Visit Roldanillo, the Paragliding Capital of Colombia

Aerial view of a paraglider high above the hilly landscape of Roldanillo, Colombia.
Paragliding in Roldanillo. Photo © Claudio Vosti, licensed Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike.

Travel map of Cali and Southwest Colombia
Cali and Southwest Colombia
Against a backdrop of mountains and the vast valley to its east, Roldanillo (pop. 35,000) is on the map for two reasons: It was the home of modernist artist Omar Rayo, and it’s the undisputed paragliding capital of Colombia. This town is just two hours from Buga by bus, far away from the well-trodden tourist route.

The Museo Rayo (Cl. 8 No. 8-53, tel. 2/229-8623, 9am-6pm daily, COP$5,000) is the only real sight in town, and it is well worth a visit. Omar Rayo, who was part of the Op Art, or Optical Art, movement, is known for bold and abstract paintings that often appear three-dimensional. Dedicated mostly to Rayo’s paintings, drawings, and sculptures, the museum comprises five octagonal exhibition spaces, each one with a different theme. Temporary exhibits showcase other renowned Colombian artists. Rayo passed away in Roldanillo in 2010.

If you have always wanted to feel what it’s like to be a condor soaring over the sugarcane fields below, Cloud Base Colombia (Cra. 9 No. 8-71, tel. 2/229-9106) has a solution for you. This tourist agency, started in 2011 by a pair of German and Swiss paragliding fanatics, can arrange for paragliding and hang gliding lessons and excursions. If the idea of leaping off a cliff into the bright blue skies of the valley doesn’t appeal to you, they can come up with some other ideas for you to pass the time. You can think of them as the Roldanillo tourist information center.

The optimal time to fly is between late December and late March, although anytime is fine. Roldanillo regularly hosts big-time paragliding competitions, such as the Paragliding World Cup Semifinal in January 2013.

The best option in town is Casa Vieja (Cra. 9 No. 8-71, tel. 2/229-9106, cell tel. 312/808-8841, COP$35,000 s, COP$50,000 d). It’s a small hostel with a cute garden run by the guys at Cloud Base Colombia. They have 12 rooms and they know how to grill. Balcones del Parque (Cl. 8 No. 6-86, tel. 2/259-5151,, COP$25,000 dorm, COP$70,000 d) could be very nice, as its location, overlooking the park, is fantastic.

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