A stop at Eje Cafetero is almost mandatory when traveling from Bogotá to Medellín. This is the beloved coffee region of Colombia. Coffee is one of the most important export products of the country and this area has a lot of characteristic fincas where you can see the process from bean to beverage. For us, the coffee was not the main reason why we wanted to visit this region. We came to see the picturesque villages. Salento is the most popular village in this region and it was our home base for 3 nights. I really liked Salento, especially after having spent time in chaotic and busy Bogotá. Moreover, Salento is the gateway to the beautiful Cocora Valley National Park. In this blog post, I am sharing the best things to do in Salento.
Best things to do in Salento
Wander around in this beautiful town
This is the number one activity if you ask me in the town of Salento: wandering around and randomly choosing streets. Every time it felt like a small present to see which joyful color combinations we ran into. Green with yellow doors, blue with pink window frames: no color combination was too crazy. Walking around turned out to be also a great exercise to burn off the oily Colombian beans and rice diet. The streets of Salento has a lot of hills, so the calves are put to work.
Walk up and down busy but beautiful Calle Real
Not a fan of the Salento hills? Make it yourself easy and go straight for the jackpot at Calle Real. This is one long street with beautiful colorful houses on both sides. It is a popular place with tourists, which is this street has many restaurants, souvenir shops, and cafes. During the day the Calle fills up quite quickly, but I have a solution for this. Get up early and visit this place before 10 am. I did this and as you can see in the photos I had the Calle almost to myself.
Go Hiking in the Cocora Valley
The highlight for every traveler in Salento: Valle de Cocora. This is a green valley, a 30-minutes drive away from Salento, with wax palms of 60 meters high. This tree species is the highest palm in the world and that is something you really feel when you stand under it. Unfortunately, the tree also comes with a sad story: the wax palm is threatened with extinction because the farmers used the wax for candles and construction materials. Since the eighties, the Cocora Valley is a protected nature park and is part of the much bigger Los Nevados National Natural Park.
How to get to the Cocora Valley + hiking route advice
To get to the Cocora Valley, catch a drive with one of the shared Willy’s (jeeps). You can find them in the central square in Salento. A ride costs 4,000 pesos (single trip) and the driver will wait until the jeep is filled up. Arriving at the valley, you can choose two routes: the short one and the long one. If you go for the short route (keep following the broader path), then you will reach the valley within 30 minutes. If you go for the long route (go the right and go through the blue gate), you will go on a 5-hour hike and the valley is your endpoint. The first two hours are quite easy. Then the climbing part starts and finishes at Finca La Montana. After that, it is all downhill along beautiful Miradors and eventually the palm valley.
Useful tips for Hiking
- Download the Maps.me app, because it will show you during the hike which path to take to get to the valley. Look for the name El Bosque de Palmas.
- Plan the hike in the morning, because in the afternoon it often rains. Bringing a raincoat along might also be useful.
- Put on some old walking shoes (that can get dirty) and bring a sweater. The paths can get very muddy and the temperature varies during the hike.
- Last tip from an animal lover: visit the valley on foot, not on the back of a horse. The paths are narrow, slippery and muddy. As a hiker I slipped a couple of times. Imagine how much trouble a horse has climbing up these paths with people on his/her back.
Climb the steps of Mirador del Alto de la Cruz
Back in Salento and still have some energy left? Walk to the end of Calle Real and climb the steps to Mirador del Alto de la Cruz. Again, Colombia is not a flat country. The roads constantly go uphill and downhill. Tiring for the legs, but a joy for the eyes because you are often treated to beautiful viewpoints. I do have to admit though that the view from the Mirador might not be the most spectacular one. Especially if you have done the hike in the Cocora valley, the viewpoint in Salento is okay. Nice option to do when you have some time to spare.
Fill up on snacks at La Estacion del Street food
With all that walking and climbing you really work up an appetite. Head over to the food trucks of La Estacion del Street Food (Carrera 2). We came across this by accident and it looks so nice with the garlands, lighting, and seating areas. We could not resist to take a look and share a bite or two. A big advantage of food trucks: you can choose dishes from all over the world. Go for typical Colombian, Moroccan mezze, or a plate of nachos. Good to know: also suitable for vegetarians. For drinks, I ordered a cerveza michelada. This is a beer cocktail with a shot of lemon juice, served in a glass with salt around the edges. Personally, I was not a big fan of the flavor, but maybe it takes time to get used to it.
Where to stay?
I stayed at El Jardin Hotel and I can highly recommend it. Good location, decent rooms and a beautiful view. Click here for an overview of the hotels in Salento.
And there you have it: a list of things to do in Salento. Do you want to visit this town?
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