Salento is the ultimate tourist destination in the “coffee triangle”, popular with backpackers and Colombian tourists as well. We arrived in Salento after visiting Jardin, one of the places we enjoyed the most during our time in Colombia, so this put the bar high for Salento, we were not sure it will fill up its shoes.
At the end, we had a good time and Salento lived up to its fame.
Experiencing this place means chilling in the town, eating some trucha (trout) and playing Tejo, but as well exploring the hills and the surroundings. Then you will understand why this little town is a sensation for people visiting Colombia.
Here’s our simple guide so you can make the most out of your visit.
#1 Visit a coffee Finca
As you know we are coffee lovers and we couldn’t resist visiting another coffee plantation even if we already had visited the coffee farm of la Victoria in Minca. This time we were looking for a different experience, a small scale unique type of plantation. That’s why we chose to visit the finca of Don Eduardo, this little finca is not the one that your hotel will recommend you, but it is definitely the one you should think to visit, they make things different from other tours in Colombia, quite original and small scale and this was very cool for us.
Tim and her wife bought the Finca a few years ago and they keep it as a compact family business, they run a hostel as well, The Plantation House, which was the first hostel of Salento, and it is located just next to the finca.
For the visit, there are two options one at 9 am in English (with Tim the owner) and another one at 3 pm in Spanish. We chose to take the one in Spanish, ran by Don Jose, we were the only ones to visit the plantation that afternoon so we had the finca just for us! (If you understand Spanish we strongly advise you to make the tour at this time, like that you can avoid the hoard of gringos looking to take the English tour).
Don Jose made us visit all around the plantation (full of other types of fruit plants as well, all organic !) and explained us the process of the coffee, he prepared for us different types of coffee, each one with a different roast. It was a world class coffee degustation !
We were lucky because there were some workers picking and working with the coffee at the time we visited, this was really nice to see.
The next afternoon we went back to roast our own coffee to take back after the trip.
Cost : 30 000 COP / person for the tour (around 2 hours) + 25 000 COP / person for roasting your coffee.
#2 Hike the Cocora Valley
On everyone’s to-do-list for Salento, this hike is truly remarkable, the landscapes you will find here are unique in the whole world. Featuring the wax palm tree, a Colombian national symbol, you will be surprised by mountains and a valley covered by this 60-meter giants.
You have a few options to walk:
- Make the 12 km road, finishing by the river which can be really muddy (around 5 – 6 hours)
- The short walk, just around the palm tree forest. (Around 1 – 1h30 hours)
- Do what you want ! That’s why we decided to do it completely on the other sense, go up la Finca la Montaña, had a warm coffee, and go down the same way. This way we were aloneduring all the walk, no photobombs and had the chance to see the good views before all the fog and low clouds covered the valley. (We took 4 hours including coffee and lunch breaks).
Cost : transport (8,000 COP / person) and the entrance had a cost of 3,000 COP / person.
How to get there ?
4WDs leave the main square at the following times – 6.10, 7.30, 9.30 and 11.30 in the morning, 2 and 4 p.m. in the afternoon and take around 30 – 35 minutes. We advise taking the earliest trip, like that you will avoid large amounts of people and lighting conditions will be better !
#3 Play Tejo
Do alcohol and gunpowder sound like a good combination? Not quite! But actually, you can spend your afternoon drinking beers and blowing things up! This is possible in Los Amigos, a Tejo court in the middle of Salento.
What is Tejo you ask ? Well, this is a typical sport / pastime in Colombia, we didn’t know about it until we visited the coffee triangle, specifically Salento where this activity is promoted for the tourists.
How you play Tejo ? Basically, you throw heavy metal balls to a target, with the objective of making a gunpowder sachet explode. if you hear “boom” and see smoking coming out you have made yourself some points !
Cost : This is a play as you drink sort of place, and it pretty much only sells beer and Aguardiente. Each person who wants to play has to purchase a beer (3500 COP per beer), plus pay a supplemental 1000 COP per person for the little sachets of gunpowder and rights to use the Tejo court.
#4 Eat and drink amazing coffee
The food was not a highlight during our trip to Colombia, that said Salento was the place where we enjoyed the most our meals. Actually, the area is famous for a dish: the trout or trucha in Spanish, we ate one at Fonda de los Arrieros, who proclaimed to have the best trout in town (it was pretty good by the way). The decoration of this restaurant is just a good reason to enter to eat or have a beer. Think about eating as well the meat stew that was delicious ! Price list: around 10-15 000 COP the meal.
If you are looking to eat cheap, El Rincon de Lucy is the place to go, for 8 000 COP, you will have a soup + a meal (meat, trout or veggie) + a beverage. Decent food for the price you pay. Having trouble finding this place ? Just look for the little Fonda where all the backpackers are eating.
If you need a small change from arepas and truchas and if you are feeling fancy, Bernarbe is a good option for tapas and wine. (don’t expect the best wine of your life and remark the word fancy !)
By far our favorite joint to eat and have a coffee in Salento was Le K’fee. They serve a really nice espresso, good healthy breakfast, and international lunch with açai bowl, avocado toast, veggie soup, salad, and quiche. The paradise for Floriane and for those looking for a break from the Colombian fried food.
A must visit, nicely decorated place, kind staff, and one big name in the coffee world Cafe Jesus Martin, is an institution and pioneer of the coffee, two steps from the main square you will find this awesome place where you can spend an afternoon sipping on good cortados and eating delicious cakes. A plus is the WiFi connection, which is probably the best we found in Salento.
How to arrive to Salento ?
Wherever the place you arrive from, you will cross Armenia or Pereira where you can take a cheap collectivo (urban bus) for 1 hour to Salento.
For us, coming from Jardín it was a real mission to get there :
Bus 1: Jardin > Rio Sucio at 8 am, 4 hours road to make 50 km (16 000 COP)
Bus 2: Rio Sucio > Pereira at 12:30 pm
Bus 3: Pereira > Salento 4:30 pm (collectivo, or urban bus)