South of Medellín lies coffee country. High-altitude tropical valleys with porous volcanic soil and an equatorial climate provide stable, warm temperatures and plentiful rainfall that make the region from Manizales to San Agustín one of the world's great growing areas for the humble arabica bean. This unique terroir, and techniques that haven't changed much over the past century, are responsible for Colombian coffee's famously smooth profile; light, complex and brightly acidic. Sultry, salsa-powered Cali forms the eastern frontier of this agricultural world; beyond it, the Andean foothills descend towards Buenaventura and the dense jungle that lines the Pacific coast, which remains one of the poorest, and least explored, regions of Colombia.
Further south, the departments of Cauca and Huila have seen security concerns fade, and for the first time, the vast, gorgeous landscapes dotted with colonial villages and some of the nation's greatest archeological treasures are opening up to tourism. Historic and charming, Cauca's white city of Popayán is one of the last outposts before plunging to Pasto and the border of Ecuador. And Huila, now one of Colombia's most praised coffee zones, sees tourists heading to San Agustín and the surrounding archaeological park, which is home to South America's largest collection of megalithic sculptures and burial mounds.