4° 38′ 0″ N, 75° 34′ 0″ W
HIDDEN IN THE MOUNTAINS OF COLOMBIA, THIS ADORABLE MOUNTAIN OASIS IS POPULAR FOR TRAVELERS AND ADVENTUROUS TRAVELERS IN PARTICULAR. AND AFTER SPENDING SOME TIME THERE, WE TOTALLY GET WHY. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE TOWN SALENTO BELOW.
Tucked away into the verdant green hills of the coffee region, Salento is a positively magical place to spend some time. While many people pass through its colorful streets for the famous Cocora Valley - home to the largest palm trees in the world - we instead believe that the true magic of Salento is found within its lively streets, its surrounding coffee farms and its cool, crisp mountain air. Below is an in-depth guide to everything travelers, and adventure travelers in particular, need to know about exploring beautiful Salento, Quindio, Colombia.
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SALENTO, COLOMBIA
\\ A Quick History of Salento
While it might seem surprising, Salento is actually the oldest town in the Quindio department. The town was first established in the colonial era thanks to the creation of a transit route from the city of Popayán (in southern Colombia) to the capital of Bogotá over the Quindío Pass (located nearby). This route would become known as La Línea. The transit line became even more important in 1830 when Simón Bolívar traveled the route and ordered that it be upgraded due to its poor condition and strategic importance. However, these improvements would not really begin for another12 years.
Eventually, political prisoners from the War of the Supremes (Guerra de los Supremos) were sent to the Salento area to work on upgrading and maintaining the Quindio Pass line. After completing their sentences, the political prisoners would then be given a plot of land in the area. This penal colony/town would eventually become known as Barcinales.
Soon families of the political prisoners arrived and built their own houses in the nearby town of Boquía, which became the main settlement in the area. But sometime in 1854, the Quindío River flooded and destroyed the settlement of Boquía and the survivors then decided to rebuild their houses in Barcinales - but the citizens decided to keep the name Boquía for the new settlement (instead of Barcinales) and changed the name of the original settlement to Pueblo Viejo.
In 1865 Boquía was officially declared a municipality (town) and its name was changed once again - this time to Villa de Nueva Salento. And the name Boquía actually reverted back to the original settlement in the valley (we know, kind of confusing). Today, Boquia still stands and is another neat area to explore near Salento.
For a while, the main route between Popayan and Bogota still passed through Salento. But when the route was eventually diverted, the town became quite isolated and did not develop as rapidly as the rest of the region. For this reason, Salento was able to retain more of its traditional, colonial architecture than almost any other town in the Coffee Region/Triangle (eje cafetero). Today, the historic center of town is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Listed "Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia” which includes much of the Coffee Triangle region.
How Did Salento Get Its Name?
In its early history, Salento was actually named Boquía due to its proximity to a stream called Boquia (as well as the surrounding valley). But in 1865, the name was changed to Villa de Nueva Salento in honor of Salento, a region in the south of Italy. Soon it was just shortened to Salento. Today, there is still a town of Boquia, but it is down the valley from Salento (you will drive through it on the way up to town).
UNESCO Coffee Cultural Landscape
The Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia (CCLC) was created in 2011 to help protect and preserve the historic coffee growing landscape located in central Colombia; including, the various growing and cultivation processes put in place by the early Antioquian settlers who arrived in the 19th century, the overall culture found in the various small pueblos in the region and the different adaptations historic and present day farmers have had to make to grow so much coffee in the high mountain environment.
This UNESCO World Heritage site consists of six regions and eighteen urban settlements - including the colorful towns of Salento, Filandia, Buenavista and Pijao.
SALENTO'S NICKNAME: El Padre del Quindío or The Father of Quindío
\\ Where is Salento, Colombia?
This small mountain town is located in the northeastern part of the department of Quindío, Colombia (one of the three departments that make up the Colombian Coffee Region). Salento is located around 40 minutes from the capital of Quindio, Armenia, and roughly 50 minutes from the large city of Pereira (which is the capital of the neighboring department, Risaralda).
Salento, Quindio sits on a relatively flat plateau on the western slope of the Central Cordillera mountains (one of the three mountain ranges that cross Colombia) and above the mighty Quindio River, which is fed by the high tropical glaciers and snowcapped peaks of Nevado del Tolima (which can sometimes be seen from town on a clear morning).
The town, while located in the mountains, is relatively easy to reach from other Colombian cities; including, Medellin (about 6.5 hours away), Bogota (7.5 hours away) and Cali (3 hours and 45 minutes away). And, because of how popular Salento is for travelers, you can easily catch a bus up to town from the above major cities, including taking a direct bus straight from Medellin.
ELEVATION: 1895 meters // 6,217 feet
POPULATION: 7,247 people, of which around 3,600 live in the town itself
Weather in Salento
Due to its altitude and proximity to the high mountains of the Central Cordillera - the highest of the three branches of the Colombian Andes - the climate in Salento is quite temperate. In fact, the average temperature of the town is 15° C or 59° F. The rainy season lasts 8.5 months from March to December, with April usually being the wettest month. The dry season lasts from early December to the end of February (though even in the dry season you can still expect some heavy rain storms).
The Best Time to Visit Salento
Even though the weather doesn't tend to change too much during the year (thanks to its location close to the equator) you can still expect a bit of a difference depending on whether you are visiting during the dry season or the rainy season.
We have visited during both season and found that the major difference between the two was the higher likelihood of storms in the afternoon and a bit more fog and clouds during the day during the rainy season.
If you are looking to explore the natural areas around Salento during your trip (most notably Cocora Valley and Los Nevados National Natural Park) then we do suggest trying to visit during the dry season (just for a higher likelihood of sunshine). But if you just want to walk around town, then the rainy season should work just fine (bring an umbrella just in case).
The only time we don't recommend visiting Salento? During the Christmas and New Year's holidays. Not only is the town packed with people (so packed the road up to town backs all the way up with traffic and Calle Real is impassable), but the prices of lodging also go way up. Plus, unless you want to party every night, you will likely get quite annoyed with the blaring reggaetón music until 3 AM at night for the entire holiday season.
In our opinion, the best time to visit Salento is during early February (good weather, not too busy) or late August (also nice weather and very few people).
EXPLORE MORE | WHY WE CHOSE TO SLOW TRAVEL IN COLOMBIA
The Top 9 Things to Do in Salento, Colombia
Below are the top 9 adventures in and around the town of Salento. This list includes some quite popular things to do (Cocora Valley for one) as well as a few things that are a bit more off the beaten path. We have been lucky enough to live in Salento for over three months and have truly explored all that it has to offer - which is actually quite a lot. Keep reading to learn more about the top things to do in Salento, Colombia.
1. Hike Around the Famous Cocora Valley (Valle de Cocora)
Many people choose to visit Salento for one specific reason: to head up to the Cocora Valley (Valle de Cocora) in order to see the famous Quindío wax palm, the tallest palm tree (and monocot) in the world, as well as the national tree of Colombia.
If planning to explore the Cocora Valley yourself, we recommend spending almost a full day adventuring around the palms as well as the surrounding rainforest. Our favorite hike in the valley was the full loop, which took us a total of 8 hours to complete (though we definitely didn’t rush it).
The loop takes you through the actual Valle de Cocora (where all the super tall trees are), up a mountain, down a mountain, through the rainforest, next to a rushing river and across some rather sketchy wooden bridges. The natural scenery is incredibly beautiful, and along the way you will have the opportunity to see Andean Condors (the largest flying bird in the world), hummingbirds (colibri) at the Acaime Natural Reserve (a short detour from the trail), as well as other colorful birds and bugs, and lots and lots of plants. And because the valley is part of the larger Los Nevados National Natural Park, most of the scenery is relatively undisturbed.
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT COCORA VALLEY
| Go early. It is not only less busy, but you are more likely to beat the fog/storms that often come in during the afternoon.
| Wear good shoes. No honestly, the trail is very muddy, especially during the rainy season. Be prepared to slip and slide up and down the mountain, especially during the section before and after Finca La Montana.
| Bring plenty of food and water. We naively thought there would be options to purchase snacks and drinks (especially coffee) along the route. And while you can supposedly at the hummingbird sanctuary, when we went it was closed. The only real option for food is at the restaurants along the main road at the entrance and exit of the hike. We also definitely recommend plenty of water (or better yet, a water filter).
| Prepare for some sketchy wooden bridges. When you get to the jungle section, you will get your first taste of the power of the Quindio River, which snakes its way through the forest before heading out towards Salento itself. There are 5-6 bridges that cross the river, many of which are made up of large wooden planks, metal cables, and concrete blocks. The bridges can be a bit nerve-wracking - but they are also pretty exciting (all very Indiana Jones-y).
| Getting back to Salento. While the ride up to Cocora Valley is pretty straightforward, the ride back can be way more hectic - at least it was when we went. Now to be fair, we might have been dealt some tougher cards: we went on a holiday weekend... but we also kind of expect it is always a bit chaotic trying to get a ride back to town on one of the Willy jeeps. Just expect to wait in line for a while, and be okay with riding in the back of the jeeps (holding on to the top) if you want to get back quicker (plus it is more fun!).
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: the last Willy leaves Cocora Valley between 6 PM and 6:30 PM.
| COST: here is a quick breakdown of what it will cost to do the whole Cocora Valley Loop Trail, plus extra costs you can expect if planning to spend the whole day in Cocora Valley.
- 5000 COP per person to enter the valley, and then another 6000 COP per person to enter the private land boundary. So, 11000 COP per person ($2.75 USD/€2.50 Euros) for the whole loop.
- 8000 COP ($2 USD/€1.77 Euros) per person for the round-trip ride to Cocora Valley in one of the local Willy’s (you will pay the total amount when buying your ticket in Salento).
- 16000 - 20000 COP ($4.50 USD/€3.95 Euros) for a basic (but filling) meal in one of the numerous restaurants along the main road in Cocora Valley.
| GETTING THERE: it is really easy to reach Cocora Valley from Salento. All you have to do is catch one of the Willys (the big colorful, WWII-era jeeps) in the main square in Salento. There is a small white ticket booth next to the jeeps where you will pay for the tickets. The jeeps can hold up to 10 people, but if it looks full when you arrive, you can always ask about riding on the back.
| TIME: the first Willy leaves the square in Salento around 7 AM and then again around every hour until roughly 5 PM. But if you are heading out on a weekend (or during the busy season) you can also usually grab a Willy anytime during the day as long as there are enough people looking for a ride.
| WHAT TO BRING: like we said, definitely bring good sturdy shoes that can handle a lot of slippery mud and some small puddles/streams. Similarly, make sure the carry some snacks, plenty of water, a rain jacket or poncho, a hat and some sun screen and bug spray.
Cocora Valley is an absolutely beautiful place to explore. There is something just so special about the towering palm trees against the foggy mountain backdrop. The only drawback? All of the other people also checking it out. While you can definitely get away from the biggest crowds by doing the full Cocora Valley Loop Trail, if you are like us and are really looking to get off the beaten path, then consider instead hiking Cerro Morrogacho - the tall, hump-like peak that stands proudly behind the palms.
The hike up Cerro Morrogacho is only 8 miles long - but it is quite an uphill push, especially in the beginning. But the views from the top, plus the ability to see many different biomes, plants and wildlife makes it all totally worth it. If you are curious to learn more about this off the beaten path Colombian hike, then check out our full Cerro Morrogacho Adventure Guide.
2. Head Out on a Coffee Tour and Walk the Coffee Route
Salento sits in the heart of the Colombian coffee region, so there is no better place to explore all things coffee than to head out on a coffee tour. Luckily, there are many locally-owned fincas (farms) that offer tours.
And a great way to get to these coffee fincas is to explore along the Coffee Route (Rute Cafecito), an easy to follow route through many coffee fields and fincas in a fertile valley next to Salento.
The Coffee Route starts in Salento before heading out on Carrera 5 towards the southern side of town. Soon you will cross a large yellow bridge, go past the town cemetery and then past a large wooden arch. It is here that the road turns to dirt. Keep heading down this road for another 3 kilometers (# miles). Soon you will se your first coffee finca on the right: Finca Acacia.
After the first finca, you will see 4 more - though the whole route is through either forest or open coffee fields. Besides Café Acacia (which serves up delicious tinto coffee for free!), there is Finca El Ocaso, Café Luger (which is where we did our tour and absolutely loved it!), Finca de Don Elias (the most popular finca and tour) and Finca La Azarcia.
Once you pass the last finca (Azarcia) you will reach a bridge over the Quindio River (rio). From there, go up a small hill and then turn right (there will be a sign) and head back uphill. Follow the road until you reach the small town of Boquia. Once in Boquia, you can keep hiking up to the Santa Rita Waterfall - which is another .5 kilometers away or take a bus back up to Salento. The bus will cost 1500 COP per person to ride back up to town.
EXPLORE MORE | EXPLORING THE COFFEE ROUTE IN SALENTO
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: if you are short on time or you just don't feel like doing the whole loop, you can also take a shortcut at Finca El Ocaso. To do this, first head down a narrow singletrack trail right in front of the main house until you reach a river and a red metal bridge. Cross the bridge and then turn right and head back up the dirt road to Boquia. If you are still a bit confused on the route, consider downloading maps.me - which will show you the right way to go and really help you orient yourself in the valley.
3. Explore Los Nevados National Natural Park
As mentioned previously, the Cocora Valley is actually part of the much larger Los Nevados National Natural Park, one of the premier national parks in Colombia.
Home to giant condors, mountain tapirs, spectacled bears, colorful wild parrots and funky little mountain plants - not to mention massive impulsive volcanoes and some of the last glaciers in Colombia - altogether make Los Nevados National Natural Park a haven for adventure and exploration.
And we are guessing that if you are anything like us, knowing there is a massive, wild, stunningly beautiful national park right on your doorstep makes you very, very excited. Luckily, there are numerous tour companies that will happily guide you through the park on single-day or multi-day treks.
Or if you are feeling really adventurous, consider instead doing a single-day or multi-day trek all on your own (no guide) in the park. Luckily, while the park is huge and full of many places to explore, many of the top spots do have "clearly" marked trails leading to them. This includes, Laguna del Otun, Paramillo del Quindio and Termales de Canon (natural hot springs). Similarly, all across the park are various fincas - many of which do offer lodging and food (you do have to pay).
➳ Learn about our own personal experience trekking in Los Nevados National Natural Park for 4 days without a guide. And, if you want to get an even better idea of the stunning beauty of the national park, consider checking out this video.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: you can start your trek into the national park straight from Cocora Valley. To do this, just keep walking up the dirt road that the Willy drops you off on until you get to a river. From there head to the right and cross the river on a small wooden bridge. Yay, you made it to the national park!
4. Go Chase Waterfalls
If you are looking for an outdoor adventure that is a little more low key, then instead consider seeking out one of the numerous waterfalls that can be found around Salento. While the Santa Rita Waterfall (Cascada Santa Rita) is the most popular, there are actually a couple of other cascadas in the area.
One of our favorites is found 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) up the La Carbonera Road (aka Camino Nacional) which you can reach by simply heading towards the steps for the Salento Mirador and then taking the road that splits off towards the right. This road will quickly turn to dirt and start to twist and turn up the mountain, past a couple of hostels and hotels.
While it is a 2.5 kilometer walk up to the waterfall, along the way you will find amazing views of the surrounding forest and Salento itself as well as have the chance to see some birds.
If you are looking to explore other waterfalls in the area, another good option is Finca Turistica la Cascada, which you can find by heading down the road across from Finca Acacia (the sharp left turn one) and then walking for 10 minutes or so. For a more in-depth route guide, definitely download maps.me or ask a local.
🎒 WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU TO THE WATERFALLS: the weather changes quickly in Salento, and especially during the rainier months, so it is likely you will experience some rainstorms during your visit. So never go adventure in the area without a rain jacket, good boots (all the rain = muuuuud), thick socks, a hat, and some bug spray.
5. Mountain Bike Around La Carbonera
If you are instead feeling like you want an even more adrenaline fueled adventure in Salento - plus have the opportunity to explore something a bit less touristy - then instead consider booking a mountain bike tour to La Carbonera, the largest wax palm forest in the world.
The real perk of this Salento adventure is not only the fact that you get to mountain bike around the area (all downhill by the way) but that you get to explore the stunning La Carbonera Wax Palm Forest, home to 7 million wax palms - the same tree as in Cocora Valley - only this time there are millions of the towering beauties instead of thousands.
We highly recommend booking your tour with Salento Cycling, not only because they are amazing organizers and mountain bike die-hards, but more so because they truly care about the wax palm forest and the inhabitants that live there - including the incredibly rare yellow-eared parrot.
EXPLORE MORE | MOUNTAIN BIKING IN LA CARBONERA: THE LARGEST WAX PALM FOREST IN THE WORLD
The ride down from La Carbonera is done on the famous La Linea road - which is the same historic trail that Simon Bolivar took to get over the Andes. It also happens to be the longest downhill bike ride in all of Colombia (you drop 3,400 meters / 11,154 feet).
In total, the tour takes around 5 hours and includes all bike gear (including gloves and helmets), a walk around the wax palm forest looking for the yellow-eared parrot, lunch, a ride up through the (usually) foggy cloud forest in a sick Toyota Land Cruiser and most importantly the opportunity to explore a truly stunning bit of Colombia on two wheels. Plus, the owners of Salento Cycling - Eduardo and Jose - are total class acts and super easy to talk to. Highly recommend doing this if you are in Salento and want to get out and explore a bit more of the natural landscape.
📣 Book a tour with Salento Cycling here.
6. Check out the Artisan Shops
If you are looking to spend some time exploring the town of Salento itself, then we suggest heading to the main thoroughfare Calle Real (Carrera 6). This colorful street is where you will find lots of artisan shops, cafes, restaurants and small mercados. If you want a souvenir, or just want to get an idea of the crafts of the region, then spend an hour or so wandering down the street, with a coffee in hand for good measure.
For the best photo opportunities of the colorful, artsy buildings, head out early in the morning when the town is just starting to wake up (anytime before 8 AM). But if you are hoping to get a feel for the culture and atmosphere of Salento, definitely meander down the street in the evening when all the shops are open and the people are out.
| BUY: some of the most common crafts you will see in the shops off Calle Real are multi-colored woven over-the-shoulder bags, smaller circular woven bags, thin ponchos in the style of the local coffee growers, hats (commonly felt) and leatherwork, mostly in the style of the historic carriel bag, a leather satchel (often with cowhide too) men tend to use to carry money in.
| MONEY: you can expect to spend around 80000 to 130000 COP (~ $25 USD/€22 Euros) for one of the colorful woven shoulder bags (we spent 125000 COP on ours) and about 70000 ($17.60 USD/€15.40 Euros) for a hat. As expected, items are a bit more expensive off of Calle Real than on quieter, less touristy streets.
💱 A good rule of thumb for the exchange rate between the COP (Colombian peso) and the USD (US dollar) is around 4x1. The Euro is around 4.5x1.
6. Walk Up to the Mirador for Sunset
A rather simple adventure, considering the other options on this list, is to walk up to the top of the mirador (viewpoint), which you can clearly see from the main square of Salento. This is a great option for people looking for views of the town, as well as the surrounding mountains and fincas, and for a great spot to take in the colorful sunsets.
To reach the mirador, head all the way to the end of Calle Real (Carrera 6). You will see some steep, colorful stairs that head straight up the hillside - that is where you are going. From the base of the stairs, just keep going up and up until you reach the top where there is a large platform.
Once at the summit, you will likely see hordes of people and some small stalls selling treats and crafts. From the platform, you can either head to the left and go down to a large parking area where there is another great mirador though this time the view is of the actual Cocora Valley, or you can head back down the stairs to town the way you came.
| COST: totally free! But there are some stalls selling crafts and drinks, plus a cool coffee shop with a great balcony that overlooks the town.
| WHEN: we recommend going either in the early morning for sunrise, or later in the day for sunset (though in the evenings it can be quite busy).
💬 INSIDER TIP: if you have the time and the desire, there is another viewpoint about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) up the La Carbonera Road (Camino Nacional) that has great views of Salento and the area west of town. This mirador is along the same route as you would take to reach the waterfall that is 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) up the road (this is also the road you would mountain bike down if coming from La Carbonera - hence the name).
7. Drink the Delicious Local Coffee
You cannot come to the Colombian coffee region and not drink the coffee (lots of coffee). In fact, besides relying on tourism, Salento’s other main economic driver is growing coffee (second and third are dairy production and flower farms).
We recommend exploring all sides of the coffee process, including doing a coffee tour and heading out to try some of the local, tasty coffee shops in town. One of the best is Café Jesus Martin, a coffee shop run by a gentleman who is often quoted as the “man who saved Colombian coffee” (read more about him here).
But Café Jesus Martin is not the only game in town. In fact, there are many cafes around Salento, including a couple good ones along Calle Real and in the main square. There is even a small portable café in a converted Willy jeep. And the best part is that many of the cafes are family owned - only the popular Café Quindio is a chain.
EXPLORE MORE | HOW TO BE A MORE SUSTAINABLE TRAVELER
| WHERE: Café Jesus Martin is located very close to the main square, off of Carrera 6. Find the exact location here. Many of the other cafes are off Calle Real and/or in the main square.
| COST: at Café Jesus Martin, a shot of espresso costs 2500 COP, while an Americano costs 3500 COP. For a fancier drink expect to pay between 3800 COP and 5500 COP (more if you want whipped cream or alcohol added). They also are one of the few cafes in town that offer almond milk.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: if you are looking for a comfortable place to work, we suggest checking out Café Jesus Martin. They have lots of tables, relatively strong Wi-Fi and tasty coffee. Plus, their pies (especially the pecan and pumpkin pies) are super yummy.
8. Play the Local Colombian Games
If you are looking to get a better idea of Colombian culture, we suggest spending an hour or two playing some of the local games - most notably the somewhat wacky game of tejo.
Tejo, which is also known as turmeque, is a traditional Colombian game that involves throwing medium sized - but heavy - pucks at small targets that contain gunpowder. If done correctly, the small targets should explode on impact. The game, though relatively simple in practice, is hard to master. More often than not, the metal pucks will land in the thick mud around the targets or off the box completely. This is truly the perfect game for just chilling, drinking a couple of Club Colombias and having a good time with your friends.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: interestingly enough, there is no clear agreed on history of the origins of tejo in Colombia. While many believe it was created by the early indigenous groups in the region, the reason and date of it being developed is somewhat of a mystery. Just know that behind futbol, tejo is the most widely followed sport in the country of Colombia.
| WHERE: the best spot to play tejo in Salento is at Cancha de Tejo Los Amigos, which is located off of Carrera 4.
| ORDER: it is very affordable to play tejo (around 10000 COP or less), therefore we highly suggest ordering a few cervezas to go along with the game
SALENTO, COLOMBIA | THE NITTY-GRITTY
\\ How to Get to Salento
It is luckily super easy to reach Salento from various cities nearby, including from the much larger cities in the coffee region, Armenia and Pereira.
Taking a bus is by far the easiest and most straightforward way to reach Salento. The two main bus terminals nearby are Armenia (just to the south) and Pereira (just to the north). Both cities have numerous buses running regularly between the towns. It costs 5300 COP between Armenia and Salento ($1.31 USD/€1.17 Euros) and 9700 COP between Pereira and Salento ($2.40 USD/€2.14 Euros).
Buses leave from the Armenia bus terminal very regularly, so you don’t need to stress about grabbing one. The first time we headed up to Salento from Armenia we left mid-afternoon on a Friday during a holiday weekend and we still got on the first bus (in fact three left around the same time).
To get to the Salento buses in the Armenia bus terminal, first head to the far right side of the terminal and then walk out the doors in the corner (if you get lost, just ask anyone and they will point you in the right direction). From there you will see lots of smaller buses with signs stating their location (FILANDIA, CIRCASIA, SALENTO).
Head to the small ticket booth along the fence and pay the bus fee: 5300 COP per person, per way. Then hop on any of the buses that have SALENTO on the front (they will direct you). Just know that the LAST bus for Salento leaves the Armenia bus terminal between 7 and 8 PM.
✈️ If flying into the Armenia airport, you can easily catch a bus from outside the airport terminal to the main bus station (Terminal de Transportes). The buses are white with pink and green décor (it will also say TERMINAL on the front window). The ride takes about 20 minutes and costs 3000 COP per person.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: you can also pick up the Salento buses anywhere along Avenida Centenario and Carrera 14 (especially at these two spots: here and here), just look out for the buses that have SALENTO on a white sign on their front mirror.
💸 5300 COP ($1.20 USD/1 Euro) per person, per way from Armenia to Salento.
⌚ It takes around 50 minutes to go from the Armenia bus terminal to Salento, though this could be longer if there is traffic and more people to pick up and drop off along the way.
The same process pretty much goes for getting a bus to Salento from Pereira. The only difference is the cost - 9700 COP instead of 5300 COP - and the bus terminal location (find Pereira's bus terminal here). Otherwise, once on the bus just sit back and wait until it arrives in Salento.
To buy your ticket for Salento from Pereira you need to head to an inside booth - it will clearly say SALENTO. The most common bus company doing the route is Alcala. Similarly, while buses leave very regularly in Armenia they do leave less frequently from Pereira (usually one an hour). They also do not run as late: it seems there are no buses after 6:30 PM.
GETTING TO SALENTO FROM MEDELLIN & BOGOTA
There is a direct bus from Medellin to Salento that leaves the south bus terminal. Two buses run this route daily: one at 1:30 PM and one at 8:30 PM. Both are done through the bus company Flota Occidental and both cost $19 USD or €16.80 Euros per person.
We have personally done the 8:30 bus ride from Medellin to Salento and actually found it to be not too bad. While night buses are never exactly "fun" this ride went by surprisingly fast. We left Medellin exactly at 8:30 PM and arrived in Salento just after 4 AM.
If you are looking to go the opposite way (Salento to Medellin) there is the option to take a larger bus the whole way instead of breaking it up and stopping at Armenia or Pereira first. Buses leave Salento three times a day: at 9:15 AM, 2 PM and 8:30 PM. This route is also done by the bus company Flota Occidental and also costs $19 USD or €16.80 Euros per person.
If coming from Bogota, it looks like your best option is to take a bus directly to Armenia first and then catch the usual smaller buses up to Salento. Departure times from Bogota to Armenia are 9 AM, 2 PM, 7 PM and 9:30 PM. The journey should take around 9 hours (though again, the roads can be tough so expect it to take longer). Two common bus companies that do the route between Bogota and Armenia are Bolivariano and Expreso Palmira.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: while there is a dedicated bus stop in Salento (near the main entrance to the town), sometimes the buses arriving will instead drop you off in the middle of town (often in the square). Just note that when you are ready to take a bus out of Salento you do need to go to the actual bus station to catch it.
➳ If you are looking to get around Colombia, then consider searching optional bus routes and booking your tickets beforehand. For this we like to use Busbud.
CAR OR TAXI
If you don’t want to take the bus, don’t have the flexibility to take public transportation, or you just want to get to Salento faster, you can instead take a taxi up from either Armenia or Pereira. If heading to Salento from Armenia via taxi, you can expect to pay around 85000 COP (around $22 USD/€18.75 Euros).
HIKE OR BIKE
Now, if you are looking for a real adventurous way to get to Salento and happen to be based in Armenia, then consider renting a bike and riding up to the town. This is a very common biking route for people living in Armenia - especially on the weekends. While the road is dirt (and can be muddy after a rainstorm) and somewhat steep, it is also very pretty.
From Armenia to the outskirts of Salento it is about 14 kilometers one-way (or just over 8 miles).
Now if you cannot get your hands on a bike, you can also simply just hike up to Salento - again along the same route as you would on a bike. The best map to follow is on maps.me (though it is also clearly noted on Google Maps). This hike will take you through coffee fincas, the thick forest and along rushing rivers.
Find the exact route here.
\\ How to Get Around Salento, Colombia
Salento is a very tight-knit town so you can easily get around just on your own two feet. This is especially true if the main adventures you are looking to do include visiting the mirador, going on a coffee tour or just checking out the artisan craft shops.
If you are looking to head farther outside of town, especially to the Cocora Valley, then you will need to take one of the colorful, WWII-era jeeps (Willy’s). You can find them in the main square throughout the day.
The final option is to rent a bicycle, either in town or down in Armenia. Similarly, many of the hostels also have bikes on offer. Many of the best bike rides are outside of town, including up around Cocora Valley, along the Coffee Route, or up the winding road outside of town (a popular guided route for mountain bikers).
\\ Where to Stay in Salento, Colombia
honestly if it was up to us we probably wouldn’t have left. This colorful, relaxing hostel is located about 1 mile outside of town on the road towards the coffee fincas. Set within the forest and surrounded by flowering trees, Yambolombia is a great spot to return to after a long day of exploring. Plus, they serve delicious breakfasts - which include coffee, fresh fruit, granola, eggs and homemade toast. Finally, the hosts are incredibly warm and friendly and love to give you insightful information on what to do during your stay.
| COST: private rooms between $16 and $22. Dorm rooms are between $6 and $9.
The Corner House Hostel
Located in the heart of the town off of Calle Real, this hostel is a great spot if you are looking to be right in the action of Salento. They offer free Wi-Fi, a communal room, kitchen facilities and free city maps. One thing to note is that it doesn’t look like they offer any rooms besides dorms, so it might not be the best place for couples.
| COST: between $5 and $6.50 for a dorm bed.
A new hostel located close to the square, Mahalo Hostel is renowned for its mountain views, outdoor patio and firepit, proximity to Calle Real and extra services (airport transfer, shuttle bus, currency exchange, free breakfast).
| COST: private rooms cost around $33 per night, while dorms cost $13 (comes with an outlet, reading light, and storage).
AIRBNB AND HOTELS
This beautiful family-owned home is a great spot to slow down and spend a couple of days. The whole home is yours and includes two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, a backyard and free street parking.
| COST: $23 per night
Private Room at a Bed & Breakfast
This spot is located in the heart of Salento. The single room unit comes with a bedroom (double bed), TV, Wi-Fi, and hot water. You can also bring your pet and stay for more than 14 days. Not included: at kitchen, laundry and heat.
| COST: $21 a night
Boutique Luxury Hotel
This modern hotel on the outskirts of Salento is a great spot to stay if you are looking to combine the great outdoors with classic comforts. Each room comes with its own patio, comfortable bed, bathroom, Wi-Fi, free parking and free breakfast.
| COST: $76 a night
For a true glamping experience consider staying at Montana Glamping, where you have the option to stay in either a canvas tent (which includes a double bed, patio, communal bathroom and hot drinks), a clear bubble (which includes a queen-sized bed, private bathroom, private jacuzzi and fire pit) or an actual large 2-bedroom home.
One of the main perks of this spot is that you are far enough away from town that all you see are mountains, coffee fincas and of course, lots of stars.
| COST (per night): Tent (smaller), $147; Tent (larger) $193; Bubble $418; House $464
\\ Where to Work in Salento
We couldn’t find anything about coworking sites in Salento, so if you are looking for something like that we recommend checking out nearby cities such as Armenia or Pereira (both have coworking spots).
So your best bet for remote work locations within Salento would be at one of the numerous coffee shops. Including at Café Jesus Martin, Concreto Café and a digital nomad mainstay, Café Quindio. Also, consider setting up at one of the restaurants - including Brunch de Salento and Meraki, both of which have fast internet and good coffee. Just make sure to ask if it is alright to work there first.
\\ Where to Eat and Drink in Salento
We were pleasantly surprised to find that even though Salento is quite touristy, it still offered a lot of great (and tasty) food options. From traditional cuisines to more western-style meals, Salento has a lot of options. Plus, there are also numerous restaurants - including even some traditional Colombian restaurants - that serve up delicious vegetarian and even vegan dishes.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: Salento is actually pretty famous for their trout (trucha) and therefore it is quite easy to find it served in almost all traditional Colombian restaurants in town, either fried or mixed with a thick, creamy (cheesy) sauce.
TRADITIONAL COLOMBIAN FOOD
Balcones del Ayer Restaurant
A super busy mom-and-pop shop located not too far from the main square, Balcones del Ayer is an awesome restaurant to try the local food. Including, the local favorite: trout (trucha). The portions are huge, the price is reasonable, the service is impeccable and the food is super tasty.
| COST: for two huuuuge plates of food, two hot chocolates with cheese and coffee, it cost around 55000 COP
(~ $14.50/€12.15 Euros)
| WHERE: Balcones del Ayer is located close to the square off of Carrera 6 (just down the hill from Somevi Pizza). You will know you are in the right place when you see all the people inside (the place gets busy, on weekends especially). There is also a hotel above that you can stay at. Find the exact location here.
| HOURS: we couldn't find their hours, but we believe they are only open for breakfast and lunch.
💬 INSIDER TIP: we were looking to store our large backpack somewhere so we didn’t have to carry it with us on the Cocora Valley hike, which is actually how we found this restaurant. They stored our bag in a safe room for no charge (honestly, they are just super nice people).
Rincon de Lucy
Hidden a bit away from the main touristy area, this small restaurant serves up delicious almuerzos (lunch) at a very affordable 12000 COP. If you are looking for a healthy, filing, vegetarian meal in Salento then this is the place to go. Plus, the owners are incredibly kind and welcoming and the lemonade is super refreshing. The only real drawback here, is the use of plastic cups :(
| COST: 12000 COP ($3 USD/€2.65 Euros) for a large lunch plate that includes soup, beans or lentils, salad, vegetables and rice. Plus lots of lemonade.
| WHERE: the restaurant is located off of the main touristy road (Calle Real) by about two blocks. You can find the exact location here.
| HOURS: the restaurant opens up for lunch at 11 AM most days of the week (they are sometimes closed on Mondays and Tuesdays).
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: if you are looing for a quick and tasty Colombian snack (or light meal) then consider heading out around sunset for an arepa - which is a simple patty made out of maiz (corn) flour that is then either topped with slightly salty cheese and butter or stuffed with cheese, butter, vegetables, meat, etc. There are two places in Salento that serve up delicious arepas: the first is right next to Rincon de Lucy (here) and the second is actually a street food stand off of Calle Real (around here). The first type of arepa is simply a flat corn patty with salty cheese on top (simple but oh so good) while the second option is a filled arepa (much more filling) with either just vegetables (corn, plantains, onions) or with meat.
Located right off the main square, this local pizza shop is the perfect place to carbo-load before a big day on the trail (or for that matter, after a long day on the trail). We have visited a couple of times and have never been disappointed with their selection and food.
There are three sizes of pizza available: personal, medium and large/family. We suggest the medium for two people (even if you are hungry - it totally filled us up) and the family-size for more than two people. They also allow you to split the pizza into two different types (pepperoni on one side, vegetarian on the other for example) for no extra cost. For vegetarians, we recommend either the veggie pizza or the fugazzeta pizza (the caramelized onions are insanely good).
| COST: a small pizza costs between 16000 - 18000 COP, a medium pizza between 33000 - 37000 COP and a large/family size between 44000 - 49000 COP. So roughly $4.30 USD/€3.76 Euros, $8.86 USD/€7.75 Euros, and $11.65 USD/€10.20 Euros.
| WHERE: Somevi Pizzeria is pretty hard to miss once you make it to the square. It is located just one building down from the intersection of Carrera 6 and Calle 6 (not to be confusing) and right next to a craft shop.
| HOURS: 1 PM -10 PM, usually 7 days a week (we have seen them closed on random days...)
BAKED GOODS AND DESERTS
Casa de Pan
There are many bakeries (panaderias) located around Salento. These heavenly smelling, beacons of love and joy are great spots to grab a quick snack, especially if it is chilly out. Some of the best panaderias are off Calle 5 (this one is our absolute favorite).
💬 INSIDER TIP: we highly recommend stopping in at the bakeries early in the morning and picking up a couple of pandebonos, which are small round balls that are made of yucca flour and cheese. When warm they are absolutely delicious.
A couple other treats worth trying are bunuelos (medium sized fried dough balls), which are especially good if recently baked, the local sweet donuts, that usually come stuffed with cheese, and . And nothing goes better with a fresh-baked treat than hot chocolate. Luckily, it is a very popular choice in the region and can be found almost anywhere.
| WHERE: Casa de Pan is located right off of Calle 5. It is a bright green and orange building that will more than likely have a small line out front.
| COST: expect to pay 1000 COP ($ ) for a small baked treat like a pandebono or buneulo and around 3000 COP ($0.75 USD/€0.66 Euros) per larger baked good like a whole loaf of bread.
WESTERN STYLE AND VEGETARIAN FOOD
Brunch de Salento
Very much a traveler-focused restaurant, Brunch serves up all kinds of dishes, from lasagna to omelets to buffalo wings. If you are craving something besides traditional Colombian food then Brunch will likely have it. Plus, they also have a small store on the first floor that sells an array of random, mostly outdoor gear (including ponchos and headlamps). Also, the owners, Jeff and Cecilia, are American and Colombian and can help you out with any and all questions.
| COST: most dishes cost between 17000 COP and 22000 COP, so roughly $4.80 USD or €4.20 Euros
| WHERE: you can find Brunch de Salento right off of Calle 6. The exact location is here.
One of our favorite restaurants in Salento is this colorful, outdoor restaurant that serves up super tasty food, cocktails and coffee. We highly recommend stopping in for a nice relaxing midday lunch break and sampling their wide array of dishes - most of which are vegetarian. Their menu includes curries, ramen, hamburgers (including a tasty veggie burger) and various breakfast dishes (both traditional Colombian meals and western-style).
| COST: expect to pay similar prices as you would for places like Brunch de Salento and Balcones; around 20000 COP ($5 USD/€4.40 Euros) for a large entrée and between 15000 and 18000 COP ($4.15 USD/€3.60 Euros) for a smaller dish.
| WHERE: Meraki is actually pretty far from the main square and Camino Real, which often makes it a whole lot quieter - which is especially nice if you are looking to work there (their internet is super fast). Find the exact location of Meraki here.
| DRINK: one of the best things about Meraki, besides their tasty food, are their refreshing cocktails and delicious coffee. We recommend ordering the Myntu (similar to a mojito but with pineapple) or Sangria. As for coffee, their tinto (a small coffee) is great, but their iced almond milk latte is truly special.
💬 INSIDER TIP: if you are looking for a place to work in Salento, consider heading to Meraki. They have plenty of tables, really fast Wi-Fi (around 40 mbps) and as mentioned, awesome coffee. The only downside is there are very few outlets available.
\\ Is Salento, Colombia Safe?
We lived in Salento for over three months and never once felt unsafe, even during the evenings and on busy holiday weekends. That being said, obviously you should still take the usual precautions when walking around the town; including, making sure you aren't flashing anything super expensive and keeping your purses and backpacks close to you.
Overall, we would say Salento is very safe, so much so, that Madalyne felt totally comfortable going for long runs solo on the back dirt roads around town.
If you are looking for a cute, colorful and adventurous mountain town in Colombia, then we highly recommend adding Salento to your list. Not only do you have easy access to the great outdoors, but you also have the ability to explore the Quindio culture. Including, its long history with coffee and its numerous styles of homemade crafts.
Hopefully this in-depth guide will help you have the best experience exploring and adventuring in and around Salento. If you have any questions about the town, or Colombia in general, please feel free to reach out to us here or leave a comment below.
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PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR COLOMBIA
| Reusable water bottle: we cannot imagine traveling without our LARQ water bottles thanks to their fancy rechargeable filter that eliminate up to 99% of bio-contaminants.
| Eco-friendly sunscreen: we love MadHippie sunscreen because it’s cruelty-free, vegan, broad spectrum, and reef safe. And even better, they donate $1 for every purchase to conservation efforts.
| Allbirds shoes: comfortable shoes can make or break an adventure or travel day, these eco-conscious and cozy shoes from Allbirds have been our faves for years.
► Find our full sustainable travel packing list here.
STAYING SAFE & PLANNING AHEAD
| SafetyWing: make sure you are staying safe with this easy-to-sign-up health insurance that is specifically meant for digital nomads. You can even sign up once you are already abroad.
| WayAway: this flight aggregator helps travelers find the best rates on airline tickets to tons of different locations.
| BusBud: explore millions of bus routes and destinations in one easy-to-use search; plus, you can compare prices and book your tickets online (in your language).
| Rentalcars.com: check out the world’s biggest online car rental service that is available in over 150 countries.
| iVisa: this site helps make sure you have all of the necessary documents and entry requirements while traveling.
| Wise: this app makes it super easy to transfer money between currencies while abroad, keeping you from worrying about whether you are getting the right exchange rate or not.