Pereira is the capital city of the department of Risaralda in Colombia's Zona Cafetera. It is in the center of the western region of the country, located in a small valley that descends from a part of the western Andes mountain chain. It is an urban center in the coffee producing region. Located in the middle of the triangle formed by the 3 main cities in the country : Bogotá, Medellín and Cali and about 3-5 hour drive from these cities.
Pereira is a beautiful university city with a population of 465,000. The city's motto is "Pereira con Vida".
Matecana International Airport, the largest and busiest airport in the region. Receives domestic flights of Avianca, ADA airlines, LATAM, and the low-cost airline VivaColombia. Also charter flights from Aexpa. Domestic non-stop flights go to Bogotá, Medellín (serves both airports: mainly to Olaya Herrera domestic airport, but also flights to Jose María Córdova - International Airport), Cartagena and San Andrés island. There is an international direct flight to Panama City operated by Copa Airlines.
Matecaña International Airport features Wi-Fi access to the Internet from almost every location. Taxis are regulated, reasonably priced and safe from the airport. Taxis are metered; there is a COP$2,100 surcharge from and to the airport. A taxi ride from the airport to downtown takes approximately 15 minutes, and can cost COP$8,000.
There are 3 additional airports within the range of one hour drive to Pereira, they are located in Manizales, Cartago and Armenia. There are non-stop flights to Madrid (Spain), Miami, New York, Quito and Guayaquil from the airport in Cali (3 hour-drive from Pereira).
Pereira is about 6 hours from Bogota by car, in the Bogota-Melgar-Ibague-Armenia road.
The trip is about 4 hours from Medellín and 3 hours from Cali (Pereira-Cartago-Buga-Cali).
Currently buses run in and out of Pereira's main station, Terminal de Transporte de Pereira. The station is clean and has standard amenities. Multiple bus companies have regular routes to destinations around the country. To get there from the airport you can take a taxi ride.
Some common bus companies in Colombia that are found in this terminal are:
- Expreso Bolivariano : This company has one of the most extensive networks. Some international destinations as well.
- Coomotor : Mostly destinations in Southern Colombia
- Expreso Palmira, Expreso Trejos, Expreso Alcala, Flota Magdalena
Municipal Transport - to small towns nearby : Lineas Pereiranas, Transportes Giraldo.
- Cali: COP$29,000, 4 hours
- Bogotá: COP$50,000, 9 hours
- Medellín: COP$33,000, 6 hours
- Manizales: COP$11,000, 1 hr 15 min every 15 minutes with a minibus
- Armenia : COP$7,200, 1 hour every 15 minutes with a minibus
- Santa Rosa de Cabal: COP$5,000, 15 min
There is an extensive network of buses running around Pereira connecting most parts of the city. Costs are around COP$1,600. It runs 5 km along the main avenues, including numerous nearby neighborhoods (barrios) and surrounding barrios. Use caution when visiting lower-income barrios (as you should in any other city). Types of buses range from large buses to smaller vans, and Wilys jeeps are also available for side trips to outlying areas including local mountains and valley floors (prices vary depending on destination but generally are very cheap).
Inaugurated in 2006, the Megabus is Pereira's version of bus systems developed in Curitiba, Brazil, and Ottawa, Canada, later adopted in Bogotá's Transmilenio: a mass transport system with exclusive lanes for large buses and enclosed stations. Buses are painted green, very comfortable, inexpensive, clean and fast. Buses run from 4:30AM to 11:35PM. You need to get a Megatarjeta to access, available at the stations at a cost of COP$4,400 which are your credit good for 3 trips. Fare COP$1,600.
Taxis are relatively cheap but make sure the meter is on. Some taxi drivers are dishonest and try to take advantage of foreigners. For example, if they stop along your route they will charge you an additional fare, and use standing charges while waiting. Some don't have meters, so ask for cost in advance. It's possible to negotiate as well. Standard daytime fare is 3,900 COP and rises to COP$4,700 after 7PM and on Sundays and holidays. As of August 2011, you could hire a taxi by the hour; the fare was COP$15,000.
Pereira is a beautiful university city with many things to see.
- La Pobreza. The Cathedral "La Pobreza" is the city's easy to see sight, why the Spanish would choose locations high up for planting cities, and why the later Colonialists from Medellin and State of Antioquia who founded this city choose this relatively high location to mount a new city 130 years ago. The climate is moderate and very healthy, and nothing like the humidity and heat you'll find in valleys down below!
- Olaya Herrera. There is a beautiful park called 'Olaya Herrera' on a mount overlooking the city and beautiful coffee rich valleys down below. The view is 360 degrees, and to east, north and south are views of city that's nestled up against the western side of central Cordillera (Colombia, in the western part of country, is basically divided into sections by three large, wide mountain ranges) and to west are views of the valleys, rivers and coffee plantations down below which contain the famous coffee cities of Santa Rosa de Cabal and La Virginia.
- El Cedral. The city has a important eco-park called El Cedral. It contains beautiful views overlooking the city and affords views of mountains. There are many hiking trails and nature walks, Also, there is also a large conference center and restaurants.
- Plaza Bolivar and Ciudad Victoria. There are two main plazas: Plaza Bolivar and Ciudad Victoria, where people can go to sit and to chat with friends, or to shop and to watch others in afternoon and evening. Plaza Bolivar contains the Municipal Palace administration buildings, as Pereira city is also the seat of Risaralda state.
- Museum of Modern Art.
- Orchids and Catleyas Garden.
- Museum of Technology in the University U.T.P..
- Museum Gilberto Toro García.
- Gold Museum (at Republic Bank Building).
- Cesar Gaviria Trujillo Viaduct, Av 30 de Agosto, Pereira, Risaralda, Colombia, ☎ .
- Centro Cultural Lucy Tejada, Cra 10 No. 16 - 60, Risaralda Pereira Colombia., ☎ .
- The city has a municipal auditorium and theaters where you can attend concerts, operas, and listen to symphonic music. There are lots of night clubs, discos, and bars that serve up lively house, trance, rock, salsa, and tango music.
- Pereira offers an exciting nightlife along the main avenue Simón Bolivar, where you will find many of best discos and restaurants, but there is another smaller in upscale residential neighborhood located in south part of city. On weekends, starting on Thursday night, this is where many of younger crowd and students like to gather. There are many fast food restaurants in this area also.
- Pereira is also home to famous football (soccer) club, 'Deportivo Pereira'. Viewing football is a very important activity here and Once fans pack the 30,000 seat stadium to cheer for their team.
- La Popa, a hill, gives you a scenic view of Pereira.
- Parque Arboleda. The newest, most modern and biggest mall with a large variety of shops, supermarkets a cinema and many more. Located at Circunvalar Avenue.
- Victoria Plaza. Centro commercial. Located near downtown and a big Exito supermarket. Cinemas, clothing, cafes and restaurants. Indoor parking. Near a Megabus station.
- Unicentro. A mall with a large variety of shops, a Carrefour supermarket. Located near the airport.
- Pereira Plaza. Behind the Hotel de Pereira and the convention center. Houses upscale stores.
- Bolivar Plaza. Downtown location, right on Plaza de Bolivar. Many shops and also cinemas, food court, cafes, indoor parking.
The traditional food comes from Antioquia, the region to northwest and famous for the city of Medellin. Lunch-time meals usually consist of a soup made from plantain (a variety of green bananas), followed by a plate of rice and selection of fried pork, beef, or chicken, with small cabbage salad in vinegar dressing, a natural juice drink made from mango, or if you are adventurous, try one of native fruit flavors, they are delicious but hard to pronounce, this will usually be followed by a coffee. Sometimes, you might be offered a dessert called mazamorra, which is corn and milk with local sugar, called 'panela'. They also use panella and water in making coffee, but don't recommend it, as the taste is very sweet, actually coffee served here is exceptionally sweet and unless you are a fan of sugary tasting coffee, ask for coffee made from plain water.
If you're visiting the 'Los Nevados' Natural Park, ask for 'aguapanela con queso' while going there. It's a hot beverage made of sugar cane served with cheese. Also look for cheese ice cream, chorizos from Santa Rosa and obleas.
- Kilaba. Delicious Arabian food on Circunvalar avenue.
- Sayonara. Colombian-style hamburgers and hot dogs. Try the pepper burger.
- La Estancia. International food. Try the Trucha Marinera
- "Tradiciones Peruanas" - Peruvian Restaurant. Original Peruvian food, prepared like in Peru. With Peruvian ingredients. Ceviches, Parihuela, Lomo Saltado, Arroz Chaufa and more.
Location C.C. Santa Mónica Plaza $$
- Mamá Flor restaurant. Offers local food and drinks, nice balcony in a quiet location. Opens late. Do not miss the traditional Sopa de Guineo, a tasty soup made with an unusual type of plantain, served with avocado, ground beef and rice. $$
- Delight, a great display of dishes in a bar, mostly for lunch. Burgers and lasagna for dinner. Not very light, but savory. Two locations: Victoria shopping mall and near Avenida Circunvalar. $$
- La Gran Manzana, Cra 7 No 23-74. An ice cream parlor where you can find the best fruit salad of Pereira and surroundings.
Paradise Calle 12
- 1 El Rincón Clásico (La Tienda de Olmedo), Carrera 2 at Calle 22 (downtown). A tiny bar with thousands of vinyl records, mostly tangos and Spanish music.
- 2 Zanzibar Club, Centro Comercial Bolívar Plaza (downtown), ☎ . Until 2AM. Cocktails, beer and food served. Pool tables. Terraces with great view of the Plaza de Bolívar. $.
- Hotel Abadia Plaza, Cra. 8 No.21-67.
- Hotel Central La 18, Calle 18 No. 7-32, ☎ . A cheap, basic, but clean and safe hotel downtown. Cable TV and big rooms with large windows; but no hot water and too soft beds. COP$25,000.
- Gran Hotel, Calle 19 No.9-19.
- Hotel Polo, Calle 20 No. 4-19 (200 m north of Plaza Bolivar), ☎ . Rooms with private bathrooms, Wi-Fi, newspapers in lobby, luggage storage, friendly owner, good location. double with bathroom COP$50,000.
- Sazagua, Km 7 towards Cartago. Hotel and spa. $$$.
- Hotel Suite Center, Calle 16 No. 7-56, ☎ . An inexpensive but nice hotel downtown. Pretty lobby. Breakfast available. Friendly staff. Free Wi-fi in lobby, plus one internet computer available for COP$2,000/hr. Cable TV, hot water, rooms with views. Laundry service available. from COP$69,000.
- [formerly dead link] Sweet Home Hostel, Carrera 11 No. 44-30, ☎ . The first hostel in Pereira. Free breakfast, cooking facilities, wifi, laundry service, dorms and private rooms.
- 1 Kolibrí Hostel, Calle 4, no. 16-35, Circunvalar, ☎ . Kolibrí hostel is a well located hostel in Pereira, Colombia. Enjoy the view of the mountains and the numerous hummingbirds during your stay. Prices starting from COP$20,000.
- Hotel Castilla Real Pereira, Calle 15 No.12B-15.
- Hotel Dann Soratama, Cra 7 No.19-20. Downtown at Plaza de Bolívar. Comfortable but small rooms. Nice restaurant with great views of the plaza. Parking included but not in the premises.
- Hotel de Pereira, Cra 13 No.15-73. Renovated in 2009, it is the largest hotel in town. Formerly Hotel Melia Pereira. $$$.
Be careful in some parts of Cuba and Villa Santana. They are colorful and lively but somehow risky.
The water quality here is excellent (Pereira water is on the top 20 of best quality drinking waters in the world). It is very pure also it is possible to drink straight from the tap here (but not in all parts of Colombia is this true), so no need to purchase bottled water and taste is great!
- Hotsprings The region is famous in Colombia for it's hot water springs and resorts such as 'Hotspring of Santa Rosa de Cabal' . Each contains not only a hot pool where the public gather to soak and relax, but many levels of hotel accommodation. Prices are approx. COP$30,000 per day, and all stay open till midnight. The 'Termales del Santa Rosa' lower and upper locations, as does the hot springs at 'Termales del Nevado'. At both locales, the upper pools are closer to water source and so have hotter water, but water temperature also fluctuates depending on which season it is, winter or summer.
- Worth seeing is the 'Termales del Santa Rosa' Hotel, it is a four star hotel and very nice if you can afford the COP$150,000/night (per person), US$75, however, includes is all meals and entry fees to pools, as well as use of private, exclusive wading pools. Also, both sites at Santa Rosa have incredible, breathtaking waterfalls that are lit with multi-colored lights, visiting at night is best, or if you have time, stay all day as price of entry is for all day!
- Aexpa airlines flies from Pereira to the exotic pacific beaches in Nuquí Chocó.
- Salento - The little colonial town known for its coffee farms, gateway to the famous Valle de Cocora and a great gateway point for treks to Los Nevados National Park.