Nestled in Colombia’s enchanting coffee region, Salento stands as a beacon of culture, nature, and history. This quaint town, brimming with colourful architecture and friendly locals, offers a unique blend of traditional Colombian charm and breathtaking natural landscapes.
Salento is more than just a destination; it’s an experience, a journey into the heart of Colombia’s coffee culture and rich heritage. Whether you’re an avid traveller or a curious explorer, Salento promises an array of unforgettable adventures. From the lush green valleys to the vibrant streets lined with artisan shops, every corner of this town tells a story. As we delve into the best things to do in Salento, prepare to be captivated by the magic of this hidden gem.
Things to do in Salento
1. Coffee Plantation Tour
Embrace the essence of Colombia by visiting a local coffee plantation. Here, you’ll witness the meticulous process of coffee making, from bean to cup. The tour offers an in-depth look into the life of Colombian coffee farmers and the intricate processes that make Colombian coffee a global phenomenon. It’s not just a tour; it’s an immersive experience into the world of coffee.
2. Hiking in the Cocora Valley
The Cocora Valley, famed for its towering wax palms – the national tree of Colombia – provides a hiking experience like no other. As you traverse through the misty trails, you’ll be surrounded by an awe-inspiring landscape that feels straight out of a fairy tale. This hike is not just a physical journey but a chance to connect with Colombia’s natural beauty.
3. Salento’s Town Square and Artisan Shops
The heart of Salento beats in its vibrant town square. Lined with colourful buildings and bustling with activity, the square is the perfect place to soak in the local atmosphere. Nearby, artisan shops showcase the town’s rich craft heritage, offering everything from handwoven bags to unique pieces of art. Exploring these shops not only supports the local economy but also gives you a tangible piece of Salento to take home.
4. Horseback Riding Adventures
Experience the countryside of Salento on horseback. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a beginner, horseback riding through Salento’s rural landscapes offers a unique perspective of the region. You’ll pass through coffee plantations, small streams, and rolling hills, all while being guided by local experts who share stories and insights about the area.
5. Visit to a Traditional Finca
A visit to a traditional finca (farm) in Salento is a journey into the rural heart of Colombia. Here, you’ll see how local farmers live and work, maintaining traditions that have been passed down for generations. It’s an opportunity to learn about sustainable farming practices and the importance of agriculture in Colombian culture.
6. Bird Watching
Salento’s diverse ecosystem is a haven for bird watchers. The region is home to a spectacular array of bird species, offering enthusiasts a chance to spot rare and exotic birds in their natural habitat. Guided tours are available, led by knowledgeable locals who can help identify the various species and share insights about their behaviours and habitats.
7. Cultural Experiences and Workshops
Dive into Salento’s rich culture through various workshops and experiences. Participate in a cooking class to learn how to prepare traditional Colombian dishes, or join an art workshop to try your hand at local crafts. These experiences offer a deeper understanding and appreciation of the local culture and traditions.
8. Biking Trails
For the more adventurous, Salento offers numerous biking trails that wind through its stunning landscapes. Renting a bike and hitting these trails is an exhilarating way to explore the region’s natural beauty. Suitable for all levels, these trails provide a different perspective of Salento, from serene valleys to challenging mountain paths.
9. Relaxing in Hot Springs
After a day of exploring, unwind in one of Salento’s natural hot springs. These thermal baths offer a tranquil escape, surrounded by nature. The mineral-rich waters are not only relaxing but are also believed to have healing properties. It’s the perfect way to rejuvenate and reflect on your Salento adventures.
10. Local Festivals and Events
Salento comes alive during its local festivals and events. These celebrations are a vibrant display of Colombian culture, featuring traditional music, dance, and cuisine. Participating in these events offers a chance to mingle with locals and experience the joyous spirit of Salento. From religious festivals to cultural parades, there’s always something exciting happening in this lively town.
How to Get There
Reaching Salento is an adventure in itself. The most common way to travel to Salento is by flying into El Edén International Airport in Armenia, which is well-connected to major cities in Colombia. From Armenia, Salento is just a short and scenic bus ride away, offering stunning views of the Andean landscape. For those seeking a more adventurous route, driving to Salento offers the flexibility to explore the region at your own pace. The roads leading to Salento are well-maintained and offer breathtaking views of the Colombian countryside. Alternatively, there are direct bus services from major cities like Bogotá and Medellín, which are convenient and cost-effective options for travellers. No matter how you choose to travel, the journey to Salento is an integral part of the experience, setting the stage for the wonders that await.
5 Places to Stay in Salento
Salento offers a range of accommodation options to suit every traveller’s needs and budget. For those seeking luxury, boutique hotels and fincas offer comfortable and stylish stays, complete with stunning views and top-notch amenities.
Cattleya Trianae: Ideal for budget travelers, this family-run hostel offers a comfortable stay with amenities like free breakfast, outdoor terrace, and security lockers. It’s located a bit further from the town center but has easy access to transportation.
Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel: A great choice for digital nomads, this hostel blends modern design with a beautiful natural setting. It offers various room types, including dormitories and private rooms, and is equipped with facilities conducive to work and relaxation.
EcoLodge Kasaguadua: Perfect for nature lovers, this ecolodge is set in a secluded nature reserve and offers an ecological approach to accommodation. The bamboo and recycled plastic cabins are designed to harmonize with the surrounding environment.
Lumbre Glamping: For a luxurious camping experience, Lumbre Glamping provides a blend of designer cottages and glamping tents amid the green hills of Salento. Despite its remote location, amenities like free Wi-Fi and an on-site bar and restaurant are available.
Ecohotel Piedemonte: A top pick for families, this ecohotel is surrounded by nature and offers spacious, well-designed suites. The large garden with a playground makes it ideal for families with children
No matter where you choose to stay, you’ll find yourself enveloped in the charm and warmth that Salento is known for.
Where to Eat in Salento
Salento’s culinary scene is as diverse as its landscapes. From traditional Colombian cuisine to international flavours, the town caters to all palates.
Somevi Pizzeria: This place is known for its delicious pizza, making it a hit among locals and tourists alike. Its appeal lies in its simplicity and the quality of its pizzas, which are regarded as a tasty snack in Salento. Somevi Pizza opens in the evening and offers a variety of pizzas, which are just as enjoyable the next day.
El Rincon de Lucy: This restaurant is a favourite for its simple yet delicious and affordable meals. The menu is straightforward, allowing diners to choose their preferred meat and sides. The meals are served with several accompaniments, making it a fulfilling dining experience at a very reasonable cost.
Shalem: Renowned for its local trout, Shalem is a go-to place for this regional specialty. The restaurant offers a selection of local dishes, with the trout being a standout, perfectly cooked and served with complementary sides. The atmosphere, including the music, adds to the dining experience.
Coco Bowl: Coco Bowl is the top choice for vegetarian and vegan options in Salento. Known for its use of organic, locally-grown produce, it offers a range of healthy choices like smoothies, coffee, veggie bowls, and burgers. The Coco Burger, in particular, is a highlight, featuring a black bean patty and an assortment of toppings.
When to Visit Salento
The best time to visit Salento, Colombia varies depending on what you’re looking for in terms of weather and activities. Here’s a breakdown by months or sections of months to help you plan your visit:
December to February: This period is generally considered the best time to visit Salento. It’s the dry season, offering ideal conditions for hiking and outdoor activities. However, it’s advisable to avoid January, as it’s a popular vacation month for Colombians, which could mean higher prices and more crowded conditions.
March to May: These months mark a transition from the dry to the wet season. The weather remains warm, but with increasing chances of rainfall as the months progress. March might still offer good conditions for outdoor activities, but April and May see higher rainfall, which might affect your plans for outdoor exploration.
June to August: This period is another relatively dry season in Salento, making it a suitable time for visitors. The weather is generally warm and conducive for outdoor activities like hiking in the Valle de Cocora or visiting coffee farms.
September to November: These months are part of the rainy season in Salento, with October and November being particularly wet. While this might not be the ideal time for outdoor activities, the lush greenery post-rainfall can be quite beautiful. However, be prepared for regular showers and plan your activities accordingly
Regardless of when you visit, Salento’s equatorial climate means temperatures are moderate year-round. It’s always a good idea to pack a waterproof jacket, as showers can occur unexpectedly, even outside the rainy season. Remember that the specific conditions can vary, so it’s worth checking closer to your planned travel date for a more accurate forecast.
How Many Days to Spend in Salento
Determining how many days to spend in Salento depends on your interests and the kind of experience you’re seeking. Here are some recommendations based on different sources:
Minimum 3 Days, Maximum 5 Days: For a comprehensive experience, spending a minimum of 3 days and a maximum of 5 days in Salento is recommended. This duration allows you to explore the main attractions such as the Cocora Valley, enjoy horseback riding and waterfalls, visit coffee plantations, and immerse yourself in birdwatching activities. The first day can be more relaxed, focusing on getting to Salento and exploring the town, followed by more activity-packed days.
3-Day Itinerary: A 3-day itinerary in Salento might include exploring the vibrant colonial architecture and coffee plantations on the first day, hiking the Valle de Cocora on the second day, and on the third day, you can choose between various activities like horseback riding, visiting waterfalls, or taking a coffee plantation tour. This itinerary packs in the essentials of Salento, offering a mix of adventure, nature, and local culture.
Extended Stay: If you have more time and prefer a relaxed pace, spending a week or more in Salento is feasible. This allows you to fully immerse in the local lifestyle, enjoy the natural beauty without rush, and possibly explore less-visited areas or engage in more leisurely activities like birdwatching and enjoying the local gastronomy.
In summary, a stay of 3-5 days is ideal for a well-rounded experience in Salento. However, if your schedule allows, extending your stay can provide a more relaxed and in-depth exploration of this beautiful region.
Salento, with its vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and rich history, is a destination that should be on every traveller’s list. From the lush greenery of the Cocora Valley to the bustling streets of the town square, Salento offers a diverse range of experiences. Whether you’re sipping on world-class coffee, exploring the countryside, or engaging in local festivals, the charm of Salento is undeniable. It’s a place where memories are made and adventures await at every corner. So, pack your bags and set off on a journey to discover the best things to do in Salento, Colombia – a treasure trove of experiences that will leave you enchanted and longing for more.