Located at an altitude of 1900 mt, the quiet Salento in the Zona Cafetera was one of the highlights of our trip to Colombia. This colourful little town in the heart of the Colombian coffee production and the perfect base to visit the Cocora Valley, a must-see while travelling Colombia. But, here’s a tip: if you are planning to spend a few days in Salento it is probably best to visit during the week, as come the weekend, it swells with Colombian tourists. So here’s our brief guide to Salento, Colombia!
Things to do in Salento, Colombia
Settled in the heart of the Andes, the laid-back Salento is a traditional colonial-style village with colourful houses and the aroma of coffee in the air and it’s surrounded by breathtaking nature. The highlights of our stay in Salento were:
Taste local coffee in a cafeteria in Salento
You’re in Zone Cafeteria, also known as the Coffee Triangle, so you simply have to taste a good coffee. The steep-sloped valleys and warm, rainy climate are ideal for coffee cultivation and make Colombia the world’s third-largest exporter. In Colombia, a simple black coffee is called tinto. For the best coffee go to Jesús Martín Cafe, Carrera 6, 6-14
Visit a finca, traditional coffee farm
Drinking coffee in the Zona Cafetera is one thing, but visiting one of the fincas, or coffee farm, is a whole different experience. Salento is surrounded by coffee estates and some of them have opened their doors to visitors. The Finca El Ocaso is perhaps the most beautiful and can be reached by either a Willy (little jeeps working as public transport in Salento) or by walking for about an hour. We decided to visit a smaller family-owned traditional, organic coffee farm, Finca Azarcia, and we visited during our horse riding day trip. It was the cheaper option but we really chose it for being the more traditional and were not disappointed. Our guide took us around the plantation and explained how the family grow, harvest and roast the coffee beans. At the end of the tour, we ground up some of the roasted beans and sampled some fresh Colombian coffee.
Go for a horse ride in the valley
During our stay in Salento, we were offered different horse riding tours in the main square, but we read amazing reviews about a small family-owned stable and we decided to give it a go. The Cabalgatas San Pablo, Carrera 6 #7 – 65 Salento, could be difficult to find as Carrera 6 more than a road is a field with some steps. We choose a 3-4 hour trip including the visit of a coffee farm and a trip to Rio Navarco. After the visit of the Finca Azarcia, we climbed back onto our trusty steeds, set off and suddenly we were walking in the middle of the river, splashing in the water, surrounded by lush vegetation, birds and butterflies. A wonderful experience! Price per person COP 60.000
Hike the Cocora Valley
If you are dreaming of the iconic views of the Quindío wax palm (Colombia’s national tree) set in lush rolling hills, you better get ready for hiking the Cocora Valley in the Los Nevados National Natural Park. It’s about 5 to 6 hours of up-and-down hiking through green valleys, cloud forests, and streams. If you are not up for a big hike you can take the path straight to the palms (don’t turn right onto the hiking path), it’s only about an hour or so roundtrip. To get to the Cocora Valley you can hop in a 4×4 jeep – locally known as Willys – leaving from Salento’s main square early. You better leave early in the morning to beat the crowds.
How to get from Pereira Airport to Salento, Colombia
There are two airports nearby Salento, Pereira and Armenia. Like most of the visitors we arrived and departed from Pereira. To get from the airport to the town of Salento you can take a taxi, COP 150.000, or take the local public transport (we loved it)!
If you choose the public bus you have to:
- Take a 15 min taxi from the airport to the Pereira Bus Station (Terminal de Transporte de Pereira) for about COP 15.000
- Buy a bus ticket at the Expreso Alcala window for Salento departing every 40 minutes past the hour for COP 8.000
- Arrive in Salento after about 1 hr