Since 1935, Recinto del Pensamiento has had several different names and purposes. It began as a shelter for avalanche orphans and over the years took on different educational roles.
Aside from its current educational programs, the park also houses numerous gardens, a function center, hotel, restaurant, Juan Valdez Cafe, chapel, and office complexes.
Of all the botanic gardens I’ve been to in Manizales, I think I like this one the best. Recinto del Pensamiento has great amenities, but the clincher is the neighboring landscape.
The surrounding mountains are like angular shards of glass that rasp the bellies of the ever-proliferating rain clouds. This is the same landscape that I see everyday on my way to work and I’m still completely enchanted.
On top of the beautiful landscape, at the end of February is the annual Festival of Orchids, Coffee & Art. Normally it costs $15,000 pesos to enter the park, but for special events the $10,000 peso fee covers access to all the amenities. The only exception is the chairlift, which always costs extra to use.
When Barret and I entered the grounds we browsed the stalls, sat in on a coffee demonstration, looked at some art and then ended up at a massive pavilion filled with award-winning orchids.
I’m not sure how many categories there were, but it seemed liked the number of winners roughly equaled the number of losers. Orchid growing must be great for self-esteem.
Strolling back by the food booths I ran into a young colleague from work and her boyfriend of 15 days. The four of us found a mobile coffee cart operated by Sena students. I was excited that the lattes and cappuccinos were free.
Afterwards we all joined a tour headed to the top of the gardens. Overlooking the valley was a patio with hummingbird feeders. Just behind that building was a netted butterfly enclosure. Further down the hill was a Zen garden.
It was around 6:30pm when we made our way back down the hill to the entrance. Our last purchase of the day was mango biche ice cream, which I had only just discovered. It’s made from peeled green mangoes, sugar, limes, and comes with a little packet of salt. The flavor was deliciously tart and the chewy pieces of mango were bits of heaven.
I kind of wish I had visited Recinto del Pensamiento earlier, but I’m also glad I waited for the annual festival. It ended up being the perfect combination.
How to get to Recinto del Pensamiento: Catch a blue buseta along Santander Ave in Manizales. The bus route plaque needs to list ‘Sena’. There are two routes that list this, the fastest of the two also lists ‘Maltería’. Let the driver know you are visiting the gardens.