Once described as an idyllic small town Salento has grown somewhat and is very firmly on the backpacker and travelers trail. This town, central to the Zona Cafetera still offers great hiking and fantastic coffee and you can still find elements of the peaceful paradise it once was. Salento, Quindío region is popular with Colombians heading here for weekends and at holiday times as well as foreign tourists, so you’ll find a mix of visitors and options for everyone once you’re here. Here. we will cover the best things to do in Salento, Colombia
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Salento is a colorful Colombian pueblo, with white walls, vibrantly colored doors, and windows. There are palm trees in the central square, which is where life is centered. The focal point of the main square is the Our Lady of Carmen church, although the famous local trout food stalls come a close second!
Salento was founded in 1850 and is one of the oldest towns in the Quindio province of Colombia. You’ll still find some (almost original) cobblestoned streets here. UNESCO named a large part of this province as a Coffee Cultural Landscape in 2011, and that included Salento. It is one of the best places to visit in Colombia.
The Best 10 Things to Do in Salento
You can easily while away the days here in Salento, depending as there’s plenty to keep you occupied in this town at the center of Colombia’s coffee triangle – Eje Cafetero, Colombia. The weather in Salento is pleasant – warm, yet not hot and cooler at night meaning you won’t need air conditioning or even a fan to ensure a good night’s sleep. There’s great hiking here, Colombian coffee farms to visit, great coffee to drink, and distinctive food – from Indian curry to Venezuelan to local trout.
This is our guide to the top things to do in the Salento Quindío region – so look no further for your list of what to do in Salento Colombia.
Top of the list is the UNESCO World Heritage Cocora Valley. The Cocora Valley is a 20-25 minute jeep ride from Salento and was inaugurated on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2011. The main attraction, the 60 feet (18 meters) high wax Palms of the Cocora Valley are quite simply otherworldly.
While it’s possible to see them from horseback – you find the horses at the entrance, or by taking a Willy Jeep from Salento it’s much more rewarding to hike. While it’s a defined tour and is a circular route past trout farms, through farmland, and up into the cloud forest. you might want to opt for a guided hike, as it tops out at 2840 meters at Finca Montana before descending to Mirador Salento 2 where the view will leave you speechless. If you do this route, then – especially in wet weather we recommend taking a set of hiking poles, the trails get particularly slippery.
Don’t forget to visit the hummingbirds at the Casa Colibri en route! Here’s our guide to hiking the Cocora Valley!
2. Visit Salento’s Hummingbirds at the Casa Colibri
You’re unlikely to get the chance to be this close to so many hummingbirds ever. The Casa de Colibri can be found in Salento’s cloud forest, in the private Acaime Nature Reserve. You’ll need to take a Willie jeep to the start of the hike to the Valle de Cocora, follow the blue route (see our guide to the Valle de Cocora) and where the long hiking route towards the famous Wax Palm turns to the left, turn right and continue for another 20-25 minutes until you find the Casa de Colibri reserve.
The entrance is 5,000 COP but does include a cold limonada, a coffee, or a hot chocolate. You can also get a breakfast snack here too.
Hummingbirds flock to this reserve to partake of the sweetened sugar water and although not tame, they’re happy to be photographed and videoed as you attempt to catch them whizzing past your ears and eyes.
Colombia is of the world’s largest producers of coffee and is generally recognized for its production of high-end Arabica coffee. Salento is one of the best places to tour a coffee finca in the region. Within a short distance of the center of Salento, you’re spoiled for choice as to where to take your tour. You will easily find the best coffee tours in Salento to suit you. You can prebook your Finca Ocasa Coffee Tour here
You can easily walk to the coffee fincas that offer tours from Salento. It’s a downhill walk (you’ll lose about 200 meters in altitude between Salento and the Ocasa Coffee Farm and the other coffee fincas are along this road too. The road is mostly paved but does get slippery when it rains and especially if you walk in the afternoon you’ll have to contend with Willy Jeep, motorbike and horse traffic too. We walked to the Ocasa Coffee Finca in an hour and chose to take a jeep back uphill to Salento.
Plantation Hostel Coffee Tour Salento
The Plantation House Coffee tour takes place on the Don Eduardo Finca. The plantation house Salento is owned by the same people who own and run the hostel. This tour covers the full process of coffee production and the economics behind it. Don Eduardo, the British-born Timothy Harbour gives tours in English, with a free sample at the end of the tour.
- Plantation House Salento Coffee Tours – English 0900, Spanish 1100, 1500
- Cost of Don Eduardo Coffee tours: 20,000 COP (10,000 COP for hostel guests).
Las Acacias Coffee Tour Salento
Easy to reach by Willy Jeep or by simply walking from Salento (follow Carrera 5 and just keep going – reach the turnoff for La Serrana Hostel and take the right fork). Keep walking until you reach the Finca Las Acacias Salento. This is a full coffee production process tour and a free tasting is offered at the end.
Las Acacias Coffee Tour – run on demand
Cost of Las Acacias Coffee Finca Tour (Spanish) – 6,000 COP
Ocasa Coffee Tour Salento
The Ocasa Coffee Farm Tour just outside Salento is easy to reach. Ocasa Coffee is just 5 km from the central plaza in Salento. You can walk from the center of Salento in around an hour (it’s all downhill), or take a Willy Jeep from the main square (Plaza Bolivar) for 3,000 COP per person. If there aren’t enough people to fill your Jeep pay for a private one for 24,000 COP.
Ocasa, which means the Sunset in Spanish, runs several coffee production tours each day in both English and Spanish. You’ll be taken through the full production process and get to pick your own beans too.
There are around 45 acres dedicated to coffee plants here at El Ocaso. There are no pesticides or herbicides used on this coffee and it’s all Rainforest Alliance certified. It’s what makes it one of the best coffee tours in Salento.
The standard tour wraps up with a taste of Ocasa coffee. The standard tour runs for 90 minutes and costs 20,000 COP per person You can also opt for an extended VIP tour, which lasts 3 hours and costs 68,000 COP per person. Book ahead of time and confirm your place here
Ocasa Coffee Tour Times
English 0900; 1100; 1200; 1300; 1400; 1600
Cost of Ocasa Coffee Tour – 20,000COP
Spanish: 1000; 1500
Ocasa VIP Premium Tour Times Spanish 0900, English 1400
4. Drink Coffee in Salento
While many travelers rave about the Jesus Martin coffee shop we preferred the coffee shop on the edge of Plaza Bolivar, where Calle Real turns into the square. With great coffee, cold cheap beer, and access to both their own free Wi-Fi and the free Wi-Fi in the Plaza, this is a fabulous place to drink great coffee with Colombians and people-watch to your heart’s content. Colombia has some fabulous town squares – the one in Jardin is glorious and the architecture at the square in Villa de Leyva is lovely too.
5. Visit the Two Miradors of Salento
Easily spotted from the center of town is Salento’s Mirador. It’s also known as the Mirador Alto del Cruz. You’ll see the brightly painted steps leading to a viewpoint above the town. Simply walk along Calle Real, hike the steps, and see a great view over the town.
If townscapes aren’t your thing, then after photographing the town head back to the top of the steps, and a small path off to the left (as you ascended the steps) leads to the REAL Mirador of Salento.
It’ll take you just 5 minutes to walk down through the wooded area to the covered viewpoint. The Mirador of Salento, also known as the Ecoparque El Mirador, gives viewpoints up towards the Cocora Valley and down to the River Quindío. It’s a beautiful view, with vendors providing coco lemonade and other refreshments to quench your thirst.
Both miradors of Salento are free.
6. Play Tejo in Salento
Although Tejo is a national game there’s no easier place to learn to play it than in Salento. A game involving throwing metal discs at a clay pit from a distance of up to 5 meters, to get into the center of a metal ring. Studded around the ring are folded paper containers of gunpowder. While the most points are gained for getting your disc in the center of the ring, it is way more fun (and noise) to get 3 points and explode a paper packet. Cold beer is served along with shots of tequila or aguardiente and all improve your aim and enjoyment. Los Amigos is the most famous place to play Tejo in Salento. Find out the details of how and where to play Tejo here.
7. Ride a Willie Jeep in Salento
The Willie Jeeps are the defacto transport in coffee country. Willie Jeeps are old military vehicles now used to transport locals and travelers alike. They’re the standard way to travel here – whether you need a ride to or from a coffee Finca, to the Cocora Valley, or your hostal outside of Salento.
Salento’s Willie Jeeps seat 2 people plus the driver in the front seats, up to 8 inside the covered area, and up to 4 standing on the rear plate holding on for dear life. There are standard rates depending on where you want to travel to.
- Willie Jeep to the Ocasa Coffee Farm / Don Elias Coffee Farm = 3,000 COP per person each way
- Willie Jeep to/from Cocora Valley = 4,000 COP per person each way
Where to find the Willie Jeep Stands in Salento
Willie Jeeps leave from two locations in Salento. The primary location is the main plaza, where a small hut indicates the times of jeeps and their destinations. In reality, jeeps will leave when full or when someone has paid the full rate.
Salento’s jeeps also leave from the corner of Calle 3 and Carerra 3 close to the Le k’fee restaurant. We found this location easier from our hotel, the Casa Colombia, which we recommend for a friendly, close to the Salento bus terminal.
8. Get a souvenir photo on a Café Eje Jeep
Whether you head to one of Salento’s two miradors by walking up Carrera 4 or hiking up the colorful steps at the end of Calle Real, you’ll get the opportunity to dress in a poncho and sombrero and sit on top of a fully-loaded Willie Jeep for a souvenir photo. For just 10,000 COP you can make like a coffee farmer in the annual Yipao parade and take home photographic evidence of your new career.
An alternative way to visit Salento’s coffee fincas or part of the Valley de Cocora is on horseback. Rent a horse (and a guide will go with you) to rest your legs. Horses in Salento are well cared for and looked after. You’ll pay around 55,000 COP for a 3-hour tour. You can also book online here.
You can organize a horseback tour in and around Salento via your hostel, through one of the agencies in Salento, or pre-book here.
10. Go Ziplining in Salento
If you’re seeking a little more adventure in Salento. The zip line Salento is your thing. Head to the end of Calle Real (near the colorful steps up towards Salento’s Mirador) and you’ll find Salento’s zip line center. A zipline Salento tour lets you head over the 200 m zip line twice. It’s around 18,000 COP per person.
Map of Things to Do in Salento
You can see the full map of Salento’s things to do here.
What to Eat in Salento
Eat Trout in Salento
Salento’s classic cuisine is trout. There are trout farms around Salento and it’s also found in the local rivers. Trout or Trucha can be found in almost all the cafes and restaurants in town as well as at the food trucks in Plaza Bolivar. If you hike the Valle de Cocora you’ll also find a trout farm where you can enjoy the fish directly from the producer!
There are several ways that trout is prepared here in Salento – here are the main ones
Trucha a la plancha
Trout on the grill. If you’ve had enough fried food, then this is the one for you. Trout grilled. No fat, no frying, just grilled. Our favorite way and the best we found was at Rincon de Lucy, where a menu del dia only sets you back 8,000 to COP and includes soup, a drink, and either trout, chicken, or sausage served with plantains and either rice, beans, or lentils. A great feed, but go early, this popular corner café on Calle Real closes when they inevitably run out of food.
Trucha con Patacón
Paterson is an accompaniment made of mashed, then reformed, and fried plantain. In the main square in Salento the patacons are huge (think more than dinner plate sized), but dripping in fat. Your trout will be fried.
Trucha con Ajillo
One of the most popular ways to eat trout in Salento is in a creamy garlic sauce with mushrooms and added cheese. Sounds bizarre, but the sauce is fabulous. If you like garlic the smell will draw you in as you walk past. Unfortunately, the trout is cooked complete with bones and all, so your devouring of the dish may be slowed down by the removal of bones.
Eat Bangladeshi / Indian Curry in Salento
If your taste buds are crying out for a change from menu del dia or fried Colombian food, then a trip to Casa Eliana’s may just help out. Run by Jesus, this popular hostal also has a café and restaurant that serves pizza and several varieties of curry. You’ll find Tikka Masala, Rogan Josh, and Goan Vindaloo on the menu. Sadly when we were there the Goan Vindaloo wasn’t being served. The curry was an interesting reprieve from the rather blander Colombian cuisine and although far from being the best curry we’ve ever had it certainly wasn’t the worst.
Eat Venezuelan Food in Salento
Currently deprived of being able to visit Venezuela because of the economic and political climate a visit to the tiny Cumara Bistro is the closest we’re going to get in the short term. And it’s well worth a visit. This tiny bistro offers a handful of dishes, including several vegetarian options and craft beer from nearby Armenia, Colombia.
We can heartily recommend the Asado Negro and the Pabellon Criollo and as a result, are now awaiting being able to visit Venezuela as soon as the UK FCDO allows.
Where to Stay in Salento
There are a host of places to stay in Salento – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Salento, mid-range places to stay in Salento, and budget accommodations in Salento.
Hotel El Mirador del Cocora, Salento: The Hotel El Mirador is located 400 m away from the center of Salento, and has stunning views of the Cocora Valley. This exclusive hotel’s rooms are equipped with cable TV, a mini-bar, free WiFi, a safety deposit box, and an en-suite bathroom some selected rooms have a balcony overlooking the magnificent view of the stunning green landscape, and, if you opt for the right room, you’ll get magnificent wildlife spotting chances too!. Be sure to check out the private hot tub options, they’re amazing! Daily gourmet breakfasts are available at the Hotel El Mirador. Check Hotel El Mirador’s room availability here.
Terrazas de Salento, Salento: The Terrazas de Salento is located on a hilltop overlooking Salento. Terrazas de Salento’s rooms have their own private bathrooms with toiletries and a hairdryer, board games, cable TV, a coffee/tea maker, and free access to WiFi. The hotel also offers other facilities such as a game room, a garden, and a family room. The Terrazas de Salento is a great option for a relaxing and fun stay in Salento. Read more reviews and room availability at Terrazas de Salento here.
El Zorzal, Salento: The El Zorzal hostel is located 500 m away from central Salento and offers free WiFi access and daily breakfasts. The rooms at El Zorzal have satellite TV, a seating area, either a shared or private bathroom with a shower and free toiletries, and a safe. The hostel also has a shared kitchen, a games room, and a garden for relaxing. El Zorzal is a fantastic place to stay if you plan to self-cater on your visit to Salento. See room rates at El Zorzal here.
How to get to Salento, Colombia
The closest airport to Salento is Pereira – and you can get a transfer from there to Salento – pre-book your transfer from Pereira to Salento here.
If you cannot get directly from your destination to Salento, then take a bus to the capital of the department, Armenia. Armenia is just 24 kilometers from Salento.
You can pre-book good quality buses from many places in Colombia to Armenia > book buses to Armenia here. It then takes around an hour to go from Armenia to Salento on a bus.
The bus terminal in Salento is located at the end of Calle 5.
Medellin to Salento
Flota Occidental runs direct shuttle buses from Medellin’s Terminal de Transportes del Sur (South Terminal) to Salento. Take a bus to Salento from Medellin at 0900, 1100 and 1300. Buses to Medellin from Salento take 7 hours and cost 47,000 COP. If you want to know how to get from Salento to Medellin you can also book this online. You can check out our guide on the essential things to do in Medellin here
Bogota to Salento Bus
Take a bus from Bogota’s Terminal de Transporte to Armenia. (book online here) Then from there take a bus from Armenia to Salento. In total, the cost to take the bus to Salento from Bogota is around 65,000 COP. To go from Salento to Bogota reverse the journey. Our guide on what to do in Bogota is here.
Cali to Salento
It takes around 4 hours to get to Salento from Cali. There are no direct buses from Cali to Salento. You need to take a bus from Cali to Armenia (around 3 hours) at a cost of 20,000 COP. You can book a bus from Cali to Armenia here. Then take the bus from Armenia to Salento. The bus to Salento from Armenia takes about an hour and costs 4,800 COP. Our guide to things to do in Cali is here.
Armenia to Salento to Armenia
If you’re unable to get a direct bus to Salento, then take a bus to the closest hub (and airport), Armenia. Then from Armenia, take a local bus Armenia Salento bus. Buses run from Armenia to Salento from 0600 until around 2100. (They also run the Salento Armenia bus from 0600 onwards). These buses take an hour to go from Salento to Armenia and vice versa and cost 4,800 COP.
Jardin to Salento
It’s now easier to get to Salento from Jardin. You’ll first need to get from Jardin to Rio Sucio. You can’t book this online but can buy tickets at the Cootransio bus company in Jardin. Simply take the 0800 bus from Jardin to Rio Sucio – book in advance at the bus offices in Jardin to be sure of your seat at 20,000 COP. You cannot book this bus online. Our full guide of how to go from Jardin to Salento is here.
The bus to Rio Sucio from Jardin costs 20,000 COP. It arrives in Rio Sucio at 1145.
The bus station at Rio Sucio has toilets (8000 COP) and small food stalls where you can buy fruit and empanadas. You will want to go to the last ticket booth to buy your ticket from Rio Sucio to Salento as soon as you get off the bus. You cannot book this bus online.
The bus to Rio Sucio from Jardin costs 20,000 COP. It arrives in Rio Sucio at 1145.
In Rio Sucio, Flota Occidental now runs a bus that leaves at 1215 and goes from Rio Sucio to Salento. The bus from Rio Sucio to Salento cost is 28,000 COP per person. This is a 17-seater bus. There is a short break in Pereira. Getting to Salento from Rio Sucio takes 4+ hours and the bus arrives at Salento at 1635.
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Final Words on the Best Things to Do in Salento
Did we miss anything? What are you heading to Salento to experience? What is on your Salento Colombia things-to-do list? Are you a hiker? A coffee lover? Or is it the trout of Salento that’s attracting you? Let us know and if you go to Salento, let us know what you liked the best about the place. And yes it can be the Tejo!!
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