What to see in Salento

Salento is a picturesque gem representing Paisa culture in Colombia, located in the heart of the Coffee Axis, specifically in the Department of Quindío. This charming town sits at an altitude of 1,895 meters above sea level, strategically positioned between the towns of Pereira to the north and Armenia to the south.

Where is Salento?

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Salento is a Colombian municipality in the department of Quindío. Known as the Father Municipality of Quindío for being the oldest in this department, it’s also recognized as the birthplace of the National Tree “La Palma de Cera.”

It boasts a variety of tourist attractions, including the Cocora Valley where you can find a landscape full of nature, such as the Barranquero or Momotus aequatorialis, a bird commonly sighted. Visitors can enjoy ecological hikes and take in the landscapes of this locality.

The heart of Salento lies in its central square, Plaza Bolívar, where the imposing Church of Our Lady of Carmen stands. The church presides over this colorful and vibrant space, surrounded by the Town Hall and a large number of shops and restaurants that line Calle Real, one of the main streets of the town.

Despite its modest size, with a population of just over 7,000 inhabitants, Salento has become a fundamental tourist destination in Colombia. The local economy relies heavily on tourism and the export of coffee, a product that holds the prestigious designation of origin from Quindío here.

Salento

Salento is known as the gateway to numerous day activities and excursions. One of the most popular destinations is the famous Cocora Valley, a landscape of wax palms that are the national symbol of Colombia. Additionally, the region offers the opportunity to explore coffee farms and immerse yourself in the rich coffee tradition of the area.

This colorful and welcoming town is much more than a tourist stop; it’s a place where you can experience the authenticity of Colombian culture, enjoy stunning landscapes, and discover the passion for coffee that runs through its cobblestone streets. Salento is undoubtedly a destination that captivates all fortunate enough to visit.

Best Time to Travel to Salento

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Salento, located in the Coffee Axis of Colombia, is known for its mountainous landscapes, coffee plantations, and tranquil atmosphere. The best time to travel to Salento will depend on your preferences regarding climate and the activities you wish to undertake in this charming region. Below are the two main seasons and their characteristics:

Dry Season (December to March and July to September)

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Advantages: During these months, Salento experiences pleasant temperatures and less rainfall, allowing for outdoor activities without interruptions. Optimal for hiking: The lower amount of rain makes it ideal for exploring trails, enjoying walks through the forests, and appreciating nature.

Disadvantages: These months are considered the high season, so tourist spots may be more crowded, and prices may be higher.

Rainy Season (April to June and October to November):

Climate drawing

Advantages: During this time, vegetation is at its maximum splendor due to the rains, providing greener and more beautiful landscapes. As it’s the low season, attractions will be less crowded, allowing for a quieter and more relaxed experience.

Disadvantages: The rains are more frequent, which can affect outdoor activities and limit access to some trails. Keep in mind that the weather can vary from year to year, and it’s advisable to check the weather forecast before your trip.

How to Get There?

Salento does not have its own airport, so the only way to reach this charming town is by road. The nearest locations to fly into are Armenia, about 27 km to the south, and Pereira a bit farther, about 37 km to the north.

By Plane

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Whether you’re traveling from Medellín, Bogotá, or Cali, you can fly to Armenia or Pereira. Both cities are approximately the same distance from Salento, so you can base your decision on the flight prices.

In Colombia, the most well-known airlines are Avianca and Latam, and as low-cost carriers Easyfly  and Viva Air ColombiaOnce you arrive at the airport, whether in Armenia or Pereira, you’ll need to take a taxi to the bus terminal of the respective city and inquire there about a trip to Salento.

There are a couple of bus companies like Expreso Alcalá and Cootracir that will take you to Salento in a little over an hour.

By Bus

Bus

Bus travel is undoubtedly the most economical means of transportation in Colombia, however, the road infrastructure leaves much to be desired. The mountainous terrain of this country makes it challenging: the roads are narrow, there are many curves, mountain passes must be crossed, and the average speed does not exceed 80-90 km/h. Because of all this, a significant amount of time is spent covering relatively short distances.

On the journey between Medellín and Pereira, for example, which is about 260 km, it takes almost 6 hours, whereas on any European highway, this distance is covered in just half the time. If, due to the nature of your trip, you are on a tight budget but have extra time, this is your best option. However, if your days in Colombia are limited, keep in mind that you will lose a lot of time if you choose to travel by road.

For the journey to Salento, whether you are traveling from Medellín, Bogotá, or Cali, you will need to take two buses. One from Medellín/Bogotá/Cali to Armenia or Pereira and another from Armenia or Pereira to Salento.

Bus

Medellín – Pereira Bus

Distance: 262 km   Duration: 5-6h

Price: 38,000 – 50,000 COP depending on the time and type of bus.

From Medellín, you can buy tickets online on the following websites (or directly at the terminals): Flota Occidental or Flota Ospina Sanabria.

Bus

Bogotá – Armenia Bus

Distance: 282 km   Duration: 7h   Price: between 41,000 and 70,000 COP depending on the time and type of bus. (9.02 to 15.36 €)

From Bogotá, you can buy tickets online on the following websites: Expreso Bolivariano S.A, Flota Magdalena S.A, Velotax Ltda.

Bus

Cali – Armenia Bus

Distance: 170 km   Duration: 3h   Price: between 22,000 and 30,000 COP approx.  (4.85 to 6.61 euros) 

From Cali, the companies that travel to Armenia are: Expreso Bolivariano S.A, Expreso Palmira, Coomotor Florencia.  Once you arrive at the bus terminal in the destination city (Armenia or Pereira), you will need to take another bus to Salento.

Bus

Armenia – Salento Bus:

Distance: 27 km   Duration: 1 hour   Frequency: 40 minutes

Price: 4,700 COP (1 euro)

Terminal de Transportes de Armenia (Calle 35 #20-68, Armenia, Quindío, Colombia).

Bus

Pereira – Salento Bus:

Distance: 37 km   Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes   Frequency: 40 minutes   Price: 7,500 COP

Terminal de Transportes de Pereira (Calle 17 #23-157, Terminal de Transportes, Pereira, Risaralda, Colombia).

What to see and do?

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Salento is a charming little town, no doubt about it. Its points of interest can be perfectly seen in 2-3 hours. The Bolivar Square, the central square of the town, stands out, presided over by the Church of Our Lady of Carmen and the Town Hall on the opposite side.

From the square, the Real Street starts, one of the most beautiful and lively streets in Salento, full of souvenir shops and restaurants, leading you straight to stairs that will take you to the Cruz Viewpoint. From up here, you can contemplate the entire Salento, see the beginning of the Cocora Valley, and enjoy a beautiful sunset.

 

Trekking to the Cocora Valley

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The Cocora Valley is undoubtedly a must-visit for anyone traveling to Colombia. Cocora is known for hosting the tallest palm trees in the world, called wax palms and considered the national tree of Colombia. They can reach a height of up to 60 meters and only grow at astonishing altitudes between 1,500 and 3,000 meters above sea level. In the Cocora Valley, you will find the entire chromatic scale of green among its mountains, in views that will leave you speechless.

It is a natural space located in the Central Andes mountain range, in the department of Quindío, a well-known coffee-growing region. It is part of the Los Nevados National Natural Park, where peaks between 4,600 and 5,300 meters high can be found, such as Nevado del Cisne (4,636m), Nevado del Quindío (4,760m), Nevado de Santa Isabel (4,965m), Nevado del Tolima (5,220m), and Nevado del Ruiz (5,311m).

Visit to a Coffee Farm

Coffee farm

Salento is one of the coffee paradises in Colombia. In the heart of the Coffee Axis, it is surrounded by hundreds of coffee plantations and farms producing this precious product. Without a doubt, it is one of the activities you can’t miss when visiting this area.

But choosing which coffee farm to visit in the Coffee Axis is as difficult as choosing which winery to visit in wine-producing areas. There are many, and each has its charm, so you have to be guided by what interests you (large farm, family-owned, sustainable production, etc.), by what people who have been there before say, by what catches your eye, or by what you read on TripAdvisor, which is widely used in Colombia.

We chose El Ocaso Coffee Farm, find out why!

Play Tejo

Tejo is the Colombian national sport, considered Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2019. It involves throwing a metal disc against a mud court, where there is a circle filled with small packets of gunpowder that you have to aim for. Thus, the more gunpowder you make explode, the more points you accumulate.

Friends and families spend afternoons throwing the disc, weighing almost 1kg, against the gunpowder, beer in hand, and celebrating.

In Salento, you can find the Cancha de Tejo Los Amigos. It’s an experience you definitely have to try.

The Best Tours from Salento

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But Salento offers much more; it is the “base city” for a multitude of activities, as mentioned below, and you can book them directly here. The best Tours from Salento.

Where to stay?

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Salento, despite being a small town, offers a wide variety of accommodation options, as it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Colombia. You can choose from hotels, farms, hostels, and campsites, according to your preferences.

The advantage of Salento is that, due to its small size, you don’t have to worry too much about the location of your accommodation. Even if you stay on the outskirts of the town, it won’t take you more than 10-15 minutes to reach the center, thanks to the iconic Jeep Willys, the main means of transportation in the area.

Hotel: Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel

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An example of accommodation in Salento is the Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel, located on the southeast edge of the town. We chose this place specifically for its balcony with mountain views. The experience was truly peaceful, the room spacious, the breakfast complete, and the service friendly. We had no complaints during our stay at this place.

Coffee Tree Hotel

This is just one of the many accommodation options available in Salento, and you can find one that suits your preferences and needs. The charm of Salento, its natural surroundings, and its coffee culture make it an attractive destination for all types of travelers.

I also recommend the following accommodations that I found interesting during my stay in Salento:

Hotel: Hotel Salento Plaza 

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The Hotel Salento Plaza is a gem in the middle of the picturesque town of Salento, in the heart of the coffee region of Colombia. This charming establishment seamlessly combines modern comfort with the rustic atmosphere and warmth of an authentic coffee town.

Charm and Comfort in the Heart of Salento

Strategically located in the center of Salento, this hotel is an ideal starting point to explore the natural beauties of the area, such as the Cocora Valley and nearby coffee farms. Its tastefully decorated rooms offer a cozy retreat after a day of adventures.

Hotel Salento Plaza is known for its exceptional hospitality and attention to detail. The friendly and attentive staff strives to make every guest feel at home, providing local recommendations and ensuring that your stay is memorable.

Salento Plaza hotel

The hotel’s restaurant serves delicious dishes that highlight the flavors of the region and the rich Colombian gastronomic culture. You can enjoy a unique culinary experience while admiring panoramic views of Salento from the dining area.

Although prices may vary depending on the season and room type, Hotel Salento Plaza offers exceptional value for money, making it an affordable choice for those looking to enjoy a comfortable and authentic experience in Salento. Prices are typically competitive, making it an excellent choice for those seeking the perfect combination of comfort and charm in this beautiful corner of Colombia.

Hotel: La Cabaña Ecohotel

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Located in a stunning natural setting, La Cabaña Ecohotel is the perfect place for nature lovers and those looking to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Its eco-friendly cabins are designed to provide a comfortable yet environmentally respectful accommodation experience.

The ecohotel prides itself on its sustainable approach, employing ecological practices in its daily operations. Attention to detail is reflected in every aspect, from the construction of the cabins to waste management and the offering of organic and local foods in its restaurant.

Ecohotel La Cabaña

La Cabaña Ecohotel offers guests the opportunity to connect with nature through various activities, such as walks along natural trails, bird watching, and visits to nearby coffee farms. The friendly and knowledgeable staff is always ready to share their love for the region and provide recommendations to explore the best of Salento.

Prices may vary depending on the season and cabin type, but overall, La Cabaña Ecohotel offers a unique experience that combines comfort and sustainability at reasonable prices. It is the ideal choice for those looking to immerse themselves in nature, enjoy tranquility, and support ecological initiatives on their journey to Salento.

Hotel: Terrazas de Salento

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The Terrazas de Salento Hotel is an architectural gem and a haven of elegance amidst the natural beauty of the picturesque town of Salento, located in the coffee region of Colombia. This charming hotel combines modern comfort with a rustic touch and offers stunning panoramic views of the surroundings.

Strategically located in the center of Salento, Hotel Terrazas de Salento is an ideal starting point to explore the natural wonders of the area, such as the famous Cocora Valley and nearby coffee farms. Its rooms are elegantly decorated and offer a high-quality accommodation experience amid a mountainous setting.

Terrazas de Salento Hotel

The most outstanding feature of Terrazas de Salento Hotel is its terraces with panoramic views, providing a perfect spot to relax and admire the landscapes of Salento and the surrounding mountains. In addition to its privileged location, the hotel takes pride in its personalized service and attention to detail.

The hotel’s restaurant serves exquisite dishes that highlight local flavors and the rich Colombian culinary heritage. Diners can enjoy a unique gastronomic experience while taking in the breathtaking views from the dining area.

Prices at Terrazas de Salento Hotel may vary depending on the season and room type, but overall, it offers a high-quality experience that combines luxury and comfort in the heart of Salento. It is an ideal choice for those seeking an elegant and picturesque stay while exploring this beautiful region of Colombia.

Hostel Tralala Salento

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Charm and Friendly Atmosphere in Salento. The Hostel Tralala Salento is a cozy spot located in the heart of Salento, a picturesque town in the coffee region of Colombia. This hostel is known for its friendly atmosphere and its ability to create an authentic and relaxed experience for travelers looking to explore Salento and its surroundings.

Strategically situated in the center of Salento, Hostel Tralala is an ideal base for exploring the natural beauties of the area, such as the Cocora Valley and the nearby coffee farms. Its facilities offer a relaxed and comfortable environment, with a variety of accommodation options, including shared and private rooms.

Hostel Tralala Salento

What makes Hostel Tralala special is its cozy atmosphere and the opportunity to meet other travelers from around the world. The hostel is known for organizing social events and activities, facilitating interaction among guests and creating a sense of community.

The hostel staff is friendly and knowledgeable about the area, always ready to provide recommendations on the best activities and places to visit in Salento. Additionally, the hostel features a restaurant serving delicious dishes that highlight local flavors.

Prices at Hostel Tralala Salento are usually affordable, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious travelers seeking an authentic experience in Salento. If you’re looking for a place to feel at home and make new friends while exploring the natural beauty of this Colombian region, Hostel Tralala is an excellent choice.

Getting Around Salento and Surroundings

The Jeep Willys or “Yipao”

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In Salento, the most iconic and popular means of transportation is the Jeep Willys, locally known as “yipao,” which has been a symbol of the Coffee Axis for over half a century. The history behind these vehicles is fascinating: after World War II, the United States had a surplus of these jeeps and began offering them to other countries. Colombia, through its Ministry of Defense, acquired a significant quantity of them. The coffee elite saw these vehicles as an ideal solution for transporting goods in the mountainous terrain of the Andean region.

A colorful tradition in the region is the Yipao parades during festivities in different towns of the Coffee Axis. In these parades, Jeep Willys are overloaded with various objects and parade through the city. In some cities, contests are even held that evaluate different types of cargo and showcase exciting stunts.

Today, Jeep Willys plays an essential role in transporting tourists and locals around the outskirts of Salento. Visitors use them to reach coffee farms, explore the Cocora Valley, visit Filandia, or move around the center of Salento if staying in farms on the outskirts.

These all-terrain vehicles are known for their resilience and ability to tackle any task. In the back of a Jeep Willys, up to 8 people can fit: 4 on each bench and 4 standing on the rear grille. Although not the most comfortable option for long journeys, it is definitely a unique experience you should have during your visit.

Jeep Willys usually park in Bolivar Square, in front of the supermarket, and operate from early in the morning. They are available throughout the day to transport people from one place to another, becoming an integral part of daily life and culture in Salento.

Jeep Willys Locations
In Bolivar Square

Hours
Every day from 5:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Willys Ride Price
The price of a ride depends entirely on the distance traveled:

  • Salento – Cocora Valley: ~ 8,000 COP ≈ 2 EUR
  • Salento – Finca Cafetera El Ocaso: ~ 8,000 COP ≈ 2 EUR
  • Salento – Filandia: ~ 15,000 COP ≈ 3.75 EUR

Where to Eat

The Gastronomic Diversity of SalentoDespite being a town with only five streets, the culinary offering in Salento is surprisingly broad and diverse. Here, you can delight in a variety of dishes ranging from the typical food of the Quindío region to international options such as vegetarian (Punto Vegetal), Italian (Somevi Pizza), Mexican, Israeli (Shakshuka), and Venezuelan (Cumana Bistro Food).

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If Salento is one of the first places you visit in Colombia and you haven’t had the chance to try the country’s culinary delights yet, you should definitely head to:

Restaurant: Donde Laurita in Salento

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This place has a traditional charm, with its doors painted in eye-catching shades of green and orange. The atmosphere is cozy and decorated with typical objects from the coffee region, adorning the walls and hanging from the ceiling.

At Donde Laurita, you can enjoy a variety of delicious dishes, including the famous Bandeja Paisa, garlic trout, huge plantains, and a refreshing coconut lemonade that you must try. The culinary experience here is truly memorable.

Donde Laurita Salento Restaurant

If, on the other hand, you’ve been in Colombia for weeks and fancy a change in the menu, I recommend:

Quindú Restaurant

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And here comes the hipster to Salento: Quindú Restaurant. Colombian Fusion, it’s the newest and most modern thing in Salento, but it’s also what we already know from any European capital. It has a simple yet elegant white facade with turquoise doors. A modern and spacious dining area and a terrace with views of Salento.

Vegetal Point Restaurant

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Vegans and vegetarians, don’t worry! There is life after the Bandeja Paisa, and it’s found at Vegetal Point in Salento. Also for those who are tired of so much meat and want to pamper their stomachs with something lighter.

And finally, although we know that all the coffee is good in Salento, let me recommend the following coffee shop:

Jesús Martín Coffee

Cappuccino Coffee

Where they also offer coffee tastings. If you’re short on time and don’t have the opportunity to visit a Coffee Farm, here you can do a tasting that is no less impressive than the ones they do on the farms.

I hope you enjoyed the post on how to visit Salento and that it has inspired you to visit or return to this magical place in Colombia.

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