Nestled in the mountainous coffee growing region in Colombia’s west, Manizales is the capital of the Caldas Department and an important university centre. It’s renowned for its steep streets and sweeping views towards the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano and is the main hub for the production of Colombian coffee.
The monumental Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary lies at the very heart of the city, built in a neo-Gothic style on the edge of Plaza de Bolivar. It is one of the tallest cathedrals in Latin America, with outstanding views of the city from its observation tower. A man-condor sculpture honouring the revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar dominates the plaza, with the neo-colonial Governor’s Palace situated just to the north. To the south of the city centre is the Zona Rosa, packed with restaurants, bars and nightclubs and the main entertainment district for both students living here and visiting tourists. A short walk from the city accesses the elevated Chipre area which offers spectacular views across the coffee-growing surrounds, and it’s here that the iconic Monument to the Colonists is found. It was designed by Guillermo Vallejo to mark the 150th anniversary of the city’s founding, remembering those settlers who overcame the mountainous terrain during the mid-19th century. Manizales makes an ideal base for exploring the coffee plantations and fincas in the surrounding region, together with the Recinto del Pensamiento Park which boasts picturesque walking trails and a hummingbird sanctuary. Outdoors enthusiasts can also venture into the dramatic landscapes of Parque Nacional Natural los Nevados to the south-east of Manizales to explore its lush jungle and snow-capped volcanoes.
Manizales is served by La Nubia Airport which offers domestic flights to Colombia, while regional buses connect with the surrounding towns and cities in the coffee growing axis. The Manizales Aerial Tramway overcomes the hilly terrain to connect the city centre with the regional bus station, as well as to the suburb of Villamaria.
Manizales was founded in 1849 by a group of Antioquians from Neira and Salamina and remained a relatively homogenous, white community during its early years. During the mid-20th century, universities began opening in the city, attracting a diverse mix of ethnic groups as Manizales became a “university town”.