One Saturday afternoon, Marisol wanted to take me on her motorcycle trip to a couple of nearby towns in the department of Caldas. We headed out of Belén de Umbría around noon and decided to first hit Belalcázar, about an hour away.
Belalcázar is a town up in the mountains and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia. This otherwise small and unassuming town has the tallest Christ the Redeemer statue in the world. A popular local tourist attraction, it’s located on the southern end of town and admission is COP$3,000.
The statue, known as Cristo Rey de Belalcázar, stands 45.5 tall from the base of the pedestal to the tip of the head. The figure of Christ itself is 30m tall. It is also the only Christ the Redeemer statue in the world that allows visitors to walk up to the top via an interior staircase with 154 steps. The statue was inaugurated in 1954 but unfortunately is a bit unkept. It could use a paint job and some maintenance on the outside while on the inside I encountered moths and spiders as big as my hand.
Out front, there is a nicely manicured lawn with a gazebo and sitting areas, while the base of the statue holds a small chapel. There is also a small restaurant serving coffee and snacks with daily lunch specials. Staff was very friendly and excited to try speaking English with me.
Climbing up the stairs into the statue will bring to to a viewing platform from where you can see several different cities and departments on a clear day.
My favorite view is at the very top of the statue. A window inside the head lets you peer out at the outstretched arms, which creates quite a poetic view of the hand of Christ reaching into the clouds.
The town of Belalcázar isn’t of much interest but looks beautiful from the statue.
After spending time at the statue, we stopped in the hot and sleepy town of Viterbo on our way back to Belén. Viterbo sits in a valley and is approached via a gorgeous tree lined road with a bike path. While the entrance to town was very promising, the town itself was a disappointment. Other than a very spacious plaza filled with trees, there was nothing else to keep us there for long. There are a few recreational areas popular with locals but Marisol said they aren’t as nice and as clean as she remembers.
We asked some locals for a restaurant recommendation. Most of them steered us towards La Costeña, which is situated on the plaza next to the church. We had the set menu for COP$5,000 each and were both unhappy with the quality of the food. The meal consisted of meatball soup, grilled chicken breast, fries, salad, and a drink. It brought back not-so-fond memories of my elementary school lunches.
Belalcázar and Viterbo are both located about an hour from the bus terminal in Pereira. Flota Occidental and Sociedad de Transportadores La Virgina have service to Belalcázar while Viterbo is served by Transporte Zapata and Transportes Viterbo.