Recinto del Pensamiento: Lured by a Butterfly Obsession

Yes, we were lured by a butterfly obsession to the unique experience that is Recinto del Pensamiento in Manizales, Colombia. But our fascination with architecture, birds, flowers, forest and beautiful environments in general, were also satisfied.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Juergen has a bit of a butterfly obsession (see our latest calendar as proof ). He loves to follow them patiently until they settle long enough for him to photograph them, preferably with their wings open.

Since arriving in Colombia, we have noticed many more butterflies than we had seen further south, except maybe in Peru. With a little research we discovered that the tropical Andean countries of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia have the greatest diversity of butterfly species in the world. The estimated total is nearly 5500 species, almost one third of the world’s species .

Recinto del Pensamiento: butterflies, birds, bonsai, orchids and sustainable architecture. Also in a World Heritage listed area, Paisaje Cultural Cafetero.

Recinto del Pensamiento: butterflies, birds, bonsai, orchids and sustainable architecture. Also in a World Heritage listed area, Paisaje Cultural Cafetero.

We had read in our Footprint guidebook that the Parque Ecológico Río Blanco, about 8Km from Manizales, has 350 butterfly species, along with other interesting flora and fauna. So we researched how to get there. It turned out that we needed permission, a guide, and an appointment, among other things. It all sounded too hard and too organised. During this research we discovered Recinto del Pensamiento (translated: Thought Enclosure). Among other attractions, it had a butterfly house. And you could just turn up any day of the week, except Mondays.

So turn up we did. It’s just on the edge of the city and has a parking lot that was easy to enter and park Berta. The gatehouse guards sent us up a staircase and we were met at the top by Jessica, our tour guide. We had arrived just in time for the 11 o’clock tour – we were lucky because we hadn’t realised that tours begin on the hour.

We gathered in the plaza, which has a Juan Valdez Café and other conveniences. After a short introduction to the place and our fellow group members, we were off on a 2 hour walking tour of the park. The tour was in Spanish, but fortunately Jessica and most of our fellow walkers spoke some English.


Pabellón de Madera – Wooden Pavilion

This amazing structure catches the eye as soon as you leave the plaza. It is built primarily of bamboo with other sustainable materials. A local architect, Simon Vélez, designed it as a prototype for a pavilion, which was presented by the ZERI network at the Hannover 2000 Expo.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.

The Pavilion is used as a function centre and is a real focal point of the park’s commercial activities. It would be a beautiful location for a wedding.


Mirador de las Aves – Viewpoint for Bird-watching

From the Pabellón de Madera we walked up and up and up some more. Juergen was already lagging behind as he spotted butterflies along the way. And the butterfly obsession is apparently reciprocated – he spent most of the walk up with a butterfly riding on his hat. There is a chairlift system to take visitors up this way, but it was out of action when we visited.

Finally we arrived at the Mirador de las Aves. Although there are some 150 species of birds in the park at some time, we were focussed on the colibris (hummingbirds), who come to the building to feed. We had a well-earned rest and were served very good coffee, while we sat and watched the birds. There were also more butterflies to photograph, although the one who sat on Juergen’s camera wasn’t making it easy…

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.


Senda de Oriente – Path of the Orient

There are several features of the Senda de Oriente. The first is the large collection of amazing bonsai trees, the oldest being 75 years. There is a Zen garden, but it could use a resident monk to rake the gravel a bit more often. And there is also a grove of 80 Sakuras – cherry blossoms – which were presented to the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros by the government of Japan in recognition of 80 years’ service to Colombia’s coffee growers. Unfortunately they weren’t in flower, so we didn’t notice them, but I bet they make a picture in the right season.

Path of the Orient at Recinto del Pensamiento - we are standing next to 3 of the impressive bonsais to be seen.

Path of the Orient at Recinto del Pensamiento – we are standing next to 3 of the impressive bonsais to be seen.

Recinto del Pensamiento: Senda de Oriente is a path through an area dotted with bonsai trees.

Recinto del Pensamiento: Senda de Oriente is a path through an area dotted with bonsai trees.

 

Observatorio de Mariposas – Butterfly Observatory

And then we finally reached the butterfly observatory. It’s not huge but has plenty of butterflies. There are around 33 species from the coffee region and the cloud forest. The garden is purpose built to serve the needs of each of the species present.

Jessica had difficulty getting us out. There were so many butterflies, and most of them sitting relatively still. Guess who was last to leave the enclosure?

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.


Bosque de Orquídeas – Orchid Forest

Bosque de Orquídeas: an easy to follow path through the orchid forest, with thousands of plants on display.

Bosque de Orquídeas: an easy to follow path through the orchid forest, with thousands of plants on display.

This forest covers 2.5 hectares. There are great walking paths to follow, and 250 species of orchids to be seen. Photographing these plants almost eclipsed the butterflies in this case. There are some really strange and interesting flowers produced by orchids.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.

By now Jessica was really trying to hurry us along to finish the tour, but the walk was just too fascinating. In the end we were about 20 minutes overtime, but I don’t think she really minded.


The Recinto del Pensamiento is the property of the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia, administered by the local Comité de Cafeteros de Calda. As such it is part of the Paisaje Cultural Cafetero Colombiano (Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia), a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Bosque de Orquídeas; this small orchid appears to have the face of an old man

Bosque de Orquídeas; this small orchid appears to have the face of an old man

Recinto del Pensamiento: this beautiful blue dragonfly was another attraction in the Orchid Forest

Recinto del Pensamiento: this beautiful blue dragonfly was another attraction in the Orchid Forest

 

Recommendation: Visit Recinto del Pensamiento

We recommend a visit to the Thought Enclosure if you are in this area of Colombia’s coffee region. Our guide was very knowledgeable and made the tour enjoyable and interesting. The website of Recinto del Pensamiento has full details of location and opening hours. It also provides a lot of information on the flora and fauna to be discovered within the park.
Please consider in your plans: the Recinto is closed every Monday!
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Our Travel Tip for the “Coffee Zone” of Colombia: visit the “Recinto del Pensamiento” in Manizales! It's an easy half day excursion with amazing, relaxing, and educative experiences. You see butterflies, birds, bonsai, orchids, and sustainable bamboo architecture on an internationally recognised scale. See our blog post and gallery for more information!

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Yasha

dare2go's human navigator (we're not lost because there's nowhere particular we have to be) alongside our Nexus 7 tablet, writer and editor of our blog, first cook and loving wife. Teaching English as a second language when possible.

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37 Responses

  1. Joanna says:

    The idea of walking through a forest of orchids sounds so exotic to me! I’d love to do it! I have to admit that I never thought of going to a place to see butterflies but the Recinto del Pensamiento is so much more than that. It looks like a proper oasis of tranquility and peace.

  2. Alli says:

    This would be a dream for me. The butterflies, those forests, and the cherry blossom groves! This would be the most picturesque day spent here. I bet the photo opportunities were overwhelming – and your shots are wonderful!

    • Yasha says:

      Thanks Alli – I would just love to return there for the cherry blossoms, if it were possible. Alas, we journey onward…

  3. Paige says:

    Wow! These are such beautiful butterflies and orchids! I actually have this really strange butterfly fear – super irrational, but I guess you don’t choose what you’re afraid of. However, I would love to see the orchids and the beautiful park-area.The wooden pavilion would be perfect for a wedding. What a gorgeous area.

    • Yasha says:

      You’re not the first to confess a butterfly fear. And I don’t think we have much control over what we are afraid of. Just enjoy the photos.

  4. Tami says:

    Aren’t orchids the most amazing plants? I became acquainted with them the first time when we went to Hawaii. They look fragile but most of the plants and flowers are really quite durable. I would love to visit a place where there are so many butterflies. The closest I’ve come is driving through a migration of Monarch butterflies, and that was kind of sad, because so many ended up stuck to our car! Thanks for sharing your butterfly experience with us!

    • Yasha says:

      It always seems such a shame when butterflies splat on your car, but it’s hard to avoid when you come in contact with the Monarch migration. No problems like that in the butterfly enclosure of Recinto del Pensamiento.

  5. Veronika says:

    Colombia features so much of natural beauty, it’s really amazing! No wonder you got obsessed with butterflies, they are amazing. It must have been amazing experience to see so many shapes and colors at Recinto del Pensamiento in Manizales.

  6. I love butterflies. What a fun experience to capture these little beauties in Colombia!

  7. Claudia says:

    I love visiting such places. The Recinto del Pensamiento looks like a must visit for anyone who loves butterflies, nature and orchids too. What a fabulous discovery.

  8. Jillian says:

    This is amazing, and makes so much sense! My North American brain automatically thinks of the Monarch migrating to Mexico, but not of all the other amazing butterflies which would be in Central or South America. This sounds like such an incredible experience.

    • Yasha says:

      Oh yes – we visited the place the Monarchs go in Mexico – that’s also fabulous. The tropics everywhere are full of colourful butterflies.

  9. Sol Solntze says:

    Well, the butterfly bit sounds great, but all he other zones sound pretty cool too. Very exotic. And how great to be shown around by a guide.

  10. What a fun thing to do – seeing all the butterflies along your travels (although not for me as I’m really creeped out by them). Recinto de Pensamiento Looks amazing in the way that there is so much to see and do – the orchids look beautiful. How lucky to arrive just in time for a guided tour, too!

    • Yasha says:

      What a shame – but sometimes our phobias are inexplicable. But, yes, there are plenty of other parts to enjoy – especially the orchids.

  11. Laura Lynch says:

    I mean, if you’re going to have an obsession, butterflies are a pretty good one! I haven’t seen many, honestly, and would like to visit this place when we travel to Colombia for the first time in a few weeks.

    • Yasha says:

      If you are coming to Colombia and will be travelling outside of the cities, almost anywhere in nature, you are sure to see lots of butterflies. I hope you enjoy your visit.

  12. One of my favorite parts of visiting Central and South America is the chance to view all of the different birds and butterflies. You would have difficulty getting me out of the butterfly enclosure too!

    • Yasha says:

      The birds and butterflies in tropical areas are definitely a drawcard for us too. The Recinto del Pensamiento was certainly a lucky find for us. It wasn’t in our guidebook.

  13. Danik says:

    THis looks like a great place to check out. I like to go on nature places like this. I rather do bird watching than spot butterflies mind you. Beautifully written post and love the photos.

    • Yasha says:

      Recinto del Pensamiento is certainly a beautiful place to watch birds and spend time in nature. And it’s really close to the large city of Manizales in Colombia.

  14. Jody Robbins says:

    While I don’t love butterflies, there’s no denying it’s a great family spot. Little ones totally calm down once they see those fluttering wings and it can be a bonus bio lesson, too!

    • Yasha says:

      I’m very curious that you don’t like butterflies… But you are right that this must be a fabulous place to bring children.

  15. Sarah says:

    Lovely photos. I spent a bit of time up at the Daintree rainforest in tropical North Queensland and was amazed by the vibrant colours of the Ulysses butterflies 🦋 so I can understand Juergen’s fascination with them.

    • Yasha says:

      I don’t think anyone would disagree that butterflies are just beautiful – and a challenge to photograph. The observatory in Recinto del Pensamiento did make it a lot easier, but we have lots of lovely photos from them ‘in the wild’…

  16. I too am obsessed with butterflies so I completely understand how you couldn’t resist Recinto del Pensamiento. The orchid forest also looks like an amazing place – very mystical looking plus it seems to have a wide range of orchids.

    • Yasha says:

      The orchid forest was indeed a lovely place to be. The forest was cool and inviting on a warm day and the orchids are simply fascinating.

  17. Sounds like a perfectly fine reason for a trip. Butterflies are magical and I love supporting efforts to help them survive.

  18. Mona Corona says:

    These are some stunning photographs!

  19. Ruth says:

    What a lovely place! I am obsessed with butterflies too. Not sure if you have noticed the name of my website “Tanama” means butterfly in the Taino language. Also, I like the name of this place “Recinto de Pensamiento.” The name even gets you thinking! What a fabulous place for contemplation and deep conversations.

    • Yasha says:

      Thanks Ruth, I didn’t realise Tanama means butterfly – what a beautiful name for your blog.
      It is certainly a beautiful and peaceful place to spend some time.

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