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Parque Nacional del Café

If Juan Valdez, the image of Colombian coffee through the world, had a farm, it would probably be on the grounds of the Parque Nacional del Café, the theme park for all things coffee related.

Located in the town of Montenegro, Quindío, 160 miles north of Bogotá, in the heart of the coffee growing region of Colombia, the park is a blend of mechanical attractions, ecotourism, and family entertainment. All pay homage to the production of the smoothest, tastiest coffee in the world.

The park sits in a small valley. To get there, visitors can take a cable car which gives a broad view of the park and its surroundings or a path that allows them to see and touch all the varieties of coffee plants that are grown in Colombia, along with several other varieties from around the world. The path forks, one way leading to the auditorium where twice a day a dance troupe performs the typical dances of the region. The other arm leads to several stations where park officials explain step-by-step how the coffee goes from the Colombian highlands to your favorite mug.

Both paths converge on a big colonial-style square filled with statues and stores. During the Christmas season, the square has a large tree and live re-enactments of the Nativity. From the square, visitors can walk to the mechanical attractions area that has everything from carousels for the kids to roller coasters and go-karts for the grown-ups. A little further down the road is the lake of the legends, a place that offers boat rides and several tales of the myths and legends of the original inhabitants of the region.

There are buses that take visitors to the park, but for convenience visitors are encouraged to rent a car and drive there. No visit to the park is complete without taking some time to sit in one of the many coffee houses scattered all over the park to enjoy a tinto (the name that locals give to a cup of regular coffee). These shops also offer a wide variety of candy, made from coffee (of course).

The Parque Nacional del Café is a tribute to one of the products that make Colombians proud.  Families, nature enthusiasts and wide-eyed java-heads will enjoy themselves here. While you are in the park keep an eye open for Juan Valdez and his trusted mule Conchita: they will gladly invite you for a cup of coffee.

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