5 Best Things to Do in Salento, Colombia
Salento is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Colombia. The reason why is Salento on almost every travel itinerary is simple. The small and colorful town is in the middle of the Colombian Zona Cafetera which draws here coffee lovers from around the word and also, a unique hike through Valle de Cocora with tall wax palms, is worth exploring.
SALENTO - A MUST VISIT DESTINATION
Salento was the first place in Colombia, where we met a large concentration of international tourist. In fact, until that time, we were thinking about where are the others?
It changed in Salento, and although it was not insanely crowded, we could feel the difference.
The square and the popular main street Calle Real was lively for the whole time of our visit, especially when the weekend came and Colombians arrived to enjoy their days off.
Salento, nestled high in the Andes is surrounded by sloping green hills promising excellent conditions for hiking or horseback riding.
Weather in Salento can be very changeable due to nearby mountains as it can get very hot during the day, but colder at nights, also, it rains quite often which creates the famous pictures of wax palms in the morning mist and fog in the Cocora Valley.
5 BEST THINGS TO DO IN SALENTO
Here's our list of five best things to do in Salento, to make the most of your visit. Plan to spend at least two days here, so you don't need to rush.
HIKE VALLE DE COCORA
The most famous hike (and the reason why so many visitors head to the area) lies only 20 minutes drive from Salento.
Take the traditional frequent jeep Willys from Salento's square to famous Cocora Valley, from where you can either hike the 5-hours loop or take the short path up to get views of Valle de Cocora and get back the same way.
Here, in the valley, high in the mountains, grow the national trees of Colombia, wax palms. The mountainous and humid weather helps to the growth of remarkable cloud forest where wax palms can be up to 60 meters high.
CLIMB UP TO THE MIRADOR
Apart from hanging around Salento's central square and promenade with shops and restaurants Calle Real, there is actually not much to do in the town, with one exception.
Continue to the far end of Calle Real, and you'll see many colorful steps leading up to the hill.
Climb up, and at the end, you'll emerge on the top of Mirador overlooking both Salento and mountains and countryside on the other side. To get even better views, walk further off to the left.
Salento is generally very safe destination, but try to get down from Mirador before it gets dark because of the increased number of robberies attracted by an increased number of tourists who wait at the viewpoint for the sunset.
You can also read our article How to Stay Safe in South America.
VISIT A COFFEE FARM IN SALENTO
Salento lies right in Colombia's Zona Cafetera, so where else should you visit coffee farm than here?
There are several farms near Salento offering different programs for coffee lovers and overall for those who are interested in seeing the whole journey of coffee, from seed to the aromatic cup.
Every farm in Salento's surroundings is different - from big touristy ones where owners use machines to really small ones.
Those small farms have a more personal approach, limited capacity of visitors and the most of their job is done by hand.
We don't want to say that one is better than another as each method can be interesting to witness, but we decided to visit Finca Momota, a coffee farm situated only 10 minutes walk from Salento.
The owner, Mrs. Carla showed us her plantation where she grows not only coffee trees but also many fruit trees which provide the much-needed shade and protection for coffee plants.
After the tour around the plantation, we could taste the coffee and learn more about the theory.
The tour took 3 hours, cost COP 30 000, and we cannot recommend it enough. Not only we learned a lot, enjoyed the walk around the well-taken care of garden but we were also happy we could have contributed a little to this organic farm.
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Trout is the iconic food of Salento, and you can get it literally in every restaurant in the town and almost in every modification you can think of. If you are on a budget, go to the well-known restaurant Rincon de Lucy, where they serve daily menu, including trout, for only COP 8 000. If you don't eat fish, they serve chicken version as well.
Don't know why, but most of the restaurants in Salento serve menu del dia for COP 8 000.
HIKE IN LOS NEVADOS NATIONAL PARK
Salento can be your starting point if you plan a hike in Los Nevados National Park, which we think is a must when in Colombia.
We did a four-days three-nights trek through Paramo ecosystem with a climb to Nevado Santa Isabel, and it immediately became one of our favorite experiences we've had in Colombia and you can read more about the trek here.
HOW TO GET TO SALENTO
The most of all visitors head to Salento from Colombia's capital, Bogota. If this is your way, you just need to take a bus to Armenia first and there switch to a frequent bus going to Salento.
We arrived in Salento from Manizales (read more about Manizales here).
Because there is no direct bus, we had to go to Pereira first (the bus from Manizales to Pereira goes approximately from 5 AM to 8 PM every 15 minutes and cost COP 11 500) and here we switched to bus to Salento for COP 7 500.
This bus doesn't depart that often (on weekdays at 06:40, 08:40, 9:45, 11:40, 13:40, 16:40 and 18:40, and on weekends every hour from 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM)
WHAT TO PACK
Here are 3 essential things to pack for Salento, Colombia.
Sneakers for Him & for Her | Comfortable shoes for walking around the town. Keep in mind, that if you want to hike the loop in Cocora Valley, you should wear proper hiking boots, as the trail gets muddy after rain.
Sunscreen | We used SPF 50+ every day on every part of our bodies exposed to the sun as it is extremely strong in higher altitudes near Equator.
WHERE TO STAY IN SALENTO
The best thing about staying in Salento is that it is so small that everything is close. It is also full of affordable guesthouses, but there is also no shortage of upscale accommodations.
Budget | Hostal Vista Hermosa - Budget, yet nice and newly renovated family-run hostel is a good choice for all travelers looking for an affordable place to stay.
Mid-range | Casa de las Dos Palmas - This hotel has an authentic feel and is well-kept. It has a jacuzzi which you will surely enjoy after all day out.
Luxury | Hostal Casa de Los Taitas - A great hotel set in the lush green garden offers comfortable rooms, shared lounge, shared kitchen, and owners are willing to help with organizing tours.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
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