Salento is not the type of place where you’re going to be the only Gringo in town. Don’t try and fool yourself, it is a touristy place. But it’s popular for a reason. And even if you only have a limited time in Colombia, it’s still worth the effort to make it here.
Salento is a beautiful little village and the oldest in Quindio, full of colorful houses, cafes, artisan shops, and restaurants, all surrounded by striking green mountains. It’s popular with weekenders from Armenia, when tents are erected in the central square to form makeshift restaurants dishing out the local specialty, trucha, a trout-like fish caught in nearby rivers. The majority flock to Calle Real where almost all the restaurants and gift stalls are located among some beautiful examples of post-colonial architecture. At the end of the street is a 250-step staircase leading up to the viewpoint where you can catch the sunset—if the skies are clear, that is. I visited in October and it rained everyday.
There are plenty of places to stay in Salento, all low to medium budget mom and pop establishments, either guesthouses or hostels. If you walk 3 km out towards finca Don Elias, you’ll find La Serrana, a hostel/guesthouse on a working farm. From the property you can enjoy 360-degree views of the bucolic countryside.
If you’re hanging out in Salento for a few days, there’s no excuse for not going hiking. The striking Valle de Cocora is within short reach. Jeeps leave from Salento’s central square throughout the day. But it’s best to leave early in the morning. The oldschool Willys jeeps make the 35-minute ride over some hills and past farms. It lets you off in the center of the valley where you are among the towering wax palms.
Some of these wax palms can tower up to 40 or 50 meters high and are the national tree of Colombia. After about 45 minutes of walking through the wax palm reserve and cattle farms, the jungle begins. For another hour and a half we wound our way back and forth across the river, climbing a couple thousand feet through the mist. Passing a few people on horseback, we finally made it to our rest point in Acaime Natural Reserve where a woman has a little outdoor picnic table café at her mountain. We stopped to have some cheese and hot chocolate among the hummingbirds which feed nearby.
Yes, you are in la zona cafetera, Colombia’s coffee country, so what better to do than go for a coffee tour. We went to a family farm about a 5km walk outside of Salento. Don Elias and his nephew have about 2,000 coffee trees on the hillside of their property. For 5,000 pesos (less than $3US) the nephew led us around the farm, explaining the difference between Arabic trees and Colombian, the type of crops used for shading and amounts of shade needed, the organic fertilizers used, and the process for drying, deshelling, roasting and grinding. At the end, we sat down with Don Elias for a warm cup of the finished product.
After this experience and driving through la zona cafetera the following day, I realized the majority of coffee we drink, at least from Colombia anyway, comes from small producers—family-run farms, just like Don Elias’.
Interested in visiting the town of Salento in Colombia’s coffee country? Join us for our Experience Colombia small group tour. Visit Colombia at the local level, learn about the food and culture, meet friendly olombians along the way. You wouldn’t want to visit Colombia any other way.
Still not convinced? Here’s 14 Reasons You should travel with us.