The town of Santuario, sitting high in the mountains, is one of the more beautiful towns in the department of Risaralda. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia.
I visited Santuario with my girlfriend, Marisol. When we arrived, we immediately stopped for lunch at the Plaza de Mercado Santuario. On the second level there are a few different restaurants serving cheap set menus. The rest of the building is a shopping center. It’s also got a nice balcony where you can see all the action on the plaza.
The center of the plaza has nice tall trees and plenty of places to sit.
Around the plaza are a few colonial buildings.
The church doesn’t look like much from the outside but it has a beautiful wooden interior.
The highlight of Santuario for me was definitely the street approaching the town. This street is just a block long but lined with colorful colonial buildings with gorgeous balconies. The view into the plaza and the church towering over it as you approach the town is stunning.
Santuario makes a great base for Parque Nacional Natural Tatamá. The entrance to the park is just a few kilometers from town.
Hotel Montes, located just off the plaza, is a nice place to stay. Rooms are simple and clean, and the staff is very attentive. A single room is COP$25,000 and a double is COP$35,000. Rooms on the second floor are more susceptible to outside noise while rooms on the first floor are much quieter. Just don’t be too surprised when the church blasts Ave Maria through the entire town at 6am.
Getting to Santuario is possible from the bus terminal in Pereira. Transportes Tatamá has regular service about once every hour and Flota Occidental has limited service. The ride is just under two hours one way.
From Santuario, it’s easy to visit a couple other towns – Apía and Pueblo Rico. Both are accessible by waiting for a bus along the main road at La Marina (at the turn to Santuario). To get to Apía, flag down a bus headed north. It’s about a 20 minute ride. For Pueblo Rico, you need to make sure the bus is going past Apía. It will take about 45 minutes longer than Apía and costs about COP$6,500 each.