This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fallin' for Hot Springs Near Pereira

We go to Pereira in search of more hot springs (aguas termales in Spanish). We like hot springs. The city Pereira itself is quite uninteresting for the international tourist and probably also the Colombian tourist. The highlight in town is the sculpture Bolivar Desnuda (Naked Bolivar) at the Plaza Bolivar. The leader of independence, Simon Bolivar, is seen riding his trusty steed in nothing but his birthday suit. This is quite a modern interpretation compared to the hundreds of clothed Bolivar statues in the rest of the country.

I wonder if there are any naked George Washington statues in the USA?
View from hotel entrance
The hot springs are just outside of a small town called Santa Rosa which is about a 40 minute ride from central Pereira with one bus change or straight from the terminal. From Santa Rosa you can wait for the public bus or hire a taxi. We get some wrong price information about the bus and make the mistake of hiring a taxi which is quite expensive for the 9 KM ride. We should have waited for the bus.

Here there are two places to enjoy the hot springs. One is a public park that has four pools. The other is 1 KM farther up the road at a nice hotel. Both places have doubled their prices during the high season (it is also Colombian vacation time) and Mika and I, after paying for the taxi, do not have enough cash. The public pools do not take credit card so we walk up to the hotel. They charge COP 35,000 (US $18.42) which is a little more than the park below, but thankfully take plastic. With transportation costs, this is turning out to be one of our most expensive days, but we have come this far and are not going to turn back now. There is a minimum charge of COP 140,000 so I pay the entrance fee and get the rest back in cash. It is a large pool, with a wall of green on one side that carries all the way up a hill to the side of a mountain with a 70 m. waterfall. From the hotel there is a short trail leading up to the bottom of this cascade. We decide first to check this out before getting in the hot spring pool. The water coming down from the falls is absolutely freezing.
The busy soaking pool during high season
Heading back from the waterfall I have the not-so-clever idea to scale a large boulder wearing wet flip flops and holding our lunch in one hand. I slip off the rock and fall down an adjacent wall. The wall is about 6 feet (two meters) high. Directly under me there is a small tree which in theory should help break my fall, but it actually inverts me. Instead of landing on my feet I flip and land on a rock bed in a cold stream flush on my left side. Luckily I do not hit my head. My left shoulder, thigh and rib cage take the brunt of the fall. I manage to get up relatively quickly, but our lunch is lost in the creek. Mika inspects my sore bones, scratches, and welts. I think all organs are intact. It feels like I just got my butt kicked. At least there is no blood.
The spot of the fall and the not-so-soft landing
I gingerly get down to the pool and sit in the hot springs. With no travel insurance, I have to put my faith in the mineral water’s natural healing powers. In the Americas, indigenous communities have believed in the medicinal properties of hot springs for thousands of years. While in Japan, samurai would soak in the onsen after battle. Let’s hope this works….and that I do not have any internal bleeding.
Hot springs take me away
The place here is actually quite nice and the hot springs pool ambiance is much better than the one in Paipa. At one end of the hotel’s pool is a waterfall where the very hot, hot springs mineral water cascades down into the bathing area. We sit directly under the hot water to get a hot water massage. As you move away from the source water, the pool temperature gets gradually cooler. At the opposite end from the hot waterfall and just away from the main pool are another two waterfalls that are raining down freezing cold water collected from the base of the giant waterfall above. Mika and I complete our own circuit of going from hot waterfall to freezing waterfall and back to hot waterfall five times to improve our blood circulation and maximize the benefits of the hot spring.

Freezing water
Hot water. And repeat...

A pastry oozing with arequipe -
also known as dulce de leche
After the hot spring outing, we stay in Pereira two more days longer than planned because: Extra Day 1 - sitting for a multi-hour, bumpy bus ride with my cracked rib and/or bruised pancreas does not seem feasible and Extra Day 2 - we miss the last bus to Popayan because it left thirty minutes early. Who’s ever heard of a bus leaving early in Colombia? Our days in Pereira are spent looking for a soap dish (mine was left at our last hotel), searching for the best bakery in town, and going to our first movie in Colombia at a modern theatre comparable to most in North America. Tickets cost just COP 5,000 (US $2.63), COP 10,000 for a movie in 3-D. A great bargain for the road weary traveler searching for a bit of luxury.

The International Rambler Travel Tip:
Some practical information for visiting these hot springs. Stay in Santa Rosa, not Pereira. There are a few hotels in Santa Rosa town and many more (for all budgets) on the road to the hot springs. If possible, do not go during high season - Dec/Jan. Their prices are slightly exaggerated and it is so busy with people. If in Pereira, the tourist information office at the bus terminal offers a tour to San Vicente, another eco-hot springs farther away that looks nice, for COP 55,000. This includes transportation, entrance and lunch. We spent just slightly less going to Santa Rosa and the tour seems hassle free.

The International Rambler Medical Update: We definitely believe the hot springs helped speed along my healing process. The swollen lumps on my left arm and thigh went down more quickly than normal with very little bruising. My left ribcage hurt for several days. Sleeping was uncomfortable for about a week as I could only lay on my right side or stomach. Taking very deep breaths also hurt, which was mildly concerning. But I was not in agony. I figured that it would probably be much worse if a rib was cracked or broken. Right? Anyway, I am fine now and am avoiding more rock climbing in flip flops.
The sign from above leading back down to the pool says
"going down is your own responsibility." 


  1. Thanks for the information - Pereira is a very nice town with an easy relaxed feel. Take a chance to play some pool (billares), sample the candy (Turrunes de la Lucerna), eat some chorizos de Santa Rosa, watch the colored fountains at the Lago (lake) downtown, or visit the Victoria Centro Commerical and Pereira Plaza, both modern malls. During Semana Santa (Holy Week), check out the wonderful religious parades too. The women of Pereira are well-known for their beauty as well. Be sure to visit the Matacaña Zoo, one of the finest in the world, with very well constructed habitats and which houses many inhabitants of Pablo Escobar's former private zoo (like the hippos). However a word of caution: do NOT walk to or from the airport or zoo (the zoo is right next to the airport) to the MegaBus station-take a taxi - as young drug-using thugs are looking for easy robbery targets there. Be careful crossing the street (as in most places in Colombia) as motos, buses, busetas, taxis y carros will not stop for you.. Another option is Comfamilar water park with slides and pools for kids. Overall, just relax and enjoy the local atmosphere free of typical tourist traps.

  2. Thanks for all of the info about Pereira.

  3. Hi thank you for your post! Not sure if you both check this.. but I just wanted to make sure that you guys got back to Pereira on the same bus line that you got to Santa Rosa de Cabal with? :)

    My bf and I are planning out our trip right now and we are going from Medellin to Manizalez (Los Nevados) to Santa Rosa de Cabal (Termales) to Pereira to Bogota...! :)