When people think of tourism in Colombia, there are a few places that typically come to mind – Cartagena, Medellin, Bogota, maybe Cali or Santa Marta.
All of these places are beautiful, and each is definitely worth visiting. But what many people don’t realize, or perhaps what they lack the local knowledge to find in the first place, are the many hidden regions that dot the Colombian landscape.
This is perfectly understandable. Nestled in the Andes mountains, much of the country remains hidden from the modern world and the tourism it brings with it. In some sense, this is a good thing – it shields the country from the type of excessive tourism that is making places like Paris and Rome feel overrun.
But if a place is worth visiting, there can be no doubt that at some point people will come to visit it. Colombia especially is brimming with these hidden gems – places that, despite their beauty, have let to appear as international tourist destinations.
One such location is Quimbaya. A small municipality tucked away at the northwest tip of the Quindío region, Quimbaya is a verdant expanse of rolling hills and sunny skies. Less than half an hour from the city of Armenia, Quimbaya is the perfect combination of rural splendor and urban amenities – perfect for any intrepid vacationer looking to get off the beaten path.
An Ancient History
Those well-versed in Spanish might notice that Quimbaya isn’t the most Latin-sounding word. That’s because it’s not really Spanish – it’s the name of an ancient indigenous civilization known for its intricate goldwork and sophisticated social structure.
The Quimbaya people were, at their height, a wide-spread civilization that stretched across the northern Andes, and was even present in Ecuador and Peru. Archaeologists estimate that the Quimbaya civilization emerged at some time around 500 BC, and lasted until the Spanish conquest wiped them out in the early 17th century AD.
The Quimbaya were among the first people in the Andean region to develop sedentary society and agriculture. As such, they felt a strong connection to the natural environment, which was expressed through their religious traditions and craftsmanship. The effigies and statues produced by the Quimbaya, often in gold, often show anthropomorphic or zoo-anthropomorphic figures.
This has led anthropologists to speculate that the Quimbaya belief system incorporated the idea of human and animal gods, with a heavy emphasis on rituals intended to imbue warriors with the power of animals. This notion – common among the prehispanic tribes of Central – is supported by the elaborate weaponry encountered in Quimbaya tombs and burial sites.
The best-known element of Quimbaya civilization is without a doubt its goldwork. The many statues, figurines, and adornments of the Quimbaya people are still on display in museums across Colombia, including in the nearby city of Armenia. Generally representing people and animals, or simply jewelry, the goldwork of the Quimbaya are among the most prized indigenous artifacts in the country.
Off The Beaten Path
It should go without saying that, like much of the Andean region, Quimbaya is gorgeous. That point can’t be stressed enough – the area is famous for its rolling green hills and bright, vivid sunlight. Quimbaya is beautiful to visit all year round, and even the rainy season offers peaceful views of clouds settled in the hills.
But what is there to do? Quimbaya is rife with tourist attractions, especially for those with a taste for agrotourism. This quickly-growing niche in the tourism industry involves travelling to farms and other ag sites to get a closer look at how agriculture is done.
In Quindio, agrotourism is one of the most popular forms of tourism, and tens of thousands of people a year flock to the region’s many coffee plantations. But coffee isn’t the only thing that Quindío has to offer – it has also seen rapid growth in lime, mango, and avocado production.
Quimbaya’s rich agricultural heritage makes it the perfect place to grow a wide variety of crops, and the friendliness of the locals is a definite boon for anyone looking for adventure. Colombia was forecasted to be among the world’s top tourist destinations for 2020, before the pandemic, and it is likely that as the pandemic subsides the country will resume that status.
Anyone interested in agrotourism can visit the PANACA, the Parque Nacional De La Cultura Agropecuaria. This agriculture-based theme park was built to help people from the city connect and learn about agriculture and interact with nature and animals. Only 20 minutes from the town of Quimbaya itself, the park attracts numerous visitors every year.
Another highlight of the region is the Cocora natural park. While not in Quimbaya itself, the park is only half an hour away, and has been a popular tourist destination for many years. Its towering was palms are truly a sight to behold, and the entire valley is an idyllic location brimming with exotic flora and fauna.
For all the world travelers out there, the Quimbaya region is a hidden gem that can’t be missed. The chance to get off the beaten path is not one to be overlooked, and any visitors to the region will no doubt be delighted by its magnificent views, rich cultural heritage, and warm, friendly people. Start planning your trip today!