Manizales, a small, friendly city located in the department of Caldas, was founded by an expedition of 20 Paisas (people from Antioquia) in 1849.
Manizales is also the gateway to the Nevado del Ruiz snow-capped mountain to the south of the city.
The city centre of Manizales is quite small and can be easily seen in an hour or two. If you're staying at one of the hostels or hotels in La Zona Rosa (the restaurant and bar district near the stadium) you can walk to the centre along Avenida Santander (carrera 23) in about half an hour. Walking also enables you to enjoy the views off to the left over much of the city.
The first main attraction you'll see as you enter the centre of the city is Parque Caldas. Parque Caldas isn't particularly attractive, but it's a decent enough place to soak up the downtown atmosphere and do some cheap shopping, particularly in Centro Comercial Parque Caldas opposite the park.
A couple of blocks further on from Parque Caldas is Plaza de Bolivar where the imposing 113m high Catedral Basílica de Manizales sits. An interesting tour of the cathedral is available which includes going up to the top of the tower with good views over the centre of the city. The tour is offered thursday to sunday (and public holidays) from 9am to 6pm and costs $5000 pesos.
North-west of the city centre and up the hill is the neighbourhood of Chipre. This is a great place for views over Manizales and indeed of a large part of the country: It is claimed that on clear day you can see 7 departments including the distant Chocó. Probably the best place from which to take in the views is the observatory on Avenida 12 de Octubre (the main road which runs along the edge of hill) and is clearly visible from most parts of Chipre. (The photo above left is the view of the city centre from the observatory.)
Chipre can be reached from the city centre in about half an hour by foot or in a few minutes by taxi. It can get quite busy at weekends and is visited in droves by families. At Chipre's highest point is El Monumento a Los Colonizadores, a great momument paying homage to those who colonised the region. The area around the monument is popular with kite flyers. It makes a delightful scene, particularly at weekends, when the skies are filled with colourful kites fluttering in the strong breezes.
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