit Colombian coffee, make sure it has the symbol on it, as seen on the right side of the package here.