I arrived in Armenia early on the morning of May 3rd. I decided to not go directly to the hotel (even though they had a van waiting for us) and spent the day in Armenia, walking around and taking in the city. I didn't stop anywhere but this is one of the bigger cities in the region (the other being Pereira) and I'd recommend visiting if you have the time.
In the evening I took a taxi to the hotel Decameron Panaca (about an hour from Armenia). The hotel is very welcoming, has a family vacation vibe and the food is really good. It's a little pricey and not the type of accommodation I generally choose (I would've preferred a smaller, finca-style, less touristy place). However, I cannot complain because the facilities here were great, there was access to nature and they had entertainment in the evenings. Also, they will help you plan day trips if you don't have everything planned ahead of time.
The next day we took a van to the Parque del Cafe. This was "must-do" but I have mixed feelings about it. Although the views from the cablecar were incredible and the coffee tour was very informative, there is not much else to here as an adult. There are a lot of rides, rollercoasters, etc. Basically, attractions that target families and little kids. It's a fun place to visit but as an adult looking to learn about coffee, Colombia, and looking for authentic experiences, this is not the place for me. I recommend finding a local guide and visiting a functioning coffee farm instead.
The following day we visited the towns of Quimbaya, Finlandia and Salento. Salento is a must! This town is so charming and is about 15 minutes from el Valle de Cocora. There isn't much to do in the other towns but there is a really good coffee place in Finlandia called Jahn Café that is right in the center of the town.
From Salento you can see the Quindio River Valley. You can play Tejo here (a fun, typical game, usually involves drinking beer) and see a lot of the regional crafts. I would recommend spending a night here, as the city appears to have a good night life and the Valle de Cocora (a mere 15 minutes away) deserves more than an afternoon.
The Valle de Cocora was probably the best part of the trip. The wax palm trees in this valley are the worlds tallest palm trees (about 200 feet tall). You really don't have to travel too far to see them, if you are not a big hiker, maybe 30 minutes or so. However, if you are a hiker, there are some amazing hikes starting at 4-6 hours in length and others that can be a few days long. This valley is part of the Los Nevados National Park, so there is a lot of hiking opportunities here. Plan for rain, as it always rains in the valley and bring water and anything else you may need because once you start, there isn't much in the valley. These palm trees, and Colombia's nature in general are magical and this trip should not be missed. Also, I was traveling with my grandmother (she is in her early 70s) and she found the first leg of the hike to be manageable.
The following day we went to the Termales de Santa Rosa de Cabal. These thermal, hot spring pools are not natural but the thermal water is fresh. Right next to the pools there's a waterfall, about 100 feet tall, where you can cool off from the hot baths. The waterfall is beautiful, the service is really good here. I definitely recommend a visit if you are looking to have a relaxing day by a pool and enjoy some hot springs. You can eat, drink, laze in the baths and explore the area a little. However, if you are an active person and like to keep moving, this might not be the place for you - or you might find a couple of hours here to be enough. The pools can get crowded but it is mostly be Colombian families. Very few foreigners seem to be here at a given time.
We also tried visiting Panaca, a farming-theme amusement park, simply because it was walking distance from the hotel. This is also a popular place to visit by Colombians, but I do not recommend it unless you want to see horse shows or look at different types of farm animals.
Finally, make sure to find cool local places to drink coffee. This region also has a lot of avocado and plantain farms. Also, the views in this region are spectacular so stay alert whenever traveling anywhere. The weather in this region is warm, 70-80's so plan accordingly!
Q & A
What would you have changed?
I would've chosen less touristy locations and and would've tried to stay at a more authentic hotel or farm.
Anything go wrong during the trip?
Nope, the region is very accustomed to tourism and everything went smoothly.
Pack for warm weather (70-80s) and rain.
Find a local guide to drive you around the region. Day rates aren't too pricey and you'll get a more authentic experience.
I was surprised to see that some of these places were much more touristy than described.