Ibagué Tolima Tour Guide

The city is located in the centre of the country on the Eastern slope of the central Colombian Andes. Where many foreign tourists ONLY stop at the bus station in Ibagué on route to Armenia & Cali from Bogota.

Ibagué can seem an urban chaos with the amount of buses and the noise they make, but there's an increased appreciation for those who do find their way here............

Whilst Colombia has a tourist trail with no stop in Ibague, you could make the effort to stay & visit something different? It is perfectly located for those who wish to get of the beaten path as you will only be 1 hour from this mainly undiscovered region of paradise, that is still unknown to many foreigners, it’s beauty is matched by nature, history, culture, food and people. Where you will find the Antigua town of Rovira, the villages of Valle de San JuanPayande, Villa Restrepo and so much more to see like rivers, waterfalls, gorges, mountains, visit cantinas, coffee farms (Fincas) and get immersed in everyday life.............


This is a guide to Ibagué & Around. So you can go and explore on your own.
There is still so much more to explore.......................

I have lived in this city and enjoy visiting the markets & coffee shops. 

There is also the migration office where you can extend your visa and many shopping malls if you need to buy cloths or new walking boots. (But its not why you come to Colombia!!) Ibague it's not really a place for tourists (Unless you have come to work, stay a while and then discover this place) and has a rapid growth of the urban population with lots of construction. So I have spent most of my time visiting the North & South of here. It's where you can discover the real Colombia too.
The Colombian people are known as being very friendly and charming even if they do tend to stare at gringos. It's is no different in this part of Colombia and you can always start a conversation easily with the locals.
As-well as the guide below you can also view each location by clicking the map icons below.
Or view in a Large Map HERE


Getting to Ibagué

From Bogotá - (El Dorado airport) take a taxi to “terminal de transporte”. Be careful how much you pay to the taxi driver (shouldn’t’ cost more than 20,000 COP) Ask first as there is no meter.
When you are arriving to terminal, tell the taxi driver to stop at “entrada 2” from where the buses heading to Ibague leaves. When you enter the hall look for a company called “Velotax” or “Bolivariano” Ask for the fast bus 3 - 4 hours depending on traffic in Bogota, buses usually stops at small city called Melgar an hour from Ibagué, for 15 minutes and you can buy a drink and snack.
By plane - Other option for those who want to travel more comfortable and faster is to go from Bogota to Ibague by plane. This route operated two airlines: Aires (www.aires.aero) and Avianca (www.avianca.com). Book your flight in advance! Prices can vary between 80-150,000 COP one way. Flight takes about half an hour.

Around Ibagué: 

North/West of Ibagué: You can find Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados, (The volcanoes "The Tolima snow mountain" Nevado del Tolima 28k NW of the city and the Cerro Machín, 17 km W of the city. 2 of 8 volcanoes in the park.). The city has one access point to the Los Nevados National Park, the other being Manizales. Best time to view the area is January & February - clear days make for spectacular views of the volcanic peaks. March, July, August and December can also be ideal, while the rest of the year sees a fair amount of rain) Before reaching the Park you can find the the village of Villa Restrepo 12 km, where you can find hotels, restaurants, horse riding, walking, bird watching and rock climbing. This area is also very popular with cyclists at weekends. A little further on the village of Juntas 17 km, where just a short walk there is a lookout "el mirador de los Sauses" and on a clear day you can view the volcano. Much further north thermal waters for relaxing at El Rancho. The river Combeima flows from the Park to Ibagué through Combeima Canyon.

View of volcan del tolima. (Elevación: 5.215 m)  Central Andes.
With the small town of Rovira, one hour south of Ibagué. 
Photo taken from Buena vista Alta. Elevación: 1700 m 55 k's (32 miles) away from the volcano.

"Sadly, though, for a park whose name, Nevado, implies perpetual snow, climate change has lifted the snow line to almost 5000m"

To the South of Ibagué You can find the small antigua town of Rovira 22 km and from there the gate-way to coffee farms, (Not like the large haciendas in the coffee zone) that dot over the mountains. Where the territory around is mostly mountainous and surrounds the rivers Luisa, Manso, Andes, chili, Coello, Cucuana and Tuamo.
The small villages of Payandé 26 km where there is also rivers and waterfalls that have shaped the landscape and on to the small village of Valle de San Juan.
From Rovira there are off road tracks, you can take a ride in a 4x4 with beautiful & breathtaking views to the coffee farms.

Fincas located in tierra caliente (warm areas) almost always have swimming pools, while those in tierra fria (cold areas) are more like a traditional farm house.

Links to My favorite place's only 1 hour from Ibagué: 
*******************
  • There is a facebook group that posts hikes every week and a way to meet up with local people.
  • Rock Climbing in Payande and Juntas also see HERE
  • For organized tours, hiking and information of National Park Los Nevados - See HERE

Climate: Where you will find wildly variant climates.
The locals will tell you Ibagué has 3 climates; cool, medium and hot. Noticeably due to the change in altitude. (Average altitude of 1285 m) With a mean temperature of 24 °C. It can rain at any time normally for an hour and then return to sunny periods.
To the North of Ibagué: The village of Villa Restrepo is much higher, (Altitude 2105 m) it can be much cooler and cold at night. Often with fog coming over the mountain tops.
To the South of Ibagué The town of Rovira (Altitude 850 m).
The town of Payande (Altitude 655 m)
Both have a tropical rain-forest climate average 28 °C



In Ibagué
Population 542,000 +



Network To Expand Your Circle of Friends - Make the effort to not only interact with the natives of Ibagué, but also the other English teachers from all over the globe who live and work here.


Expat communities across the globe tend to be tight-knit groups who stick together and play together. There are fewer of us, so we tend to look out for one another. Showing support and helping outcome naturally to us humans when we have something in common, even if it’s just a language!

Volunteer Projects & Work:
(Note: For teaching English is normally for at lest one year and you will need to apply in your own country for the work visa. Good rates of pay, accommodation and after one year you will also be paid for your flights or % towards) 
  • Work Away - Host List
  • Let's Go Volunteer in Ibagué. Working with children, Women & Elderly. Visit the WEBSITE for more information. 
  • YMCA Ibague See WEBSITE
  • SENA - Teaching English see WEBSITE
  • Teach English at The Oxford Centre see WEBSITE
  • Teach English at The University of Ibagué
  • Teaching English and stay in Hostel for free see WEBSITE (Minimum 1 month) NOTE: The hostel is one room with two beds. 
  • Teach at Gimnasio Campestre see WEBSITE
  • Just 4 kids English club

Learn Spanish: 
  • Want to learn Spanish here? The University of Ibagué does an annual summer course for foreigners.
  • Learn Spanish with instituto connections Alex Charry email: info@institutoconnections.com 

Hotels:
Ibagué there are hotels around the main bus station and up market hotels can be found in and around the center, I cannot recommend any of them in Ibague as I have not used them and some of those around the bus station look a bit run down. there are plenty of reasonable budget options, best to do a search on trip adviser first.
  • Hotel 3rd Avenida Carrera 3 #16-79, 730001 Ibagué Teléfono:310 8655337
Or why not try "Couch Surfing Ibagué"

I can recommend the following in the towns of:

Villa Restrepo: 
  1. Los Pinos Hotel Tel: 317 7415778 Facebook Page
  2. La Villa de Barba Blanca Casa # 4 Eentrada Villa Restrepo. Ana Cel: 311 487 4489. Jhon Cel: 310 884 2711.
Payande:
  1. Hotel Club Campestre Chicala Tel: 287 72 22 Cel: 317 274 38 23 Facebook Page
Rovira:
  1. Hotel Villa Ana Maria Tel: 312 4068621. Facebook Page


Migration Office 
Address: Centro Facilitador de Servicios Migratorios Calle 10 # 8-07 Tel: 273 1018

Find yourself in a place you can’t imagine leaving and going home doesn’t seem like such a good idea anymore?

Extend your 90 day tourist visa with another 90-day tourist visa 
Open's 8am to 4pm. Take your passport with you, even if you are only going to ask for information. Photos are taken in the office.
You will need:
  • Your passport, 
  • Onward ticket (Proof of an onward journey, either by land, air or sea)
  • And payment Col. $87,000.00. (The easiest way to pay is via credit or debit card at the IA office. Cash payments are possible, but these must be made in advance and are only possible by depositing the renewal fee directly into the IA account at specific bank branches within any given city)
For staying longer, try and time your trip to align with the New Year 
Tourists can stay for a maximum of 180 days in Colombia within any given calendar year. Though the counter resets at midnight on 31st December. So foreign visitors who travel June/July to Colombia, they can leave the country over the holiday season and re-enter in the New Year for 180 days more.

If you want to stay in country for a period longer than a year, you will need to investigate the various visa options detailed on the official government site.
Study TP-3 Visa or non profit voluntary work TP-6 visa. is applied for in-person at the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores office located in Bogotá at Avenida 19 # 98-03, Torre 100 Building, 3rd Floor. The office is open from 7:30am until noon. Most probably you'll also need to hire some professional assistance from specialist law or visa service firms.

Looking for permanent visa? Put USD100,000 or more into a Colombian venture or property and you will get a visa for life.

Private Medical: Clinica Centro Medico La Qunita. Carrera 5a No. 39-72 Tel: 2648795

Health while in Colombia: The main illness is stomach upset "travellers diarrhoea" from contaminated food & water. If this continues for more than 24 hrs then seek medical advice as you may have contracted a bacterial infection. (You will need time to rest)
There is also widespread risk of Dengue and Chikungunya in Colombia. As with travelling in a tropical country always research before arriving. Prevention is better than cure.

Security: Ibagué is generally safe, like any large town/city, keep your money and things safe and out of site. Take a taxi at night.
You will probably be stopped in the street by those known as "mendigo" they will say; give me money. Best to say hola and give them some loose change. If they look hungry, you can offer to buy some bread or give them something of your plate, if your are at a restaurant.
Crossing the road and getting on and off buses can be an experience, just be aware buses stop anywhere and will pull away while you cross the road in front of them.  

Also see: Colombian News Reports


Taxis have meters and are cheap.

Bus's Local buses $1600. Velotax & Bolivariano Bus are the main bus companies from Bogota to Ibagué. 4 - 5 hours. And only 3 hours from the world famous Zonacafetera (Coffee Zone), 5 hours from Cali and 8 hours from Medellin.The Bus station has connections to all major destinations throughout the country. Regular buses, mini bus and taxis to Rovira with Velotax.

Waiting for Bus to Villa Restrepo - Carrera 1 one block down from Clínica Hospital Tolima

Bus number 83 go's to Juntos and passes Villa Restrepo, you can get off anywhere on the way. Or take one of the Toyota's 4x4 parked close by. 


Banks Cash Withdrawals Davivienda give one of the best rates and highest withdrawals from cash machines with no fee.
Also cash machine usually gives $50,000.00 notes and many places, buses and taxi drivers don't have change. Supermarkets are a good place to change by buying a bottle of water.  
Best Credit Card Halifax clarity credit card gives a good exchange rate and no cash withdrawal charge, but they charge interest daily. To avoid interest charges, you can make a payment on-line to your credit card the same day or a few days before. And for best rates check online before withdrawing as rates can change daily.
Money Transfer Send money from UK to Colombia via Giros Seguros and collect from a bank.
Also read The best ways to send money abroad: a quick guide


Things To Do In Ibague:
  • Ciclovia: Every Sunday & festivals Ciclovia open 7 till 1pm. The main street "Quinta" Carrera 5a is open to cyclists. And passing Iglesía Del Carmen.
  • Main Plaza: Parque Simon Bolivar with the beautiful Cathedral Primada de Ibague. Have a coffee at Monte Blanco Cafe on the first floor or in the evening enjoy one of the restaurants next to the cafe, where there you can find a very good Mexican food. 
  • Library: Biblioteca Alberto Santofimio. Address; Carrera 9 Calle 72; Avenida Guabinal; Jordán VIII Etapa. There is literature in English, also a large number of Colombian atlases. 
  • Gym: There are many gyms in Ibagué, and crossfit has become popular. 
  • Jardín Botánico San Jorge 
  • Colombian folk festival every year at the end of June

Food
Fresh food from the markets are sold in restaurants close by and the good ones have a big turnover of people. You just need to arrive at the best time to enjoy the atmosphere.
There are many restaurants and many cafes selling bread and cakes!
If you are a foodie then the small shops & stalls found in the small towns & villages are the best place of all, for free range products.

Things to try:
  • Lechona: Consists of a roast pig stuffed with yellow peas, green onion, yellow rice, and spices cooked in an outdoor, brick oven for about ten hours. And sold in Ibagué at a Lechonera.
  • Longaniza: A sausage similar to a chorizo and the best ones can be found north/west of Ibagué on the road to Villa Restrepo. 
  • Arepas De ChocloSweet Arepas made with Cheese from the country (Queso Campanero) Best ones are also found north/west of Ibagué on the road to Villa Restrepo. 
  • Plátanos I like mine ripe "maduros" con queso 
  • Patacón Fried green plantain - served with soup
  • Soups - there are many different soups to try - Look for Sancocho 
Colombians stay healthy by eating soups/stew's made from bone broth, with green plantain, potato and yuca. (With rice on the side) Lunch time being the main and biggest meal of the day. Beans and lentils are also available 
Avocados and many fruits are also widely available. 

See my home cooking in Ibagué page

For health food nutsWhat food's best to avoid: 
Fast/street food can be disappointing, as it tends to be the same, heavy on meat and carbs, also a lot of deep fried in corn/soy oil. Do be aware that: 
  • Arepas are made from GMO Maize/corn (Organismo genéticamente modificado) Maiz Transgenico. Harina P. A. N. produced in Colombia and exported to many other countries, is produced with corn that IS GENETICALLY MODIFIED and margarine is used to make them.
  • UHT long life Milk is sold and used in hot chocolate and some fruit drinks that are mixed with milk. 
  • A lot of sugar or panela is added to coffee, hot chocolate and fruit juices, so when ordering do ask without. "sin azuca por favor" (You could just drink water and buy some limes to squeeze, too add vit C and taste) 
  • Bread is sold everywhere and is made using margarine. 
  • Pharmacy's are everywhere and small shops sell pain killers and antibiotics that can be brought single or as many as required.
The food sold in the small villages 1 hour from Ibagué tend to be better, using locally grown products. In the town of Rovira, fresh cow's milk is delivered/sold in the mornings. You can also find a lady selling mike on her motorbike in Ibagué, just ask around.

  • Fitness Market near to multi centro Cra 6a #61-71 Prados del Norte 2 sells coconut water and coconut oil amongst other things. Facebook 


Lechoneria @ Plaza De Mercado La 21

Markets: By coming to the markets, will give you a crash course to living in Colombia.
There are many markets in town known as plazas and you will discover all types of exotic fruits and the common fruits back home but much bigger and much tastier.
(Fresh fruit & vegetables are also sold on many streets around Ibagué.)
It's worth a visit to both Plaza De Mercado La 14 & Plaza De Mercado La 21

Plaza De Mercardo La 14 (Cheese & Butter)

Plaza De Mercado La 21

Coffee shops/cafe's & Bars
Places you must visit when in Ibagué

My recommendations: 
  • Monte Blanco Cafe: with view of the Parque Simon Bolivar (La Plaza de Bolívar) & Catedral Primada de Ibague. 
  • Le Petit Cafe: on the corner of carreta 2 and calle 11
  • Bar Paleto: Relaxed bar Calle 10 #6b-1 a 6b-47 
  • Cafe Con Alma: Cr 7. 57 - 45 Rincon de Piedrapintada Facebook Open from 3 pm 
Buy Coffee:
  • Coffee 100% puro. From Andres Cuevas Castro on the corner plaza de la 14. Cel: 311 275 6762
  • For good quality coffee & Green Coffee Tea From Luis Hernando Guevara 313 605 3395 see Facebook
  • Or buy from any of the coffee shops listed above. 
 Cathedral Primada

Iglesía Del Carmen
The church is designed by a Russian and is the only one in South America.

Ciclo via -Every Sunday the main road "La quinta" is closed from 7 - 1pm for cyclists


Buy & Sell Good place to look for second hand items for sale including cars, motorbikes and bicycles OLX and Mercardo Libre for motors checkout www.tucarro.com 


Street seen's Ibagué

 Juggling with 3 knifes and a ball, while on a tightrope  

Motorbike (Moto)

Arepas De Choclo

Suburbs of Ibagué Known as Barrios

Refreshments Ciclo via


If you are heading this way, then please feel free to say Hola! Always happy to meet for a coffee
Email me: martin@mytravelphotoblog.com or WhatsApp +44 7739614579 



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