The Mini Metropolis of Manizales

The smooth 38,000 COP or $20.93 minivan ride through the mountains from Medellín to Manizales reminded of a jaunt from Boston to New York City.  The picturesque Andean landscape is not what made me think of the Northeast of the United States.  I compared the two rides because the time and costs are similar.

Manizales is a city of around 400,000 people.  It sits at an altitude of 2,150 meters or 7,054 feet.  The average temperature is only 18º C or 64º F.  It tends to be very chilly in the morning and can warm up a bit during the afternoon.

Heating, air conditioning and fans don’t exist.  Your place of accommodation will more than likely provide you with thick blankets as mine did.

I just finished up a week in Manizales, the capital of the departmento or state of Caldas.

In some ways I found Manizales to be like a mini Medellín.

Because Manizales is the hilliest city in Colombia, trekking up and down steep Andean streets is great exercise.  While walking daily I sampled mostly unhealthy street eats, except for copious exotic fruit.  I also managed to engage in a few interesting and enjoyable activities:

●  Manizales is home to the third highest cathedral in Latin America and is the fifth highest on earth.    I got in on a small organized tour.  There were three steep sets of stairs which eventually got us to the look out point.  At 113 meters or 371 feet, looking down from the top is an awesome sight.   I never thought it would be possible to suffer from acrophobia but I felt a touch of nervousness while up on top.  Fortunately, I still managed to get my camera out to take a few shots.

Tours are given every hour on the half hour from 9:30am until 4:30pm.

The cost of the one-hour excursion is 7000 pesos or $3.86.  The climb and views are well worth the few bucks spent.

●  Along with Medellín, Manizales is one of two cities in Colombia that uses public cable cars for transport.  It’s called the Cable Aéreo. As Manizales is much smaller than Medellín, so is the the cable car route.  There are three stops or stations along one line.   The first station is in the center of town.  The third is next to the city’s bus staion.  When you arrive at the station, in lieu of a cab, you can jump on the Cable Aéreo and take it to el centro.  If your hotel is there then you can easily walk.  If you’re staying up in the Zona Rosa area you can take a cab that’ll run you about 5,000 COP or $2.76 from downtown near the cable car station.  Alternatively, a bus ride up Avenida Santender, to Zona Rosa costs 1,400 COP or $.77.  A ride on the Cable Aéreo also costs 1,400.  Like in Medellín, the views are stunning.

If you don’t need to use the cable car for transporation, I highly recommend a joy ride

● Ecoparque Los Yarumos:  To get there I had to hike up and down super-steep hills.  The only reason I can think of to visit Los Yarumos is for the wonderul views that it provides.

Before going, I was told that there are senderos or trails.  But the one path that I found took about three minutes to walk before it ended.    Other than the great views, I didn’t find this eco park to be anything special.  If you have small children, there is a nice playground there.

● One morning the son of the owner of the Hostal Palogrande where I stayed asked if I wanted to go on a hike outside of the city.   The only other foreign tourist that I met in Manizales was a Korean woman who had already signed up and paid for this makeshift tour.

We walked for five and a half hours through gorgeous countryside outside of Manizales.  His asking price was 35,000 COP or $19.26.  I thought that this was a bit high for a hike.  I was like:

If there are two of us now it should be cheaper right?”

Yes of course, just give me whatever you want to.”

I gave him 30,000 or $16.50.

I thought: That was too much.  I can’t be shelling out this kind of money just to hike.  Hiking should be free.

Granted, it would have been very difficult to do this hike on our own.  There were times when we weren’t even following a path.  We didn’t see another hiker.   The family dog joined us for the hike and even though we had a great time, the dog seemed to love the nature more than all of us put together.

The exercise of constant walking up and down hills was intense.   While on the hike I thought: I love the combination of nature and exercise.  It’s so invigorating.

●  Many Colombian tourists come to Manizales solely to take a trip to the Parque Los Nevados.  There is the volcano of Nevado del Ruiz.  This is supposedly the most beautiful part of Colombia where the altitude rises beyond 5,000 meters or 16,000 feet.  I had originally hoped to go hiking in this national park, ideally up the volcano.  However, I was quoted 125,000 COP or $69 for a one-day bus excursion that started at 7:00am.  I neglected to shell out that much money only to sit on a bus to look at snow-covered peaks and countryside.  I was told that because of recent seismic activity in the form of tremors, hiking is not currently allowed in Parque de los Nevados.

Here are a few more pics:


This pic was taken during one of my many strolls throughout mountainous Manizales.

 This shot was taken after I got semi lost.  The city isn’t huge, but it’s easy to lose your way nonetheless.  However, like many Spanish and Latin American cities, the street names are numbers, making it easy to find your way.

This one was taken during yet another one of many virtually aimless drifts around the city.

 This view is from outside at the top of El Catedral.

Here you see the group that I climbed up the cathedral with.

Besides the great view, this unique sculpture is another reason to visit Los Yarumos.

Here you can see the whimsical Andean sky from Ecoparque Los Yarumos.

Here’s a nice view down from the Cable Aéreo.

This final shot is from a random spot I ended up inHere you can see the Cathedral’s steeple in the center of the photo, visually ruling over the city’s small skyline.

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Does Manizales look like a city you’d be interested in visiting?  Feel free to comment below.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Al on January 30, 2012 at 15:30

    Nice posting, and awesome pictures, they really give you a an idea of what the city is like. What kinds of local fruit did you sample? Anything particularly noteworthy?


    • AL: A Thousand Thanks! Manizales is an interesting city. So far I’ve been sampling a lot of local fruits, all of which I find delicious as long as no sugar is added. One that I love is Tomate de arbol or Tomato from the tree which is very different from the garden vine tomatoes that we’re traditionally used to.


  2. Thanks for your blog post and pics. It is the only way imaginable that I can think of that allows me to explore this part of the world. Looking forward to the next post!


  3. Posted by Mamma on January 26, 2012 at 13:07

    Thanks for a wonderfully interesting blog post and pics!


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