Situated among the rolling hills of Colombia’s coffee plantations lies the magical town of Salento. Verdant green fields cover the landscape which is startlingly embellished with the worlds tallest wax palm trees (up to 60m tall).The town itself is a colorful pueblo of quaint cafes, delectable eats, and plenty of local flavor all housed within bright and cheerful Paisa architecture.
Besides stunning natural scenery the town is also full of some of the most welcoming locals we’ve ever met. During our first night here we were met with a shortage of available rooms, without a moment of hesitation an eighty year woman invited us to use her guest room and join her in the morning for strong and plentiful cups of Tinto (black coffee). Salento is the kind of place where you feel instantly welcomed and part of something oddly familiar.
Bright colors of Salento’s Paisa architecture.
Where to Stay
Salento is a small town meaning that no place you stay will be too far from the action. Here are two of our favorite places:
- Hostel Tralala: Located right next to the central plaza this place boasts clean rooms, fast wifi, a communal kitchen, free coffee, and a great hammock hang out area.
- Yambolombia Hostel: One of the more unique housing options in Salento. This place is located about 20 minutes (walking) from the center of town, meaning that the views are incredible and you feel more like you are living with a family than at a hostel.
What to do
- Hiking Valle de Cocora: Covering the foothills of the Los Nevados mountain range lies this incredible natural landscape. Plenty of walking trails are on offer, with the most popular and best day trip being the Reserva Natural Acaime. This 2 ½ hour long loop takes you through the center of the forest where you can play hide and seek among the massive palms. To get to the park take a jeep which leave from Salento’s main square, the trip takes about an hour.
- Go on a coffee tour: What’s the difference between Arabica and Robusta coffee beans? Well here’s a hint it has to do with quality and when it comes to coffee Colombia is at the top of it’s game. Take a tour around the plantations that cover Salento’s surrounding areas, sip on some of the world’s best brew, and get a better sense of how your morning pick me up is so perfectly prepared.
- Play a game of Tejo: In seemingly indiscrete entrances lies one of Colombia’s best games! You’re going to have to ask around to find a ‘cancha de tejo” but the hunt is well worth the reward. The idea of the game is to throw rocks at a target laden with gun powder, if you’re aim is good expect both points and instant fame as the room is filled with the crackle of success. Something you must try for yourself in order to understand!
- Hike up Alto de La Cruz: At the end of Calle Real (the towns main street) lies a set of stairs leading up to grand views of the small pueblo and surrounding landscape. Best climbed in the early morning, when clear skies may make spotting snow capped volcano’s possible, or at night to take in the sunset.
The incredible views surrounding Salento.
How to get there
- From Bogota: Salento is located South West of Colombia’s capital city, Bogota. To get to town you will need to first take a bus to Armenia, approx. 8 hours, once in Armenia hop on a mini bus which will get you to Salento in about ½ an hour.
- From Medellin: Buses also run from Medellin to Armenia, this trip takes around 5 hours. Once in Armenia take the mini bus to Salento.
Where to go next
- Manizales: This large town within the Zona Cafeteria is best known for its booming university scene. Head here for great hiking opportunities, a fresh nightlife, and a range of adventure tour operators.
- Pereira: This is the areas largest city, and because of this less atmospheric than its nearby options. That said it’s a great place to get your late night groove on, visit the nearby thermal hot springs, and take in a less touristy side of the zona cafeteria.
- Medellin: Colombia’s modern, progressive, and entertaining city of Antioquia is simply one of the most friendly cosmopolitan centers of the world. Don’t miss out on a visit here!
By Tyler Protano-Goodwin