In the town of Belalcázar (Caldas) you’ll come upon a very large effigy of Christ the Redeemer on top of a mountain. This isn’t a statue but a building and you can scale its interior right into Jesus’ head!
Colombia had its share of eccentric visionaries. Today we’ll explore a not so well known peculiar monument in the Eje Cafetero (the coffee region)
The Cristo Rey of Belalcázar was the pet project of a town priest, Antonio José Valencia Murillo, and was completed in 1954 after 6 years of construction. It’s made of concrete and is covered in windows all around right to the top so that visitors have a 360 degree view of the spectacular alpine surroundings. It is said to be structurally damaged but I have seen no indication that repairs were scheduled and very recent videos indicate it’s open to the public.
The structure has an overall height of over 45 meters (148 ft) whilst the Christ part of it is 30 m (98 ft). It’s 154 steps to the top, and if you’re claustrophobic, you might not enjoy going all the way, so maybe just go as far as the viewing platform at the top of the base. If you do make it into Jesus’ head, you can indeed peer out His nostrils and eyes! The monument is bathed in lights at night.
At the time of writing, the fee to enter the monument is just 5,000 pesos or just over one US dollar. There’s the usual tourist trappings around the base (souvenirs and food). The town of Belalcazar itself, apart from its vistas and the Cristo Rey, doesn’t have much to keep you busy, but it’s a classic pretty pueblo with its central square which you might enjoy strolling through and snapping pictures. There’s a church that looks like a giant barn worth a couple of photos, and if you want to have a traditional meal, the Rosa Maria restaurant is a good choice. It’s decorated in the classic colorful Paisa way, worth a few photos itself!
GETTING THERE: The closest transportation hub is the city of Pereira (Risaralda). Hop on a bus at the terminal there and you’ll get to Belalcázar in 45 minutes to an hour. There’s frequent flights to Pereira from Medellín and Bogotá. An alternative is a bus from Manizales, also in Caldas, although in this case you’re looking at a 2 and a half hour ride.
Here’s a video that gives you a sample tour of the town and the Cristo Rey:
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