This coffee region in Colombia is made up of charming little towns, and the temptation to spend some relaxation time here is almost irresistible. The oldest region, and one of the most well known, is Salento, situated in the department of Quindio.
Salento is typical of the cities in interior Colombia; the people are incredibly friendly, often seen chatting in their doorways with neighbours or with tourists who enjoy getting involved.
The colours of Salento’s colonial houses and it’s picturesque passageways will enchant anyone that passes through and it would be hard to find a reason not to go. Get ready to savour the best quality Colombian coffee, to bask in the nature this place has to offer and to wander through a city that seems to be frozen in time.
What to do in Salento
There’s a lot of colour
Blues, greens, yellows and pinks… The wooden doors and window frames of almost all the houses in Salento are brightly coloured. It is a local tradition to paint parts of the houses with strong and vibrant colours. When walking down Calle Real, the high street, it would be almost impossible to choose which house is the most beautiful or charming. Apart from the colours, these houses, that are heavily influenced by colonial architecture, also have huge wooden balconies.
Calle Real is full to the brim with restaurants and shops offering typical products, souvenirs, and clothes from the region. As the evening begins, this street becomes one of the best attractions and a place to gather for both tourists and locals alike.
Walking in Salento, you will see a lot of coloured houses / Photo by Viagem Cult
The viewpoint at Alto de la Cruz
Observing this city from above offers a completely different perspective, even more so when you’re surrounded by nature. One of the best strolls to take is up to the Alto de la Cruz viewpoint in order to look down at the town below.
After climbing 253 steps, a hot drink and a refreshing break is just what you’ll need to recharge your batteries. The famous canelazo is a typical hot beverage made with spirit and cinnamon. From above, you can even see part of the breathtaking Valle del Cocora and various coffee plantations. It’s not hard to find either; you simply follow Calle Real all the way to the end.
Alto de la Cruz gives a great view on Salento / Photo by Viagem Cult
Valle de Cocora
Countless numbers of Palm Trees, one after the other. The Palma de Cera, Colombia’s national tree, fills Valle del Cocora, one of the country’s most popular tourist regions.
The valley is situated in the central Colombian Andes, 30 minutes away from Salento. This place is perfect for hiking and breathing in even fresher air. You can ride horses, go trekking, and watch the huge variety of birds there as well. A visit to the valley doesn’t take long either, as little as 11 km. For those who like camping, this region is perfect for relishing in the nature. Valle de Cocora lies within the stunning Parque Nacional de los Nevados. An easy way to get to the valley is by jeep, the famous Willys, that are parked in the middle of the Plaza Bolivar, Salento’s main square.
Enjoy and breathe fresh air in landscapes of the Cocora Valley / Photo by Viagem Cult
Take a bike ride
Between mountains and valleys you’ll be grateful for your legs, as you’ll need them in order to tackle the steep climbs through the heart of the countryside. Riding a bike though the coffee plantations and dirt paths completes the adventure in this region.
On a mountain bike, prepare yourself for a lot of pedalling in order to discover unknown scenery. In the city, there are various places and hotels which offer different routes outside of the city, all of which will provide you with a great trip on two wheels.
Try a delicious cup of coffee
It is impossible to visit Salento without trying its coffee. This little city is surrounded by coffee plantations, also known as fincas. At any time of the day, the city’s bars and restaurants invite visitors to sit down and savour a nice hot coffee.
For those who wish, there are also multiple fincas that offer tours, a complete immersion into the coffee culture. In the fincas you can weave through the coffee plantations, pick the grains, discover everything you need to know about the process - from planting to picking and the roasting - and you can even taste the final product, a steaming cup of coffee, as the tour comes to an end.
Enjoy one of the world's best coffees in the heart of the Coffee Triangle / Photo by Viagem Cult
How to get there
The easiest way to get to Salento is to go from Armenia, the capital of the department, Quindio. Armenia is 26 km away from Salento. The most direct route, that links both cities, passes through Pereira. From there, it’s a beautiful, windy, paved 9 km journey to Salento.
As Salento is at 1,800 metres above sea level, the temperature there is usually pleasant during the day, but at night it can be quite chilly. The average temperature is around 18°C. Don’t forget to bring a coat for when the sun goes down.
Salento is the perfect destination for a couple’s getaway, a trip with friends, or a family holiday. A place for those who seek a rural destination and enjoy strolling and pedalling through nature.
By: Lucila Runnacles, Journalist and author of the Viagem Cult blog / Translation: Lucy Galvan