This booming department is found in central-west Colombia between the western and central cordilleras (mountain ranges) and the valleys of the Magdalena and Cauca rivers.
Caldas is bordered by the departments of Antioquia, Tolima, Risaralda and Cundinamarca. Its area is 7,888 square kilometres, including the impressive Nevado del Ruiz and the Los Nevados national park.
It has nearly 1.2 million inhabitants.
Before the Spanish conquest, this territory was inhabited by various native tribes such as the Pijaos, Ansermas, Armas, and Chamíes. Among them were the Quimbayas, recognized for their beautiful work with gold.
Sebastián de Belalcázar was one of the first Spaniards to arrive in the region. He founded the city of Anserma in 1532.
The department was created in 1905 and named after the learned Francisco José de Caldas. In 1966, two large regions were separated from the territory and reorganized as the departments of Risaralda and Quindío. At present the three departments form the so-called "Coffee Axis of Colombia".
Its important production of coffee, beans, bananas, rice, sugar cane and corn crops makes its economy one of the wealthiest in the country. Its mining industry exploits gold, silver, coal and limestone.
The department of Caldas has nearly 1.2 million inhabitants. The Caldense land is a garden of beautiful women. A representative of the Caldenses' beauty is Luz Marina Zuluaga, who in 1958 became the only Colombian woman to be crowned "Miss Universe".
Manizales is called the “city of the open doors”. It has nearly 450,000 inhabitants.
It was founded in 1848 by a group of Antioqueños (people of the department of Antioquia) who headed to south-western Colombia to carry out the so-called “exploration of the Twenty”. Its members established their residences in that region.
Nowadays, Manizales is the most industrialized town of the coffee axis. The city has splendid mansions, beautiful parks and very pretty places worth visiting such as the famous gothic Cathedral —the city's symbol— the Historic Center comprising about 150 national buildings which have been classified as national monuments, Los Yarumos eco-park and the very well-known bullfighting ring.
At the University of Caldas, you will find the Museum of Natural History, which has one of the best butterfly collections in South America, the Anthropological Museum, which has nearly 3,500 Pre-Columbian pieces that were found in many tombs of the Quimbaya people, the Botanical Gardens, which have an impressive greenhouse, a meteorological station, a collection of ornamental and medical plants and an arboretum with a great variety of national trees.
Manizales is an important cultural and artistic center. It has been considered for many years the most prominent city of the country for theatrical art.