Argelia, Valle del Cauca, Colombia


Argelia, Valle del Cauca, Colombia, has a population of about 6500, and about 3500 live in the urban center of the town. The town is located in the western range of the Andes Mountains and has a river running through a very narrow valley. The town is built on the slopes of the mountains. The only flat, horizontal streets are the few that run along the sides of the mountain. To connect those there are a couple of switchbacks at one end and a road that drops down to the river. Other than those ends, in between are five stairways connecting the streets, and they are steep and long. The town has a central plaza with a church on one side and bars and discos on three sides. There are two actual proper sit-down restaurants and many small fast-food-type restaurants.

The economy is supported primarily by coffee farms. There are also many platano (plantain), and banana farms, and some ranching.

The indigenous group Gorrones were the first known inhabitants of these mountains. There were also the Quimbayas and the Pijaos, and quite often these three groups would battle each other. White settlers started moving into the area at the end of the 19th century. The first name given to the town was Agua Mona, but was later changed to Medellíncito, then in 1904, it was changed again, this time to Argelia. By 1945, much of the jungle had been replaced by farms. The town received status as a municipality in 1945. They gave it the nickname, "The Palace of the Cordillera." Cordillera refers to the mountain range.

The town has a recreation center that has a large swimming pool for adults and lessons, and two smaller children's pools, plus a few water slides. There are also basketball and volleyball courts and micro-futbol (micro-soccer) fields. There's also space for camping.

Argelia has a tropical climate. The average daytime high of 23° C (73° F), and the nightly average low of 15° C (59° F). The city at around 1560 meters (5118 feet). The average yearly rainfall amounts to 4866 mm (192 inches) of rain. The humidity is high, always between 89%-93%. That humidity percentage is deceiving because of the high amount of rain - the month with the least amount of rain in July and then they receive 280 mm (11 inches) of rain during that month.

So, my impressions: It's a pleasant place, not necessarily a place you would go out of your way to visit. Getting here is either by private vehicle or by a mini-bus/van that starts in Cartago, stops in Ansermanuevo, and then continues into the mountains. That was about two hours and less than 50 kilometers. The views are fantastic, though. As mentioned above, there are two proper restaurants but many fast-food places. Don't confuse that term with McDonalds, Burger King, etc. Nothing like those exist here. Fast food here is empanadas, papas, salchipapas, and so on. Lots of deep-fried stuff. It's all quite tasty, though. I am here for the two Christmas days so the town is alive with music that fills the entire valley. And of course, the requisite (here in Colombia) fireworks. The better of the two restaurants is only open for lunch so for dinner I have to eat in the other restaurant, it's not bad, the food is typical. This town has no supermarket and no cash machine, though there is one small bank. There are more bars than there are tiendas (small convenience stores). The hotel I'm in is across the small valley from the town center and I can hear the music from the bars. The people here do not seem to be as friendly toward me as in other towns I've visited, I did notice that.