Manizales, Colombia: the BEST little detour.

We’d already been on the road for 7 hours and still had four to go when we stopped for gas a little after midnight. We’ve done it before – pushed through 13, even 20 hours in the car – but we were both tired and we couldn’t hang out with Li’l Wild until afternoon the next day anyways. So when we stopped for gas the Wild Man asked the questions and the attendant informed us we were in Manizales. There was a very nice hotel up on the hill, he told us, but when Wild Man asked if it was worth the cost, the attendant gave a staunch shake of his head. No.

I always get a little… um… nervous when this kind of thing happens. Because I like to look for hotels online. Even though it almost never works to book through traditional apps, even though the Wild Man can almost always get a better deal when he can talk to them in person, I like to see the pictures. I like to know what else is available. I’m a little embarrassed about the reason, because the only one I can point to is my spoiled-ass-Americanness. And maybe a little my girl-ness.

Anyway, the attendant pointed us to Hostel Azul just a block or two down the road and when we pulled up, I had my doubts. It could easily have been pulled straight from a 1980s slasher movie. But it looked clean. And after the Wild Man did his traditional review of the place, he emerged with the kind of smile that I knew meant it was not going to be bad. And it was lovely.

(In the interest of providing a little extra value to my readers who are here to plan trips – I’ll elaborate. For those of you who aren’t here for travel tips – feel free to skip ahead.) Apparently, the owner of the hotel is also a passionate painter and art collector and his/her work and collection is scattered throughout the space. It’s a delightful surprise to walk into a building with a sign like this:

and find fine art and high quality furniture. There was additional common space further inside the building where you could enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning away from the noise of the street, but basking in the streams of sunlight filtering through the “cover”. They’re just plastic vines, but man they do wonders to bring a feeling of nature-inspired peace to a space. There was a beautifully decorated suite down the hall, complete with jacuzzi tub and sofa, but we opted for the cheaper version because we only had a few hours. The bathroom was great (for Colombia), the bed was NOT as hard as sleeping on the ground! And it was cheap – like $25 USD. I was super impressed.

But the best part about our little detour was the next morning. Our made-to-order breakfast was delicious, and another nice surprise from the hotel, and we left rested and in good spirits for the coming day. Hostel Azul for the win.

The Wild Man wanted to grab a photo at the I <3 Manizales sign that all the towns in Colombia have, which we did. But it was cloudy and grey and a little cold and I just wanted to get on the road – we still had four hours to go. He, however, wanted to see more. I nodded when he asked me, sipped my coffee and reminded myself this is just a part of the magic of the Wild Man. My american-ness wants to get there, do it, get on to the next thing. He wants to EXPLORE. (This is why he’s an adventure guide, my friends. Dude found his calling. Shameless plug: if you want to get in on an adventure with him, you totally can:

And I’m so glad we did. We found the Mirador – the high place in many towns where you can get a 360-ish degree view of the city / mountains. In Manizales, the city is so high, on such steep mountain slopes, that the peak is almost always in the clouds, we were told. There’s even a neighborhood at the feet of the Mirador that doesn’t have streets because it would just be too dangerous. Foot traffic only. The sidewalk that winds up the hillside is lined with food trucks – though we were a little too early to take advantage of breakfast in the clouds. But from the menus I saw posted on their exteriors, it would be a delight.

We pressed on slowly, to the very top where we stumbled upon what is now my favorite sculpture EVER. I could have spent hours with it. I wanted to get down IN it. Though that isn’t allowed.

The details are incredible and the message is clear even before you know the title of the work: Agonia Extasis (Agony Ecstacy). The intense struggle to reach and then settle this city set high in the central branch of the Colombian Andes. Though that isn’t what I loved about it. It was something about the details… the way the artist played with scale to really impart the intensity of the effort. For me, at least, it was powerful.

If you find yourself near Manizales, it’s definitely visit-worthy. The sculpture and Mirador alone are worth a trip. And if you can stay at Hostel Azul, it is sure to be a delightful experience.

**Please note – I do not get paid by any of the companies or businesses I share on this site. I just want to help people travel better. Incidentally, if you’d like to follow the deeper realities of my life in Colombia – and support my writing in a monetary way, please consider becoming a Patron at

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