Modest but formidable, Quindio is the smallest department located in western central Colombia, nestled amidst the Andes mountains. In the heart of Quindio lies the somewhat miniature Armenia, the capital city that is easily accessible to charming heritage towns and the three biggest Colombian cities, namely Bogota, Medellin and Cali.
While its size and unassuming infrastructure will not capture hearts upon first sight, temperate Armenia and her people exude friendly charms. Like a cup of good coffee with lingering aromatic flavours, Armenia might just be that city you recall with fond memories and a sense of longing to return.
If you are planning to explore the beautiful Quindio, it is ideal to stay in Armenia as your base. Set aside at least a couple of days for these wonderful things to do in the capital city:
Visit The Quimbaya Gold Museum (Museo del Oro Quimbaya)
Known as one of the most beautiful museums in Colombia, the Quimbaya Gold Museum (locally known as Museo del Oro Quimbaya) pays tribute to the Quimbayas - ancient inhabitants of the region. While most attractions in Colombia cater solely to Spanish-speaking visitors, this Gold Museum in Armenia considerately provides information cards with English translation for the permanent exhibits!
Be intrigued by tales of the ancient past, admire gold and silver pieces (believed to be charged with spiritual and sacred powers!) and understand the local culture. Did you know that the Quimbayas were wonderful goldsmiths? As it namesake suggests, one will find crafted gold pieces of exceptional quality that were created a long, long time ago. Learning about the houses of the dead during the Late Period might also remind you of how cultures in destinations that are far apart from one another can be very similar!
Besides the permanent exhibition on the Quimbayas, there is a library, children’s playroom and galleries for temporary exhibitions or events.
Quimbaya Gold Museum (Museo del Oro Quimbaya)
Address: Carrera 19 No. 40 N-80, Armenia, Quindío, Colombia
Opening Hours: 9am - 5pm. Daily except Monday.
Duration: around 1.5 hours required.
Website: Museo del Oro Quimbaya
Shopping at downtown Armenia
If you can look beyond the mannequins with an extraordinary bust line (common in Colombia), you are in for a great shopping time! Parque Sucre marks the start of a pedestrian street lined with boutique shops, cafes and eateries. While one can shop in greater comfort in either of the shopping malls of Armenia, namely Centro Comercial Unicentro or Portal del Quindio, there’s a great lively atmosphere on the streets! If you are lucky, you may come across street and performing artists. Besides the souvenir shops, don’t miss Velez - a local brand for leather lovers. On the other end of the pedestrian street, you will find Plaza de Bolivar, the central square comprising the usual sculpture of Simon Bolivar, the Liberator who led revolutions against Spanish rule.
Find the Tree of Love in the City Center
Slightly elevated at one end of the Founders Park (Parque de Los Fundadores), a stubby hollowed tree stands proudly in concrete. Beautiful yellow birds flit around it while people walk past it day in and day out. The Tree of Love (Arbol del Amor) stands steadfast and conveys its message of love to those who care to stop and take a moment.
Legend has it that the tree was brought from the valley of Maravélez, where the bodies of two young forbidden lovers were found inside the tree. The tragedy continued with the tree being felled by lightning but the intact parts were saved, and eventually transferred to its current location to pay tribute to love.
The Founders Park is centrally located and a stone’s throw from the Centro Comercial Unicentro (shopping mall).
Take a moment to reflect in the Park of Life (Parque de La Vida)
Locals often refer to the 8-hectare Park of Life (Parque de La Vida) as a paradise in Armenia city. Providing an immediate nature retreat for city dwellers, this eco-tourist park is a gift from the National Federation of Coffee Growers and the Committee of Coffee Growers of Quindio to the city when Armenia celebrates its 100 years’ anniversary in 1989. Amongst the various city parks, the Park of Life is the biggest and includes children playgrounds, green fields, short trails alongside waterfalls and manmade lakes.
Enjoy a picnic here or simply slow down your travel pace and take a moment to reflect on life in the Park of Life. How apt is that? There are also events held here throughout the year and some of the best times to visit are during Halloween or Christmas.
Park of Life (Parque de La Vida)
Address: Cra.13 at Cl.8N, Armenia, Quindio
Price: 3,000COP / 1USD
Enjoy a cuppa at Cafe Quindio Gourmet
There are many nice cafes in Armenia and you definitely should not limit yourself to just one, but if time is tight and you only have time for one, head straight to Cafe Quindio Gourmet.
With a wide selection of coffee, tea and very delicious food (the Nutella waffles are to die for!). Get a special Gourmet brew that combines the best coffee beans from the region or enjoy a cup of tea with your very own butterfly. The latter is only available in-house and at this branch. There are other Cafe Quindio in the city but none matches the menu or service in the Gourmet branch that is conveniently located at the front of the Park of Life (Parque de La Vida).
Cafe Quindio Gourmet
Address: Bolivar Avenue 7 North Corner, Park of Life, Armenia, Quindio
Opening Hours: 11am - 10pm.
Contact: +57 321 803 82 28
Website: Cafe Quindio
Give yourself a treat at La Fogata
Reputed to be the best restaurant in the Coffee Triangle region, La Fogata in Armenia has been around for more than half a decade, and for good reasons! With its classy decor and dim lights, this atmospheric restaurant comprises a steakhouse and cafe that are popular with the locals, especially for special occasions.
Beyond delicious food and drinks, the exceptional service will enhance one’s dining experience. Upon completing your main course, the dessert server will come around with a trolley of sweet decadence! But, go ahead and savour the desserts, because they are the highlights of the house.
La Fogata Steakhouse
Address: Avenida Bolívar No. 14N-39 Armenia - Quindío - Colombia
Opening Hours: 12pm - 12am
Contact: +57 6 7495980
Website: La Fogata Steakhouse
More things to do in Armenia, Quindio
Recognised by UNESCO as part of the Colombian coffee cultural landscape, the less-trodden Quindio has more to offer than its important contribution to national economy, and Armenia makes for a great base destination to explore the region.
If time permits and you enjoy immersing in local culture, you may also consider learning Spanish (short courses are available in private institutions and universities) here. As Colombians from the central region tend to have a minimal accent and speak relatively slower, it is will be easier for novice learners to pick up the language. Feliz viaje!