Manizales is one of the three major cities located in Colombia’s Eje Cafetero (Coffee Axis) and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia. It’s mainly a university city and is home to one of the most important festivals in Colombia, the Feria de Manizales, which includes bullfighting events and an international beauty pageant. It also has a slightly more European feel to it than other Colombian cities.
Manizales is a surprisingly nice city. I didn’t expect so much during my visit but I found the city to be clean, safe, and friendly, with lots of entertainment options, especially along Avenida Santander in the Cable Plaza area. There are two major malls I visited with plenty of restaurants and movie theaters – Fundadores and Cable Plaza.
The bus terminal is located at the bottom of the hill under the main part of the city. The nearest major city is Pereira, just an hour away. There is also a small airport, La Nubia, that isn’t of much use because of a small runway and frequent weather issues.
Getting around is done easily by bus. The main bus line runs from east to west along Avenida Santander and can get you from Chipre in the northwest through the old city center to Cable Plaza in the east. There is also a cable car line that runs from the city center down to the bus terminal for just COP$1,600. Taxis are plentiful and from one major part of town to another usually runs about COP$5,000.
For accommodation, I stayed at Mountain Hostel. It’s located in a nice area near Cable Plaza in a quiet residential area. For COP$68,000, I was able to book a private double room and get breakfast. The hostel was clean and most of the staff were very friendly and helpful – except the guy that checked us in. The staff was able to arrange our tour to the nearby national park, Los Nevados.
If transiting through Manizales (or for a budget stay), Hotel Los Cambulos is a good choice. Located a short walk from the bus terminal and cable car, rooms are small but clean and comfortable with good wifi. The only issue is the noise from the highway outside. A restaurant serving traditional Colombian food is on the ground level. They have huge breakfasts for COP$6,000. A double room cost me COP$40,000 for the night.