Driving through lush green hills towards Pereira I was looking forward what was waiting for my friends and I in the coffee region. We were heading to El Descanso del Duque, a hotel not far from Pereira. For some weeks I had been living in a dry, warm and dusty environment and couldn’t wait to be surrounded with green trees, flowers and birds again. The ride from Medellin to Pereira was beautiful. Going up and down the mountains showed us how stunning nature in Colombia is. In Pereira we took the local bus to Alcala, with help from locals. We didn’t know where to get off exactly, but many people were willing to help us. That is one of the things I love about Colombia: the people. I feel welcome, safe, they don’t give me the feeling they want my money all the time (like they do in a lot of other Latin American countries) and they are always helpful.
When we arrived at Duque it was dark already, but it was impossible to not see the hotel from the street. Standing their in beautiful spotlights, the first thing we said to each other was: wow. We got welcomed by the friendly staff member Alejandra and she prepared dinner for us right away. A start of many healthy delicious dinners followed by the next coming days. Fresh from the area or the own garden and plantation. Even the chickens came from the neighbors and were the best I ever had.
The hotel dates from 1883. As a former coffee plantation it was successful for 80 years. After the owner decided to go into a new direction. After growing plantains for a short time it eventually changed into a avocado plantation. The owner restored the old house on the property in its natural state and changed it in an amazing bed and breakfast Finca (which means farm in Spanish) hotel.
The hotel’s location is central located and it’s very easy to get to Salento, Valle de Cocora, Manizales and los Termales de Santa Rosa (hot springs). But there’s enough to do in walking distance of the hotel too. Paying a visit to the neighbors coffee plantation for example. The owner showed us how the proces of coffee works and his son and friends (12 year olds) guided us through the plantation with big enthusiasm. No commercial tour at all. It was full of love for the work they are doing, a really special experience. They gave us different kinds of fruits to try out, avocado’s and even a cacao pod to take home. Really welcoming and kind.
When you decide to do nothing, Duque is the perfect place to relax. With a pool that invites you to jump in, hammocks and comfy chairs everywhere the hotel is a place you don’t want to leave quickly. The staff will take good care of you the best possible way, serving you fresh juices, fruits from the area and all this healthy food all day. Their philosophy is to show people real Colombian life in combination with eating and drinking healthy. No chemicals, all regional. If you want to stretch your legs a little, take a stroll through the big avocado plantation and keep an eye open for birds. In just 20 minutes we already had spotted 10 different kinds of birds, with all kinds of bright colors.
An other unique piece of Colombian tradition can be found in the backyard at the stables. It houses a couple of Caballo de paso Colombiano (traditional Colombian horses). These are competition horses and well taking care of. They have an interesting history. Ask the owner when he is around. He will tell passionate about them. A couple of times a week their care taker takes the horses for a ride in the garden, to train them and keep them fit. This is not a usual ride. These horses are known for their special way of walking. Enjoy this Colombian tradition, while you are enjoying a nice coffee, beer of whine on the terras.
After eating and drinking so healthy for days I felt cleansed, like I had been on a retreat. I have fallen in love with Duque and everything around it. The perfect place to relax, recharge, eat healthy and experience local Colombian life at his purest.