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After a whirlwind couple of days in Bogotá, our Colombia itinerary next brought us to the beautiful town of Salento. We had just attended a wedding, traveled 8 hours to Bogotá, slept 5 hours, and then ran around Bogotá like crazy. So I was very ready for a smaller town and a slower pace. Luckily, that’s just what we got in Salento!
I first learned of Salento while researching unique things to do in Colombia. As soon as I saw pictures of the beautiful, lush greens and trees of the Cocora Valley I just knew we had to visit. Hiking is my favorite hobby, coffee is my favorite drink, and I’m a sucker for an Instagrammable street… Salento had it all! Our three days in Salento were a great way to experience another side of Colombia.
Salento is an adorable town in the middle of hundreds of coffee farms located west of Bogotá in the department of Quindio. Salento is home to colorful buildings with friendly locals and a vibrant tourist scene. You can also experience the amazing wax palm trees and greenery of the surrounding Andes mountains. Many people flock to Salento to hike in the Cocora Valley and sip coffee at one of the several coffee farms just outside of town.
In stark contrast to some of the bustling cities like Medellin or Cartagena, Salento is a small yet lively town that must be on your Colombia itinerary.
How to Get to Salento
Salento is tucked into the Andes mountains in between two airports. The easiest and quickest way to Salento is to fly into either Pereira or Armenia and take a bus or car into town. Because of its location in the mountains, you CAN take a bus from whatever larger city you’re coming from… but it will take much longer. Like the whole day and part of your night. If you only have a couple of weeks in Colombia, it’s best just to fly. Luckily, flying is pretty affordable because the local airlines compete with the buses to make fares as affordable as possible! Our flights from Bogota were around $100 for both my husband and me.
Once you get to the airport, you can take a bus to Salento. From Armenia, Cootracir operates a bus to Salento departing every 30 minutes. Expreso Alcala runs a bus from Pereria to Salento hourly. Each costs only $2 one way and the trip from either city to Salento will take you about an hour.
You can also rent a car if you feel you will need it in Salento. Spoiler alert: Salento is tiny and unless you plan to take many day trips, you won’t need it. You can walk or take a very cheap taxi just about anywhere you need to go.
Several hotels in Salento will offer an affordable shuttle from the airport to the hotel. We opted for this because I didn’t feel like navigating the bus station! For 150,000 COP (about $38 USD) we were able to take a private car from the airport to the hotel and back to the airport when it was time to leave. This option is definitely more expensive than the bus but much easier.
Things to Do in Salento
Hiking in the Cocora Valley
This is the #1 reason I wanted to visit Salento and everything else was just an incredible bonus! Located a short drive away from the center of town lies the Valle de Cocora, or Cocora Valley. The valley is home to the famous wax palm trees that tower above you and seem to be perfectly dotted along the landscape. Set against rich, lush forest and rolling hills is an amazing hiking trail that takes you to some amazing viewpoints!
Hop on a Willy Jeep in the Salento square and head out to the valley. The Willy will drop you off right before the entrance to the park. Just follow the trail (and all the other tourists!) to the entrance where you’ll pay 20,000 COP to enter. Once inside, you’ll have access to the hiking trail, some amazing props for cool photos, and a little cafe. You can choose to do the full loop, taking around 6 hours, or stop at either viewpoint 1 or viewpoint 2 which are 2 hours and 3 hours long, respectively. We went to viewpoint 2 and it was the perfect length for us!
After your hike, be sure to enjoy the hammocks and a cup of coffee before heading back to town.
Coffee Farm Tour
Salento is surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of acres of coffee plants. There are over 500 small coffee farms in this area! Within a kilometer or so from the center of town are 3-4 popular coffee farms that you can tour. We chose Las Acacias, a family owned farm about a kilometer outside of town. Las Acacias picks, processes, and roasts their own coffee and it can only be bought from the farm which I thought was incredible and unique.
You simply can’t go to this corner of the world and not check out a coffee farm. Even if I weren’t a coffee drinker, I would have loved this experience to learn about the process and an important piece of Colombian culture!
Walk to Mirador Salento
Located at the end of Calle Real, you’ll find a set of steps that seems to head to nowhere. Or heaven. You decide?! Our first day in Salento, I wasn’t sure if this was public access or if it led to somewhere we would even want to be. On the second day, we just decided to go for it and I’m so glad we did! Not many other resources I looked at mentioned this overlook but it’s worth a quick visit!
Walk up the couple hundred or so stairs and you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous view over Salento and the surrounding valley.
Meander on Calle Real
Calle Real is the main street in Salento, just off Salento Plaza. The street is filled with adorable shops, cafes, and restaurants. Adding to its charm is the brightly colored buildings with flowers cascading over the edges of the balconies. Locals and tourists alike wander along the street and hang out in bars or cafes. It’s just very quaint and the perfect way to spend an afternoon! A day in Salento isn’t complete without strolling down Calle Real.
Pet the friendly dogs in the square
If you know me, you know how much I love dogs. Usually it makes me sad to see stray dogs wandering around a city, but not here! To be honest, I’m not even sure if the dogs are stray… They look so healthy and well taken care of. All the locals know the dogs and their habits, too, which makes me feel like they are just “town dogs.” One day, we were eating lunch outside and a man walked by and pointed to the dog begging at our feet, “he only eats fish, no meat!” It was hilarious and adorable. The pups are all friendly and look healthy enough.
This may be the strangest thing you’ve been instructed to do by a blogger, but hey, I’m a dog lover! Just maybe wash your hands after 🙂
Play the national sport of Tejo
Tejo is a traditional throwing game in Colombia. It can be found all over the country, but Salento is the perfect town to do it in! Essentially, you throw little clay discs towards targets which are full of gunpowder so they explode on impact. If you walk by a bar or building and hear booms and cheers, you can be sure there’s probably a game of tejo going on inside!
What better way to make new friends in Colombia than a rowdy game of tejo?!
Relax in the square
The town is small enough that even after a couple hours of exploring, you’ll definitely know where “the square” is located. Salento Plaza is the heart of the city, with Calle Real jutting off just to the side. The plaza is lined with restaurants and features a statue of Simon Bolivar in the center. In the heart of the action, the plaza is the perfect place to grab a bench and just people watch for a while. Grab some ice cream and just enjoy this beautiful little town.
Salento Plaza is also important to know because this is where the willys leave from! Which brings me to your next task…
Ride in a Willy Jeep
Willys are colorful Jeeps that have been outfitted to pack 10 or so people in the back. Leaving from the Salento Plaza, Willys are the best way to take you to either the Cocora Valley or to the coffee farms. While you can walk to the coffee farms, like we did, the Cocora Valley would take you all day just to walk to the entrance! So it’s best to just grab a Willy and head on your way. The open back of the Jeep and the excitement of the other tourists is just an experience you don’t want to miss. It’s very affordable as well, with a round trip to the valley and back costing just 8 COP per person (~$2 USD).
Shop for souvenirs
Out of all the places on my 2 week itinerary for visiting Colombia, Salento is THE best place for souvenirs. Of course, you’ve got your standard magnets and knick knacks but many of the shops also sell one-of-a-kind pieces that you’ll want to take home. I absolutely loved the model houses painted in bright colors and of course I had to bring home a handmade mug for my collection!
Enjoy coffee at Cafe Jesus Martin
You’re in a coffee-growing region, so enjoying a leisurely cup of Colombian coffee has to be on your list of things to do in Salento. The ambiance and patrons of Cafe Jesus Martin only add to its charm. Grab a seat and make sure you have plenty of time to linger and sip a delicious cup of coffee.
Listen to live music at Kafe del Alma
Located at the end of Calle Real just before the stairs to Mirador de Salento, you’ll find Kafe del Alma. An open air cafe, this adorable spot is the perfect place for a night cap. Many nights you’ll find a local musician serenading the cafe. While Salento is not known for nightlife, you can certainly find a group hanging out, enjoying the music, and having a drink into the late hours of the night!
Watch the sunset over the mountains
With its location in the Andes mountains, Salento is surrounded by breathtaking views on all sides. So… you could technically enjoy sunrise OR sunset. But you’re on vacation, so unless you just like getting up at sunrise for fun then you can most definitely enjoy sunset over the mountains.
Even though Salento is small, it’s packed with amazing things to do. This town is perfect for a 3 or 4 day stay during your trip to Colombia! You certainly won’t be bored as you enjoy the beautiful scenery and delicious coffee! Visiting Salento is a must on your longer travels around the country and it may just end up being your favorite place! If you need planning inspiration, be sure to check out my 2 week Colombia itinerary and one day guide to Bogota. Hopefully this post has inspired you to take a visit and explore all the wonderful things to do in Salento.
Have you added Salento to your bucket list? If you’ve been to Salento, what was your favorite part? Leave me a comment or hop over to my DMs and let’s chat about it!