This post was originally written for and published on Colombia Eco Travel.
I slid on my leather jacket and tugged my helmet over my ponytail. I threw my leg over the back of my boyfriend’s motorcycle and gave him a thumbs up. We were about to embark on our first overnight motorcycle adventure in the coffee region of Colombia. The mountainous coffee region of Colombia is filled with quaint farming towns, and we wanted to experience them on two wheels. My previous idea of an adventure was curling up with a book and coffee, but that’s the finest phenomenon of love and travel – it inspires the formerly unknown, and so off I rode, in search of a new story and a good cup of coffee along the way.
Our first stop was Belalcázar, Caldas. We were drawn to the town by the huge Christ Redeemer statue on a hilltop. Because it was a few days before Easter, there was a line to climb up and look through Jesus’ eyes. We opted to spread out on the grass in front of the statue, stretch out our legs, and watch the local scenes unfold. Families posed for photos, teens showed off their strength playing on the railings, and all were in their Sunday best. There were a few booths sprinkled about where you could buy a trinket or two and a restaurant serving up hot platters of arepas, frijoles, chorizo, and patacones.
We continued after lunch, twisting and turning with the mountain roads. I could tell my boyfriend was in a motorcyclist’s dream as we leaned into each curve cutting through the cool Andean air. At one point, we joined another group of local riders who probably could have ridden those roads with their eyes closed. We followed their confident lines until we had to turn towards our next destination – Marsella, Risaralda.
We arrived in Marsella right before the sunset, and we could see the beautiful church (Iglesia María Inmaculada) in the middle of the main square at the top of a steep climb. I held on tight, and in the square we found a handful of local restaurants, a cultural center (Casa de la Cultura), and the small and colorful cafe, Don Danilo. The café is a small, family business that also grows their own coffee – a mere 1 kilometer from their café. The owners are third generation farmers, and they plant, cultivate, process, roast, grind, and brew their own coffee, and it shows. It was easily some of the best coffee I’ve ever had, let alone in Colombia. Luckily we were staying right next door to the café in a small room they rent to travelers, which we found through AirBnB (although we learned it would have been less expensive to book directly, as usual).
The next day, we wandered through the church, and if I had known how to play chess, we could have played on the giant game board inside the cultural center. Marsella is well known for the Jardin Bontanico Marsella Alejandro Homboldt. This botanical garden promotes biological conservation through environmental education and technology and is a Heritage Cultural Site, awarded by UNESCO. In addition to the tropical flowers, interactive science games, several species of fish, there’s even a 200-meter zip line.
After we finished exploring Marsella, we set off again winding through the mountain switchbacks ready for the next adventure.
If you’re interested in renting a motorcycle to explore Colombia, visit Motolombia.com. This family-run business based out of Cali, Colombia offers several different models starting at only $99 per day and also offers guided tours throughout not only the coffee region but also all over the country.