The ‘Musical Capital of Colombia’

Ibagué, capital of the department of Tolima, is a land so full of music that its hymn isn’t a military melody, but rather a joyful popular folklore song. Not for nothing, the city is known as the “Musical Capital of Colombia.”

The city of Ibagué is also a key financial and economic center in Colombia. In fact, it’s home to the Bank of the Republic, or Central Bank of Colombia, and the Colombian Mint.

In the city, you’ll find restaurants to meet all tastes and budgets, where you can sample local dishes like tamales (meat fillings wrapped in corn dough and steamed), lechona (stuffed pork), bizcochos de achira (arrowroot cookies), and viudo de pescado (a type of fish stew).

Tolima folklore is also characterized by myths and legends that will surprise and entertain you with characters like El Mohán, la Madremonte, la Llorona, and el Sombrerón.

Mujer bailando Carnaval San Pedro
Photo: philipecorts

What is there to do in Ibagué?

Ibagué has many different national and ecological parks that you can visit to enjoy the area’s flora and fauna.

You can also take a stroll through the Jardín Botánico San Jorge, a botanical garden full of fantastic natural scenery, while simultaneously learning more about the area’s incredible biodiversity.

The garden is considered an important part of the city’s historic, cultural, and environmental heritage, conserving about 60 hectares of subandine forest and displaying 516 species of plants.

Centenario Park, affectionately known as the city’s lungs thanks to its ample vegetation and the beautiful trees that surround it, is also worth visiting.

The park is ideal for watching ducks paddle in the stream from the shade of majestic ocobo trees. In the morning, the park is crowded with athletes and in the afternoon, it offers a great view of the sunset.

Inside the park, you’ll also find the Garzon y Collazos acoustic shell, which serves as the backdrop for musical and folkloric presentations, many of which take place during the Colombian Folklore Festival.

Another of the city’s main attractions is the Conservatory of Tolima, which is very important to the so-called ‘Musical Capital of Colombia’ because it represents a century of the area’s music and history.

You can also visit Bolívar Square, located in front of Ibagué’s city hall, where you’ll find many different types of food and attractions for children.

In the square, you’ll also be able to see the Cathedral of Ibagué, which houses a statue of Pope Juan Pablo II.

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Catedral Inmaculada Concepción Ibagué Colombia
Photo: Camilo Trujillo

Unforgettable experiences

As hinted at by the city’s nickname, Ibagué has a number of important celebrations where you’ll have a chance to learn about the area’s music and folklore.

One such event, the Columbian Folklore Festival, is celebrated in June of each year, and has been since 1959.

Parades, horseback processions, folklore presentations, pageants, and special stage presentations are some of the activities you’ll be able to enjoy during your visit to the festival.

You’ll also be able to listen, dance, and sing along to the famous “Sanjuanero,” a song that is as much a part of Ibagué as its beautiful scenery.

Another celebration held in Ibagué is the National Colombian Music Festival, created in 1987 as homage to the duet, Garzón and Collazos. Within the framework of the festival, the National Princes of the Song Duets Contest and the National Leonor Buenaventura Composition Contest take place, as well as concerts in the city’s squares and parks where you can enjoy tiple and guitar music in the fresh air.

Other important celebrations in Ibagué include the Festival Internacional de la Oralidad Mundopalabra, the Festival Internacional Ibagué Ciudad Rock, the Festival de Música Sacra, and the Festival de las Artes. To wrap up Ibagué’s many cultural attractions, you can visit the Tolima Art Museum, which opened in 2003 and has a collection made up of about 600 pieces.

Activities you won’t want to miss out on

If you’re in the area, don’t forget to stop at the Los Nevados National Nature Park, comprised of the Nevado del Ruiz, the Nevado de Santa Isabel, and the Nevado del Tolima.

As part of the scenery, you can also take a moment to admire the Nevado del Tolima Volcano, whose peak is in the Los Nevados National Nature Park. The climb up the volcano is striking and unforgettable.

Another trip you’ll want to make is to the Parque Museo La Martinica, which is perhaps the best place to start your visit to the city. From there, you can admire nearly all of Ibagué and take some spectacular photos.

The park is made up of over 123 acres of land where you can go on nature walks and hikes or enjoy the spa. You can also participate in sports like rappelling.

Finally, don’t forget to visit Combeima Canyon, where you can see waterfalls and tiny tributaries, explore an immense tropical forest and appreciate the area’s magnificent biodiversity.

Plaza Murillo Toro Ibagué Colombia
Photo by Ecoplanet Foundation

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  • One peculiarity about Ibagué that you should keep in mind for your trip is that, within the city itself, there are a number of different climates. For example, the neighborhood of La Pola generally has a cool climate, whereas in areas like Picaleña or Salada, the weather will feel different.

  • So, as the area’s natural destinations will also have their own distinct temperatures, we suggest you bring along clothes suitable for the areas you plan on visiting.

  • The city also has a wide range of accommodations for all tastes, from reasonably priced hostels to luxury hotels with specialized services for corporate events.

  • The city’s bus system is available to help you get around the city during your stay.

  • With these simple recommendations, you’re ready to enjoy your trip to Musical Capital of Colombia. Come visit Ibagué and explore its many cultural and natural attractions!

Photographs of our visitors