Salento, Colombia – Know Before You Go!
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This blog is the ultimate guide to visiting Salento, Colombia and includes information on why you should go, the best things to do in Salento, where to stay, getting in and out, safety info, and more!
Salento, Colombia is a tiny town nestled in the central department of Quindio. The quality coffee made there and the beautiful Cocora Valley draws tourists to this somewhat remote location.
However, this hasn’t always been the case. Only a few years ago Salento, Colombia wasn’t even a safe area for Colombians to visit. Guerrilla groups had control over this region of Colombia which prevented any sort of tourist activity in or around Salento.
But now, Salento is one of Colombia’s fastest-growing tourist destinations among both foreigners and locals.
I went to check it out for myself, and it turns out I fell in love with Salento!
The rolling green hills, quaint and colorful town, along with some of the friendliest people I have ever met made my visit fantastic.
I loved Salento so much that I want to encourage others to visit there as well! So, here I have written a travel guide of everything you could possibly need to know when planning to visit Salento in Colombia including the 7 BEST things to do in Salento.
But first…A little bit About Salento, Colombia (and why you should go!)
Salento. Colombia is truly a beautiful town, and that is mostly due to the fact that it has retained its historical charm. Many neighboring cities were destroyed and rebuilt as the main highway from the border of Ecuador through Cali was built. Salento remained off that road, somewhat isolated, and therefore was untouched.
What does that mean for tourists now?
Well, tourists love Salento for its “back in the day” original charm and the peacefulness that seems to come with it. This relaxed vibe is not one that is not often found in Colombia and therefore Colombians love to visit Salento as tourists themselves!
So besides historical looking buildings and friendly Colombia tourists, what else can you expect in Salento, Colombia?
Expect a small quaint town. And when I say small, I mean everything is within walking distance. There is one main plaza where street markets set up and then some more touristic streets just off of it. There are endless cafes with amazing treats as well as boutique shops selling all sorts of souvenirs and arts and crafts.
I have yet to meet somebody who didn’t like Salento, Colombia.
Getting to and from Salento, Colombia
So now that you’ve decided to make the journey to Salento, how much of a journey is it really?
If you’ve traveled at all in Colombia you would know that Colombia is a big country. Luckily, the roads generally aren’t too bad and buses can be quite comfy.
Armenia to Salento
The first thing to note for getting to and from Salento is that you will almost always have to transfer buses in Armenia (unless you take the shuttle to/from Medellin, read below for details.)
Armenia is the capital city of the department and sits 24km from Salento. Don’t let the short distance fool you, the 24 km is a very bumpy and windy road which generally takes about an hour and costs $4,000 COP (about $1.50 USD.)
If you are flying, you must also land at the airport in Armenia and then catch a bus (or a taxi) to Salento. There is no airport in Salento, Colombia.
Buses between Armenia and Salento run very regularly until about 9pm each night. Just go to the bus station and there will be a bus departing within the next hour or so.
The bus station in Armenia is called “Terminal de Transportes de Armenia.”
The bus station in Salento is the only one and it is located at the end of Calle 5.
Medellin to/from Salento
Medellin to Salento is the only route in which there is a shuttle bus direct from Salento, Colombia. It is a mini-van style bus that operates a couple of times a day. It is generally booked through hostels and hotels. There is no overnight shuttle.
All Other Cities to/from Salento
Like I mentioned above you will have to go to Armenia first. The best way to find buses to Armenia from wherever you currently are is to use busbud.com.
BusBud is great because of a couple of reasons. The first is that it is in English and a Canadian company, so if you have any problems you can speak to someone in English on their helpline or via email. Also, it shows real-time seats available and lets you secure your seat in advance!
There are frequent buses from all big cities in Colombia to Armenia.
13 BEST Things to do in Salento, Colombia
There are quite a few different activities to pass the time in Salento. Here I have details on some of the most popular, as well as a couple of unique ideas to keep you busy while visiting Salento! These are the best things to do in Salento!
1. Check out the Valle de Cocora
When I was in Salento I almost didn’t go to the Valle de Cocora. Why? Because so many others I spoke to didn’t go and I thought that if everyone was skipping it then maybe I should too.
Luckily, we met this lovely couple one day at a coffee farm who told us that we just had to go! They showed us some pictures and it was enough for us to agree on making the trip the following day.
What is the Valle de Cocora?
The Valle de Cocora is a beautiful valley full of the famous Wax Palm trees. A visit here could be a short walk in the fields to view the Wax Palms, a horse ride along some trails, or a circuit hike up the hill to a viewpoint.
Getting to the Valle de Cocora from Salento
It is very easy to get to the Valle de Cocora from Salento. Every day at the central plaza several different jeep-style 4 wheel drives wait to drive tourists to the Valle de Cocora.
The jeeps wait until they are full and then make the 30 minute trip to the entrance of the Valle de Cocora. They charge about 4,000 COP per person.
Be aware, the jeeps allow a certain number of people in them, which is always more than the seats. They expect 1-2 people to stand on the back bumper and hold on! While this does sound more adventurous, I do question the safety and friends of mine who did it said their arms were sore from holding on by the time they arrived.
Where the jeep dropped you off is where they all wait. Jump in one that is nearly full and you’ll be dropped off back at the central Plaza.
Hiking the Valle de Cocora
The most popular thing to do at the Valle de Cocora is a circuit hike. While you can just do a short stroll, there is a hike through the forest and then back down through the valley giving some really pretty views.
Do beware though, the hike isn’t just a little walk, it is actually a real hike that will take about 2 hours and can be extremely steep in parts. There is said to be a longer hike as well that takes up to 6 hours, but I didn’t find this one.
Tours to the Valle de Cocora
If jumping on the back of a jeep or getting lost on the hike doesn’t sound like “fun” to you, then a tour might be the best option!
There are a few awesome tours from Salento to the Valle de Cocora to choose from:
Hiking Tour – This tour includes transport and a guide to help you along the hike. It also stops at a beautiful waterfall!
Horseback Riding Tour – For those who don’t want to hike, you can take a horse instead. This tour is about three hours long.
Valle de Cocora and Coffee Combo Tour – This tour goes to both the Valle de Cocora for hiking as well as stops for a coffee tour afterward. It’s also a great price for two tours in one!
2. Go on a Coffee Tour
Salento, Colombia is a world-famous coffee region. Although not one of the larger producers or coffee, it is said that some of the highest quality beans come from this region.
If you want to see various coffee farms and learn the most, it is best to book a full-day tour.
Choosing a Coffee Tour in Salento
There are several different plantations around Salento that offer coffee tours. Some companies are large and offer regularly scheduled tours of the coffee plantation, while some are small family-run farms who do a tour on the spot for visitors who arrive.
Buenos Aires Coffee in Salento offers shorter tours for less than $10. You can book it online in advance to secure your spot, but you do need to get your own transport there before the tour starts.
For a full experience including transport and more in-depth tours, you’ll need to book a proper tour. Some great coffee tours from Salento to consider are:
Hacienda San Alberto – This tour is for the true coffee lover. It is an in-depth tour lasting a couple of hours at one of the most prestigious producers of coffee in the area (with an incredible view!) This tour includes pick up and drop off as well as an English-speaking guide.
Short Coffee Tour with Horseback Riding – This tour is perfect for those wanting a quick coffee experience mixed with incredible views of the area. On a horse, you’ll reach several gorgeous viewpoints before touring a local coffee farm for less than $40!
Coffee and Photography tour – This tour combine tours a coffee farm with unique photography opportunities. As you tour the farm with a guide, you’ll also be able to use an antique camera to snap photos (and get one printed to bring home with you!)
What are the coffee tours like in Salento, Colombia?
I only went on one tour so I can’t speak for them all, but I can tell you how mine went.
We started by wandering the coffee fields. Our guide explained to us about the ideal growing conditions in Salento which makes the beans of such high quality. He showed us the different stages of a coffee plant and when to pick the beans. We were then able to pick some ourselves.
We were guided around the whole farm seeing all of the animals and pets the family had.
At the end we were shown the beans drying out and how they divide them all up by quality. Certain colored beans are of higher quality than others. The high-quality beans are sent overseas to where people will pay more money for good coffee, some of these countries include the United States, England, Australia, Canada, and more.
The beans of lower quality are kept in Colombia where they are roasted and sold.
It was interesting to learn that all of the best coffee beans are exported. I found the coffee in Colombia to be alright, but not the absolute best, which would make sense seeing as they use the lower quality beans!
3. Go Horseback Riding
Many companies offer the chance to ride through the beautiful surrounding landscapes of Salento for a couple of hours. You can sign up for a designated horseback riding tour (which are typically half-day tours) or opt to take a ride through the Valle de Cocora when you arrive there.
For those not so keen on hiking then horseback riding is a great alternative. Not only is it less work riding a horse through the valleys and hills, but it also allows you to cover more ground and see more than you could on
The horses are also well kept and looked after in Salento so you can rest assured you are making an ethical choice!
This particular horseback riding tour has incredible reviews and lasts for three hours!
4. Eat a meal from one of the food trucks
Food Trucks are becoming a popular trend all over the world, and in Salento, it’s no different. In the evenings you can sometimes find food trucks parked at the main plaza selling all sorts of tasty (and cheap) meals.
In fact, the meal pictured above only cost 15,000 COP! Paired with a cheap 3,000 COP beer, it is the perfect place to go for dinner while enjoying the vibe around the plaza.
Note: You won’t find food trucks around every night at the plaza. They are mostly around on weekends, during the holidays or during special events.
5. Play Tejo
Tejo is a very popular game among locals in Colombia. It’s not hard, it is a game kind of like bowling except you throw a ball with gunpowder which makes a sort of little explosion when you hit the target.
In Salento, the locals love to play Tejo. If you head to Los Amigos Bar in Salento any night of the week you can try this game out for yourself!
6. Drink a fancy coffee
Most restaurants around the main plaza offer coffee and tons of fancy coffee drinks! I had a cup of coffee complete with liqueur and whipping cream and it was delicious! While you’re in one of the best coffee regions in the world you might as well take advantage of drinking all of the coffee you can handle!
7. Hike to the viewpoint
There is a viewpoint or “mirador” right above Salento town center. From the main square, you can see the many stairs heading up the hill. If you follow the tourist street of Carrera 5 out of town you’ll find the stairs.
While the stairs will leave you short on breath, the hike is actually short and you can reach the top in under 20 minutes! It is the perfect place to enjoy a sunset one evening while you’re visiting Salento.
8. Go on a Chocolate making Tour
Okay, so you’ve done a coffee farm tour and loved it. Why not do a chocolate one next?
The area around Salento, Colombia is also perfect for growing cocoa beans, what chocolate is made from!
This chocolate tour will show you around a real cocoa farm. They will also show you how chocolate is made and of course, you’ll be able to try the finished product!
9. Eat Trout
Trout or “trucha” is the most common dish eaten in this area of Colombia by locals. You can find it cooked in many different ways, but my personal favorite is fried! However, many Colombians will tell you their favorite is with garlic and cream sauce.
In nearly every restaurant around Salento you will find trout on the menu and it is usually served with a few side dishes making for one very filling meal. Donde Laurita is a restaurant known to serve some of the best trout in town!
10. Explore Waterfalls
Who doesn’t love waterfalls?!
Around Salento, there are some pretty amazing waterfalls you can explore. One of the most popular is called Santa Rita. Here you can go swimming or just enjoy its beauty!
The only downside is that they are mostly a little challenging to get to. The best way to see a couple of them is to join a waterfall tour that allows an expert to show you to some of these hidden gems!
11. Hike to the Nevado del Tolima Summit
Did you know that you can climb a snowy volcano reaching an altitude of 5,212 meters (over 17,000 feet) from Salento?! Well, in the nearby Los Nevados National Park you can!
Nevado del Tolima is a dormant volcano that sits so high above sea level it is always covered in snow. To reach the summit and back it takes four long days (sometimes 12 hours long!) But the views from the top are said to be amazing including seeing two different glaciers on a clear day.
Because this is such a challenging hike it is recommended that only those with mountaineering experience tackle it on a guided tour. To be honest, I have not done this hike (yet) but I have heard from others that it is amazing but super challenging.
12. Hike to the Paramillo del Quindio Summit
If you’re not quite up for the challenge of Nevado del Tolima, then you can do another beautiful hike in Los Nevados National Park that is much easier but also exceptionally stunning.
Paramillo del Quindio Summit sits at 4,750 meters (15,500 feet) above sea level so it is also a challenging climb that typically takes people 3 days hiking 6-8 hours per day.
Unlike Nevado del Tolima though, Paramillo del Quindo is not a snowy peak and the terrain is considerably easier. With that said, it is still only a hike you should try if you’re up for a challenge and it is also safer to go on a guided tour.
13. Wander the colorful streets
Salento is a really colorful town with many of the historic buildings painted in bright colors. Although not quite as bright as the Colombian town of Guatape near Medellin, Salento is still gorgeous and makes for some great photo opportunities.
Try to wander a little bit off the main tourist streets too, you’ll also find cute houses a few blocks away!
Where to Stay in Salento, Colombia
There are two options for choosing where to stay in Salento:
- Stay right in town or;
- Stay on the outskirts of town.
Although some of the accommodation outside of town look amazing and so relaxing, I always tend to stay away from these as it can be a hassle to buy food or go to the grocery store in town.
Some of the best-looking accommodation in Salento are several kilometers from town. So, unless you have a car or the patience to hitchhike every time you want to go to town, this could be a bit of an annoyance.
However, staying in town will be more costly and can be quite loud. In addition, there won’t be any beautiful views or peace and quiet (the roosters all around town are extremely loud!)
Below are my recommendations of where to stay in Salento based on their locations, price point, and reviews!
Budget Accommodation in Salento
The best budget option I can recommend is a hostel called El Viajero. It’s about a five-minute walk from town but also is secluded enough that it feels relaxing.
They have a beautiful view and offer activities such as yoga! It is the perfect mix of being out in nature as well as close to town for an affordable price!
El Viajero Hostel offers both dorm beds as well as private rooms.
Mid-Range Accommodation in Salento
Hotel Terasu Salento is the perfect choice for those traveling in a pair who are budget conscious but still want comfort. The hotel is in a beautiful building only a couple of minutes’ walk from town center.
Here, you can get a large double room for two people with a balcony, air conditioning, WiFi, and an included breakfast for as little as 240,000 COP!
Luxury Accommodation in Salento
If you want a beautiful place with an amazing location, friendly staff, great food, and an outdoor pool then Finca Hotel Rancho San Antonio is or you! There is a sauna and whirlpool onsite as well as a cafe and restaurant. It is walking distance to town and an ideal place to relax while in Salento.
Of course, there are tons of places to stay in Salento, Colombia. You can browse them all online and compare prices and availability!
Where to go after Salento
After visiting Salento, Colombia there are many other options for great places to explore! Some you might want to consider are:
I hope this guide has been helpful in planning your trip to Salento, Colombia! If you have any questions or comments please leave them below and we WILL get back to you!
Be sure to check out the rest of our Colombia travel blogs too – you might find some more useful information for your trip!
Did you find this guide helpful? Maybe you’ll find our Ultimate Guide to Traveling in Colombia helpful too!
April 28, 2020