Ibagué is the capital city of the Tolima department. It is known as the musical city of Colombia, due to its famous conservatory. Ibagué is a starting point for travellers who wish to do the Nevado del Tolima trek. Apart from that, it's a small, safe friendly city, with a special charm, although there's not an awful lot to do here.
Aeropuerto Perales in Ibagué is located about 40 minutes outside the city, and has flights from Bogotá and various other cities in Colombia.
Ibagué is a 4 hour bus journey from Bogotá, a 3 hour bus journey from Armenia, and a 2 hour bus journey from Honda. Numerous companies serve these routes. The journey to Armenia involves going over the la linea and is nortorious for accidents, landslides and occasional guerrilla activity. Avoid doing this part of the journey at night or in a small minibus.
The old, crumbling conservatory alongside the new building (ask the guard to show you the views from the top). Just round the corner from Plaza Bolívar (Cra 2, Calle 9).
The botanical gardens (take a taxi as its quite a distance from the city centre).
The Fundación Orquidea del Tolima is a nature reserve with an impressive selection of orchids, including the national flower of Colombia, the endangered Cattleya trianae. There is a nature trail leading to a mirador, where you can see a large part of Ibagué. The reserve is located at Cra 30 No. 13-35. Tel: (098) 2605995.
Hang around Plaza Bolívar watching people.
Shalom serves good quality, inexpensive set meals (Cra 3 between Calle 8 and Calle 9).
Try the cakes and avena drink at Yel Coctel delicatessen (Calle 10 between Cra 4 and Cra5).
Try the delicious freshly baked bread from Mateus (Calle 10 between Cra 3 and Cra4).
Tertulia is a good indoor venue to enjoy a beer while listening to rock music (Cra 5 between Calle 10 and Calle 11).
Libro y Son has a nice setting to listen to salsa and enjoy a few beers, it's near the Universidad del Tolima away from the City centre.
Juntas is a nearby village, especially popular at weekends and holidays, where people go and eat almojabanas, bunuelos, sancocho soup and river trout in a peaceful mountain setting. There is also a mirador from which, if you are lucky and there are no clouds, can see the Nevado del Tolima (early morning is best). You can get to Juntas by taking a bus in Cra 1/Calle 14 from "La Ibaguerena" bus company.
From Juntas, you can walk up to El Rancho, some thermal springs in the cloud-forest at 2600 metres above sea-level; it's about a 4 hour leisurely walk uphill alongside the impressive canyon of the Combeima river, or you can take the morning lechero. El Rancho is the starting point for the trek up El Nevado del Tolima (5215 m). This is the mountain in Colombia wher most mountaineers have lost their lives, and to reach the summit a guide is essential. See the Latas route in this Summitpost entry for more details.
From el Rancho, you can walk also walk via the Filtros route to Laguna del Encanto and Salento.
From Juntas, you can also walk to El Derrumbe de las Perlas: when you cross over the river, turn right immediately instead on continuing towards the mirador. After a couple of hours of leisurely walking you'll reach an open valley with a river, an ideal picnic spot. If you continue along this route you can also reach the summit of the Nevado, but this is a quite a long way round. The route is known as Las Nieves', and is via some thermal springs at 3900m where a hermit known as Don Canon lives.