Hostal Aqui Me Quedo
Calle 67 #23A-33, Alto Palermo, Manizales, Caldas
Overview: If you're heading to the Eje Cafetero, the best city to stay is Manizales, and Aqui Me Quedo is the best place to stay in Manizales. It is located in the quiet, safe, and centrally located neighborhood of Alto Palermo. It has a great selection of dorms and private rooms, and is a perfect base camp for planning excursions to all of the exciting destinations that the Coffee Zone has to offer, including the breathtaking Parque Nacional Natural los Nevados, with its stunning snow-capped peaks reaching to 5,300 meters above sea level.
At Hostal Aqui Me Quedo the friendly and well-trained staff will make you feel at home in their clean and comfortable hostel, and you'll have all the amenities close by, that you'd expect from a medium-sized city, as well as a great kitchen facilities, a patio area, and top-notch tourism information.
Neighborhood: The best part about staying here is that you are just steps from Avenida Santander, which is the principal thoroughfare of the city, and also where you'll find the city's Zona Rosa, with all the best restaurants, bars, shops, malls, and discotecas in the city. It's located very close to several corner stores and pharmacies, and a large Exito supermarket is just a 5 minute walk down the hill. Additionally, there are two large shopping centers within a 5 minutes walk: San Cancio and the Torre de Cable Centro Comercial.
Manizales is a small city, so it's optimally suited to walking around. Nearby you'll find such great spots as Bar la Plaza, in the shadow of the Torre de Cable, which serves up delicious beer, wine, and cocktails. Restaurante Don Juaco also comes highly recommended, offering gourmet "comida tipica"; they are highly praised for their cazuela de pollo, lasagna, and frijoles.
How to Get There: Getting to Hostal Aqui Me Quedo is a breeze. With the emergence of low-cost airfare throughout the country, arriving at La Nubia Airport (MZL) is an increasingly popular option. An added benefit is that the airport is located very close to downtown Manizales, on the southeastern outskirts of the city. When you arrive at the airport there is a taxi line where you will give your name, and be assigned a taxi. The airport staff will take down your name and record the "placas" (6 digit identification) of the taxi so it's perfectly safe. A taxi to the hostel should be about and 10 minutes and cost around $10.000. The taximeter will indicate the fare, and you pay $2.800 additional for the "recargo aeropuerto" or airport fee.
If you are are arriving at la Terminal de Transporte it is about a 10 minutes taxi ride to Alto Palermo. It should cost around $6.000 to $7.000.
Management/Staff: The hostel is owned and run by the Cardona family. Luisa and her mother Susana have spent 6 years running the hostel, and have been at their current location for 3 years. Luisa is passionate about showing Colombians and foreigners the best that Manizales and the Eje Cafetero has to offer. The staff is very helpful when it comes to planning day or multi-day trips in and around Caldas, and maximizing your time.
Rooms: Hostal Aqui Me Quedo has space for 37 guests, in clean and comfortable dormitories and private rooms.
Shared Rooms: There are three dorms, with nine, six, and four beds respectively. The nine bed dorms costs $22.000 a night, while the 6 and 4 bed dorms cost $24.000.
Private Rooms: There are five private rooms, all of which include linens, cable tv, wifi, and hot water. A private room with shared bathroom is $40.000 for one person, or $60.000 for two people. There are two bedrooms with a private bathroom and double bed: these cost $50.000 for one person or $70.000 for two people. There are three bedrooms with a double bed and a single bed: $50.000 for one person, $70.000 for two, and $90.000 for three.
There is also a private apartment with two beds, private bathroom, and living room area: $55.000 for one person, $80.000 for two people, or $100.000 for 3 people.
Breakfast: A light breakfast (coffee, toast/jam, fruit) is included in the price for all guests, from 8am to 10am.
Kitchen: Guests are welcome to use a kitchen, that is open from 10am to 9pm.
Restaurant: Around the hostel you'll find a variety of dining options, with a range of prices and cuisines. You are also welcome to use the hostel's free local telephone to call up restaurants to ask for "servicio domicilio": home delivery to the hostel.
Bar: Beer is available for purchase; you're also just steps from the Zona Rosa of Manizales.
Terrace/Patio: There is a wonderful patio area with hammocks.
TV Lounge: Yes
Computers: There is one computer available for guest use.
Wifi: Yes. Both in the common areas and bedrooms.
Lockers: There are no lockers, but you are welcome to leave objects of value at the reception for safe keeping.
Credit Cards: No
Luggage Storage: Yes
Check-in Time: 24 hours
Check-out Time: 1:00pm
Additionally, the hostel offers its guests a ping-pong table, library with book exchange, tourist information about guided and self-guided tours. Additionally there is on-site parking, laundry service. Hostal Aqui Me Quedo has recently completed extensive renovations to make their hostel larger and more comfortable for their guests. In general, it caters to about half Colombian and half foreign guests.
Manizales offers a lot of options for tourists, including sporting activities, cultural activities, ecotourism, and, of course, coffee tours. It's a city known for its friendliness, gastronomy, infrastructure, tranquility, and safety. It's a very easy city to walk around, something that you could not do for example in Bogota. You can even walk to the city center in around 30 to 40 minutes. It's about 3 kilometers to the northwest.
Manizales definitely is worth a stay of at least 3 days. Luisa recommends an itinerary as follows:
1. 1 day for Parque Nacional Natural los Nevados
2. 1 day for exploring the city itself, including the centro historico, Chipre, and Parque del Agua
3. 1 day for visiting Guayabal (a coffee farm located 45 minutes from Manizales), and a visit to the hot springs (los termales)
Hostal Aqui Me Quedo will put you in touch with Destinos y Rutas, an official tourism operator run by Diego Serna, and his daughter Tatiana. Diego is a marvelous guide with extensive knowledge of both the history of the region and the flora and fauna of the surrounding areas.
Conclusion: If you're heading to the Coffee Zone, Manizales is your best choice for exploring the region. And Colombia Backpacking highly recommends Hostal Aqui Me Quedo. Make this your home away from home. With a spectacular location, comfortable rooms, a friendly staff, and super knowledge of the surrounding areas and tourism infrastructure, it's a valuable asset to Colombian tourism!
I'm often asked by Colombians and Americans why I chose to live in Colombia. Here are the top ten reasons.
1. The People
If I were asked which country had the best food, I would probably say France or Italy. For dance, I would say Argentina. But when it comes to the people, I would say Colombia without any doubt or hesitation. Colombians are the friendliest people you will find in the world. Whether you're exploring a teeming metropolis like Bogota or Medellin, or out in a rural village in Huila or Meta, you'll find Colombians to be warm and hospitable.
2. The Geographic and Biodiversity
Colombia is often cited as being the most biodiverse country in the world, and it's little wonder with its abundant rainfall, location right on the equator, and varied terrain. Whatever you're looking for by way of ecotourism, climate, or landscape, you can find it in Colombia.
From the three Andean cordilleras (mountain ranges), that run through the country North to South, to the Amazonian jungles of Leticia; from the lush forests and swift rivers of Santander to the desert of Tatacoa; from the eastern plains stretching out endlessly to Venezuela to the lovely beaches of the Caribbean Coast; and from the quaint Pacific villages of Valle and Choco to the wild untamed terrain of La Guajira, there is something for everyone in Colombia.
3. The Quality of Life
I am not going to suggest that Colombia is a perfect paradise on earth, because it's not. It still has many problems, especially with transportation and infrastructure, the economy, and safety and security. But it's improving on all these fronts, and, in general, you'll find that the quality of life you can have in Colombia is superior to what you'd get for your money in Europe or the United States.
With just $1,000 a month, you can live in a nice apartment, take taxis everywhere, go out to eat several times a week, enjoy occasional bottle service, and shop in nice super markets. For $1,500 a month, you can enjoy an upper middle class lifestyle, live in a luxury high rise, own a car, go to the nicest restaurants and clubs every weekend, and enjoy a monthly getaway.
Wait, you ask. Stability? In Colombia? Colombia, despite its woes, has had a relatively stable economic and political history in the twentieth century. It has only been ruled by a dictatorship one time, from 1953 to 1957 by General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla. It is one of the world's oldest democracies, and is making a valiant effort against corruption.
Additionally, it has never defaulted on its debt, experienced hyperinflation, or had a banking collapse. It has a free market economy, an excellent climate for investment, and a close relationship with the United States and the EU.
Contrast this with neighoring Venezuela and Ecuador, and you can quickly see why Colombia's stability is an attractive point.
Whether you're headed to a high-end nightclub like Andres de Carne de Res in Bogota, or to a family party in Soacha, you almost can't NOT have a good time in Colombia.
So brush up on your dance moves, and be prepared for a late night. Because while most entertainment spots close by law at 3am, Colombians always find a way to keep the party going, whether it's heading to an after hours club, a house party, or splitting a media of aguardiente in a park.
6. The Music
I am a music snob. I hate 90% of the music out there, and think that the golden age of music was 1970s British progressive rock (ie. Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Camel, Gentle Giant, ELP). And I still don't think that Colombian music and Latin music in general has the breadth, depth, or sophistication of English language music.
However, poke around, and you'll find some fabulous Colombian artists. My very first month in Colombia, I fell in love, both with a special someone, and with two songs that I think are great representations of what's happening in Colombian music today:
The first is "Te Amo y Te Amo" by vallenato singer Pipe Pelaez. Listen to the soaring accordion melodies and the song's inspirational message:
The second is Colombian rock: a song by two twin sisters from Bogota called Las Marti. The song is called "Sucio Perro":
7. The Food
OK, as I have freely confessed in my article about the best Colombian foods, the cuisine here does not typically delight upon first try, especially when you've got culinary marvels like Peru, Mexico, and Argentina to compete with.
But bite into some carne llanera (literally means meat from the plains) in Meta, try some lechona (rice and bean-stuffed pig) in Tolima, or some ajiaco (Colombia's national soup) in Bogota, or the bandeja paisa in Medellin. There is some great food here!
Or, nurse your hangover with a delicious caldo de costilla (spare rib and potato soup). And for $2 or $3 you can get a great almuerzo ejecutivo (executive lunch) anywhere in the country. These always start with a soup, and then typically include rice, beans or lentils, salad, and the choice of beef/chicken/pork/fish.
Additionally, Colombia has one of the widest varieties of fruit cultivation in the world, with many fruits that you can't find anywhere in the United States, including the granadilla, mora, guanabana, tomate de arbol, lulu, and mangostino.
8. The History
On your first day in Bogota, head to the Museo Nacional, and take the grand tour. Colombia's history is as rich and varied as its people. Walk around the fort of Old Cartagena, stroll past the Casa de Narino, Supreme Court, and Congress in the Plaza de Bolivar, see the Puente de Boyaca where Bolivar and Santander routed the Spaniards once and for all, or take in the spectacular architecture of Popayan in Southwestern Colombia.
Colombia has done a great job of making its history accessible and affordable to everyone, Colombians and foreigners alike. It's rare that you'll find a museum that costs more than a few dollars to enter (even if foreigners do pay a little more), and its colonial architecture is stunning and well-preserved, particularly in a place like Villa de Leyva.
9. The Transportation
OK. By saying that I like Colombia's transportation, I don't mean spending an hour and a half in stop and go traffic getting from one end of Bogota to the other in a colectivo. Colombia still has major issues to address with its transportation and infrastructure.
However, spend a few weeks in Colombia, and you'll quickly find that whether it's by taxi, bus, plane, or boat, transporation in Colombia is relatively cheap and efficient. In general, intercity buses cost between $2 and $4 an hour. Taxis are quite cheap indeed, roughly a quarter of the cost of what you'd pay in the United States. And domestic airfare prices have plummeted: now you can get great deals on flights between Colombia's major cities; often as cheap as $50.000 to $80.000 one way.
Even car rentals, which were once phenomenally expensive, are now pretty cheap. You only need an American driver's license, and you can find rentals as cheap as $100.000 (or $50) a day!
10. The Hope for the Future
Colombia is a country with many scars and wounds, many of which are still healing. But there is great hope for peace and prosperity: "Prosperidad para Todos" as the government campaign says.
Talk to Colombians and you will hear many different opinions about poltics, the economy, the peace process, the free trade agreement, etc. It's a good idea to hear a wide variety of opinions.
One thing you often hear about in Colombia is the extreme division of wealth, and it's true. As measured by the Gini index, Colombia is the eighth most unequal country in the world in terms of family income. But I strongly feel that the situation is getting better. There is a vibrant middle-class in Colombia. There is an enormous university-educated population. There is a tremendous desire and will to overcome the substantial problems of the past, both on a national and personal level. You see this when you see students from humble backgrounds fighting for access to education and getting university degrees. You see this in the towering skyscrapers that are springing up like mushrooms around Bogota and Medellin. You see it in the faces of the Colombian people, who rise with sun, and start their day at six o'clock in the morning, when the sun rises every single day in Colombia.
So, in conclusion, hopefully you've enjoyed hearing about why Colombia presents an attractive opportunity for many foreigners. And take a look at our sister sites: VisitColombia.net, VisitColombiaNow.com, OurColombia.com, and ColombiaRetirement.com. Whether you're looking for just a vacation, or a new home, do yourself a favor and just go! It will be the experience of a lifetime!