Pereira is the capital city of the Risaralda Department of western Colombia. With a population of more than 500,000, it is an important economic and cultural center. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as the "Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia".
Lake Otún is a small lake at 12,000 feet in the Andes. It is an important breeding ground for many birds, and visitors can fish for rainbow trout.
This dramatic volcano is popular for its spectacular views, hiking, and climbing.
Ukumari Biopark is the largest theme park in South America, focused on the preservation of the animal and plant life of the region.
The city has an interesting mix of modern, colonial, and republican buildings, especially around Victoria.
Pereira has a vibrant nightlife with lots of bars and clubs, especially in the Avenida Circunvalar area.
Pereira's focal point, the Plaza de Bolivar is a great place to start an exploration of everything this charming Andean city has to offer. Built in the 18th century, the square was once the center of the colonial city, but now (as with many Colombian squares), it's a grand homage to the Liberator, Simon Bolivar. The centerpiece is "Bolivar Desnudo", an 8.5 meter tall statue of the great man, but for many the highlight will be exploring the shopping streets around the square.
The religious nexus of the city, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Poverty can be found just off the Plaza de Bolivar, and it's well worth popping inside to check out the interior. If you're used to soaring arches and dazzling stained glass in cathedrals, it might prove a surprise. Instead of showy features, Pereira's cathedral is a brickwork masterpiece, more in the tradition of the Mezquita at Cordoba than traditional European churches. And it's a deeply moving, tranquil place to spend some time.
The tourist highlight of the sprawling Universidad Tecnológia de Pereira, the city's botanical gardens show off the rich biodiversity of the Andean foothills, and the UNESCO-protected "Coffee Cultural Landscape" of which Pereira is a part. When you visit, you'll come across beautiful orchids, walks through shady bamboo groves, a fascinating apothecaries' garden showing how locals use plants for medicinal purposes, and plenty of bird life, too. The whole place has been deliberately left semi-wild, making it very different to standard botanical gardens, and giving a vivid peek into the life of the rainforest. If you love nature, it's an absolute must-see.
A complete counterpoint to the intimate cathedral, the Iglesia El Claret is a Baroque/Gothic fusion, and an architectural delight. Located on Carrera 7, a few hundred meters west from Plaza Bolivar, it's a much more ornate affair, with intricate stonework and crenellations, and a bright interior nave. And when you've had your fill of spirituality for the day, the neighborhood around the church is packed with seafood restaurants and laid-back student bars, so it's a great place to kick back and fill the evening with entertainment.
Another must-visit for budding biologists is the excellent Bioparque Bonita Farm. Situated a few miles northwest of Pereira's city center, the Bioparque is a working family farm that's been set up as a thriving ecotourism destination. The owners will be happy to show guests around the coffee plantation, giving some insight into where your espresso gets its kick, as well as showing off local residents like snakes and the odd tarantula or two. The butterfly enclosure is a particular highlight, making it a great place for families to head during their time in Pereira.
Pereira enjoys relatively stable temperatures of around 70 degrees all year. Spring and fall are rainier than summer and winter.
Matecaña International Airport (PEI) has flights across Colombia and international services from New York and Panama City. The 10-minute taxi ride into the city center will cost around COL$9,000. The bus fare is COL$1,800.
You can reach Pereira from Bogota in seven hours on the Ibague Armenia road. The trip from Medellin on the Cartago-Buga-Cali route takes four hours.
Pereira's main station is the Terminal de Transportes de Pereira. There are services from most major cities in Colombia. Bus fares from Bogota are from COL$32,000.
Hotel Benidorm on Calle 21 offers good budget accommodation in the downtown area, while Movich Pereira on Carrera 13 offers luxury modern rooms and an outdoor pool in a good location.
Victoria - this is a central neighborhood around Plaza Victoria, with some of the city's best architecture and some good hotels and restaurants.
Boston - this is just to the south of downtown, close to the bus station. You will find plenty of budget accommodation and local shopping.
San Nicholas - this is an area to the west of the city center, with good shops and close to all amenities.
Pereira has extensive bus services along all major routes and into the suburbs. Fares are from COL$1,800. The Megabus service has dedicated lanes and is comfortable and fast, with fares from COL$1,600.
Taxis in Pereira are plentiful and cheap. Meter drop is COL$1,100 and the fare is then COL$1,400 per mile.
Driving in Pereira can be a little challenging and traffic is busy at peak times. Car rental is available from COL$88,000.
The area around Plaza Victoria has a number of upscale boutiques, while the Bolivar Plaza on Plaza de Bolivar in downtown has lots of mainstream stores and food outlets.
A quart of milk in Pereira costs COL$2,200 and a loaf of bread is COL$2,800.
Mama Flor on Calle 11 offers traditional Colombian dishes, focusing on grilled meats. With a hilltop terrace, it has great views and mains from COL$18,000. Vegetarians will prefer Vegetariano La 23 on Calle 23, with mains from COL$6,000.