The small town of Calarcá, just outside of Armenia, hosts the Jardín Botánico del Quindío. It’s one of the best botanical gardens in all of Colombia and a must-see when visiting the UNESCO World Heritage listed Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia. Other than the diverse plant life and bird species that can be found in the garden, it’s mostly known for its Mariposario (Butterly House).
Admission to the garden is $20,000 per person. It can be reached via buses marked “Mariposario” leaving from Armenia’s Parque de la Constitución. They cost COP$1,800. A taxi should cost about COP$25,000 one way. The gardens are open from 9am to 5pm but it’s best to go earlier in the morning.
The gardens are visited on a guided tour only. The guides are volunteers so it’s appropriate to tip them after the tour. The admission fee is mainly for maintenance and upkeep of the grounds and museums located in the gardens. Tours are done in Spanish but can be done in English with advance notice. An English speaking guide costs an extra $30,000 per group.
The entrance to the gardens is in a small building with a café selling some snacks. Tours leave roughly every 15 minutes and run about 2 ½ hours.
The grounds are stunning and very well maintained. Many of the trees and plants along the paths are labeled and the guide does a great job giving information about several plants along the way.
Map and Maze
A couple highlights at the beginning of the tour include a huge topographical map of the department of Quindío and a topiary maze.
Suspension Bridge and Birds
Crossing a suspension bridge takes us to a birdwatching area. Visitors quietly sit behind tinted glass in order to see some of the several colorful bird species that live in the gardens. The guide said that toucans are likely to be spotted in the morning.
Next, a visit to a lookout tower gives visitors a bird’s eye view of the Mariposario (butterfly house), which was built in the shape of a butterfly.
Museums and a Break
A short break and a chance to visit some small museums is next. There’s a geological museum and a museum about palms along with cactus garden. Bathrooms and a small café with tables are located here as well.
The tour continued with a guided visit to the Museo del Túnel II Centenario. This museum entrance is a mock tunnel that leads to a large dimly lit open space. It explains the methods of construction of the tunnel system that at the time of writing was currently being built on the road from Bogotá to Armenia, complete with scale models. It was the most interesting of the museums for me personally. It’s quite a project.
Insect Museum and Mariposario
After stopping into another museum, this one dedicated to insects, we finally got to visit the Mariposario. We were able to take our time to walk through and admire the colorful butterflies fluttering around. Many people even dipped their fingers into the lemons that were placed in boxes to feed the butterflies. This attracted the butterflies to come and feed off the fingers.
The tour ended and we walked back to the main entrance to tip the guide. It was a very enjoyable time and definitely better than any other botanical garden I’ve visited in Colombia. I can highly recommend taking the time to see it while visiting the coffee region.