I’m under the impression that not many travellers get to, or know about Filandia. This small hilltop pueblo is a stones throw from it’s much more popular neighbour of Salento, but what it lacks in tourist numbers, it still puts on the charms. In a much less showy kind of way, of course.
In fact, you may even struggle to see another tourist.
You won’t find tacky stores selling ponchos, plastic magnets and printed t-shirts in Filandia. Instead, you’ll experience a working class pueblo that’s focussed on itself and what it does – coffee, fresh produce and traditional woven baskets.
A typical day for any visitor to Filandia begins at one of the many cafes that flank the main square. With so little to do in this town, it’s easy to waft from cafe to cafe and call it a day.
Ours started at the very friendly Cafe Diaz, where they serve up many espresso based drinks using their own beans. There’s tea, sodas, beer and frappés as well, and food wise, give one of the homemade pastries, arepas or cheese focaccia a burl.
Cafe Diaz, Calle 6, 5-14
A few doors away is Jhan Cafe, where you can choose a cake from the glass cabinet, take a seat outside and enjoy it with a coffee or cocktail overlooking the square. A perfect spot for people watching, but then again, any cafe around the square is.
Jhan Cafe, Calle 6, 5-1
If breakfast is on the agenda, Cafe Don Fernando by the cathedral has a couple of options. There’s no written breakfast menu, only a couple of ‘verbal’ choices of scrambled eggs or rancheros – 5000 pesos each.
The inside of this place is all about white with bold colours, and aside from the cocktails and beer, the espresso is the best we tried in town.
Cafe Don Fernando, Calle 7, 5-42
If that isn’t enough, walk one block down to La Casa Del Pandebono and choose from a dazzling array of baked goodies.
I can be known to sidestep the norm and go for the most unusual, and no exception was made here. I went straight for the donut filled with dulce de leche and a chunk of haloumi-like cheese. Loved it.
La Casa Del Pandebono, Calle 7, 6-53
For one of the best views in town, follow Carrera 4 out of the pueblo, past all of the basket weaving stores and pay 4000 pesos to climb El Mirador
This striking wooden tower offers views in all directions across the rolling green hills, all the way to Armenia, Pereira, and Parque de Los Nevados.
Artisanal smoked hummus – rice, nuts, avo, greens & bread (15,000).
Slow-cooked ribs glazed with local rum, panela & soy on mini arepas (24,000).
For the best meal in town, yes we came here for lunch and dinner, look no further than Helena. This corner establishment seems to do everything right. The decor is spot on, the service is excellent, the vino is really good and the menu is, well, kind of amazing.
Sit in one of the cosy, colourful rooms or spacious covered courtyard and enjoy a fusion of Colombian and modern food. Don’t forget to try one of the frappés made using their own natural syrups. How does a pineapple and mint frappé with mandarin, orange and lime syrup sound?
Food-wise, we enjoyed what you can see above, and for dinner, some delicious 6-hour sirloin slow cooked in beer, soy, ginger and red wine.
Helena, corner Calle 8 & Carrera 7
Get the Arcadia bus from the bus stop in Salento to the overpass (el puente) on Route 29. Cost is 1000 pesos per person, and it takes about 20 minutes. Check the map for locations.
Once you’re on the Route 29, walk to the bus shelter and flag down the ‘Filandia’ colectivo bus. Cost is 2,500 pesos per person and the ride takes 10 minutes.