So you’ve decided to visit Colombia and (hopefully) Salento made the cut. You won’t regret visiting Salento, Colombia if you do. Probably my favorite place on my Colombia itinerary, Salento, Colombia truly is one of the best towns to visit if you’re interested in seeing the more slow-paced life of rural Colombia. And if you like coffee, Salento, Colombia is DEFINITELY the place for you. Read on to learn about what to do in Salento, Colombia.
- 1 Where is Salento, Colombia?
- 2 How to get to Salento, Colombia
- 3 How Many Days in Salento, Colombia
- 4 What to do in Salento, Colombia
- 5 Where to Stay in Salento, Colombia
- 6 What to Pack for Salento, Colombia
Where is Salento, Colombia?
Salento is part of the “coffee triangle” of Colombia (you know, that super dangerous country in South America?) in the lush mountains south of Medellin and west of Bogota, about a 6-9 hour drive from either city. It is truly one of the most beautiful spots for travelers to visit in Colombia. The vibe of Salento, Colombia is a mixture of Spanish cowboy with a little hipster thrown in.
How to get to Salento, Colombia
If you zoom in on the map, you can see there are two other small cities called Pereira and Armenia near Salento. You can either take a bus or fly to either of these cities from Bogota, Cartagena, or Medellin, then catch a bus or taxi to Salento which is 45 minutes from Pereira or 60 minutes from Armenia. We had our hotel organize a driver for us, and it was definitely more expensive than taking the bus, but hassle free after flying for so many hours.
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Domestic flights within the country are quite reasonably priced if purchased in advance and we used them for the bigger legs of our travels to save time. The main airlines are Avianca, Easy Fly, Latam, and Viva. Skyscanner seems to have all the airlines show up in searches, whereas I didn’t see Viva on Google Flights. I suggest looking into the details about what is included in the cost and weight limits for bags since some of the budget airlines have some pretty strict exclusions.
How Many Days in Salento, Colombia
You didn’t come all this way to stay for one day. I’m putting my foot down with 3 days in Salento, Colombia MINIMUM! Admittedly, I’m a whirlwind traveler, but even I couldn’t do and see the best of Salento without at least 3 days. The first day could include your travel day to get there if you arrive early enough (like by noon). But 3 full days without travel would be better. I could literally spend months there, I enjoyed this region so much.
What to do in Salento, Colombia
Visit the Valle de Cocora (aka Cocora Valley)
No trip to Salento, Colombia is complete without a visit to the iconic Cocora Valley. You can get there simply by finding Willys Jeeps in the town square of Salento. They have set times frequently through the day or just when enough people hop on and the ride takes approximately 20 minutes. The price is just a couple dollars and you’ll have to pay with cash. A little Spanish comes in handy when it comes to times and prices. The drivers are very helpful though.
The Cocora Valley is part of the Los Nevados National Natural Park. The iconic wax palm is protected here. Although you won’t have the area to yourself (it’s very popular), you can still hike and find some privacy. The roughly 5 hour loop hike can be done in either direction.
When you arrive there are places to park if you have a car and lots of horse stables and guides. The area is bustling with people, there is camping, and restaurants.You also want to have cash for the minimal entrance fee and horse ride if you choose to do it. I have mixed feelings about the horse rides. From what I could tell, the horses seemed healthy and well cared for, but I’m mostly trying to avoiding animals in tourism completely. Might as well get exercise with your own two legs.
The climate in Salento, Colombia is very temperate, humid, and cloudy so it rains periodically almost every day. Prepare according and bring a light rain jacket.
When you’re ready to go back to Salento, the Willys are gathered in a parking area and will leave when enough people hop on.
Visit a Coffee Farm in Salento
No visit to Salento (or even Colombia) would be complete without learning about coffee production. Colombia is famous for its coffee production and exportation, although climate change has actually caused coffee production to decline in the region since the early 2000’s. Colombia is still the third largest coffee producer in the world after Brazil and Vietnam. Colombia’s “coffee cultural landscape” was actually named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011!
There are a handful of coffee tours in the Salento area and you can compare and read reviews HERE. We did the Ocaso Coffee Farm tour and thoroughly enjoyed it. You can take a Willys Jeep from the Salento square there and back. Just stop by and ask what time they leave. You can’t miss the Jeeps in the main square. We saw people walking to the farm but it would be a crazy long walk. It seemed that reservations were preferred, but we were able to join a tour shortly after we got there. Read Reviews Here.
The other great coffee tour is Finca Don Eduardo. Find reviews HERE. This coffee farm is like a 10 minute walk from town making it quite convenient. It is smaller and has English tours at limited set times per day so inquire about that before you arrive.
Eat, Drink, and be Merry in Salento
I could suggest to hike, camp, bike, take a hot air balloon ride, go paragliding…which you totally should. Salento, Colombia has some unique outdoor activities! But don’t miss out on the great food and coffee scene in Salento. Of course most of the best quality coffee grown in Colombia is exported, but not all. There are some fantastic cafes with wonderful vibes.
I pretty much insisted on trying all the top rated restaurants and coffeeshops. Here is a list of some of the best, with varying prices, specialties, and vibes.
- Cafe Jesus Martin – One of my personal favorite places in Colombia, this coffeeshop is the best in Salento. It’s super photogenic with a hanging bicycle, wall art, and the most colorful building across the street. The coffee is heavenly.
- Le K’fee – This is an adorable and colorful little cafe that is excellent for breakfast or lunch. They have great coffee along with healthy food options (think avocado toast, quinoa, yogurt and granola with fruit).
- Bernabe – This place is kind of contemporary, healthy, and has a great atmosphere for dinner. Chris had a bacon wrapped filet mignon and I had salmon, we had drinks, and dessert. It was one of the most delicious meals we had in Colombia and it was super affordable for the quantity, and quality. Also great for coffee.
- Acaime – With a treehouse hippy vibe, this outdoor restaurant is along the edge of town. It’s actually rated the number one restaurant on TripAdvisor. They have a wide range of well priced delicious food options along with novelty coffees like my marshmallow cappuccino, which I wouldn’t technically recommend if you’re a cover lover, haha.
- El Rincon de Lucy – This authentic little place right along the main street in Salento is very popular, especially among Colombians. Very typical food, there really isn’t even a menu. The waiter just asks which kind of meat you want and you get a massive plate with typical Colombian food. It’s delicious and the price was so low, we thought there was a mistake. It was less than $10 for both of our huge meals.
There are tons of other things to do in Salento, Colombia. You can walk or ride horses from town to a waterfall (Santa Rita), walk to the mirador (aka viewpoint) at the edge of town, play the local came of tejo, go shopping along the main drag of Calle Real where there are lots of adorable shops with local goods. I bought some handmade pants that I get tons of compliments on and a little white boho dress.
Where to Stay in Salento, Colombia
Sometimes hotel choice can make all the difference in how you feel about a certain place. I’ve listed what I consider to be some of the best hotels in the mid to upper range of price. So I’ve put in a good deal of research to present you with the best possible choices and values. There are a handful of super cool ecolodge hotels and hostels outside of town as well that I haven’t detailed in this post.
- Hotel El Mirador del Cocora – Depending on your budget, you may feel like this is a bit of a splurge for Colombia, but I’m pretty sure they have the best view in town. The outdoor jacuzzi room with a mountain view is a nice little treat too. The rooms are a little dated, but clean and comfortable and you have to walk up a bit of a hill to get there that will get your heart pounding. It’s on a quiet hill at the edge of town, like 5 minutes walk to everything. It’s also right by the view point, El Mirador.
- Hotel Salento Plaza – One of the best reviewed places in town, mid-priced and really well located.
- Hotel El Jardin – In true Salento style, this colorful and lovely hotel is a great pick right in town with great reviews and awesome prices.
- Hotel Salento Real – Probably my favorite of the bunch, this authentic and beautiful hotel is well priced and in a great location as well. If it wasn’t booked up, I probably would’ve stayed here.
- Lumbre Glamorous Camping – This is one of the most unique and beautiful places I’ve ever stayed. If your Colombia itinerary affords you the time to spend a night or two here, you shouldn’t miss it! Our first hotel stored our luggage for us so we could just bring small backpacks for the one night stay at the glamping hotel.
You can get there by asking a Willy Jeep to drop you off at the “cascada” on the way to the Cocora Valley or take a taxi. This magical luxury glamping hotel has it’s own private waterfall hike, a restaurant, one of the most remarkable views, and it’s only a few minutes drive to the Cocora Valley.
Getting to the Cocora Valley was a little tricky. We waited at the end of the driveway for a Willy to drive by and flag them down, but they were all packed full. So we ended up catching a ride with a family in their private car going to visit the valley. Somewhat awkward but totally worked and they were really sweet. It’s easier to catch the Willy to go back down and ask them to drop you off there.
- Other notable places to consider and check out: EcoLodge Kasaguadua, Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel, Finca Hotel Rancho San Antonio, Montana Guesthouse, Ecoresort Gran Azul, Terrazas de Salento.
What to Pack for Salento, Colombia
Salento is a lush green paradise, so naturally it rains a lot. We got shockingly lucky and it only rained once for a few minutes at the Cocora Valley, but it’s quite common. So consider bringing these items (all images are clickable and link to the product on Amazon):
- Lightweight rain jacket – something that stuffs well in your suitcase, nothing big and bulky. We brought these Houdini jackets by Patagonia mainly because they weigh practically nothing and take up like a couple inches of space.
- Hiking shoes or sandals – ones that you don’t mind getting muddy or you can rinse off and dry quick. I love a lightweight Teva personally, and Keen makes a closed toe one that’s probably safer for hiking, but Chris likes lightweight tennis shoes that he can get wet.
- Packable sun hat – even though it periodically rains and the temperature is mild in Salento, when the sun comes out, it is scorching and you’re quite high in elevation. We got burned in Salento more than anywhere else in Colombia, surprisingly.
- Umbrella – because it could rain anywhere in Colombia. Some hotels may provide them, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a small, travel sized one with you.
- Stuffable down jacket – maybe this seems like a weird thing to bring, but I wish I’d had mine. I was cold glamping at night in the Cocora Valley and I was cold in Bogota in the mountains. Just check the weather report before you go. A stuffable down jacket barely takes up any room and doubles as a pillow for the plane.
You’re going to love Salento. Let me know in the comments how your trip goes and if you found anything helpful in my article!
And hopefully you’ve got plenty of other places on your Colombia itinerary because Colombia is such an amazing country to explore. I wish I had more time to see it all. If you need help with your Colombia Itinerary, especially if you’ll be there for around 2 weeks, read my other articles:
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