THINGS TO DO IN SALENTO
Nestled in the luscious rolling foothills of the Colombia countryside, Salento is a popular tourist spot for both travellers and locals alike. This adorable little town is the perfect place for a break from the bustling Colombian cities. If you're a lover of nature, coffee and photogenic Andean towns, then this is the perfect place for you.
How to get there
From Bogota - Take the Flota Magdalena bus to Armenia (10 hours) for 70,000 COP (£18.90) and then change to the Cootracir bus to Salento (1 hour) for 4,500 COP (£1.20)
From Medellin - Take the Flota Occidental bus to Armenia (6 hours) for 47,000 COP (£12.70) and then change to the Cootracir bus to Salento (1 hour) for 4,500 COP (£1.20)
Things to do in Salento #1 - Coffee farm tour
Salento is one the richest coffee growing regions in Colombia and there are a few different coffee farms that you can visit for a tour. We chose the Don Elias farm which is about 15 minutes out of town. You can take a jeep from the central plaza and they'll take you right to the farm. Once there a guide will take you around, tell you about the coffee, how they grow it etc etc. At the end you will get to sample some of the finest coffee you've ever had.
Coffee farm tour - 10,000 COP (£2.70)
Jeep to farm - 3,000 COP (£0.90)
Things to do in Salento #2 - Cocora Valley hike
Perhaps the most well known attraction in Salento and for good reason. Cocora valley is one of the only places in the world where you can see wax palms in their natural habitat. These trees stand over 65 meters tall throughout the cloud forest and look like something out of a prehistoric movie set. The hike through the valley takes around 5 hours following, for the most part, a crystal clear stream. You'll pass a few small waterfalls until you face a small climb towards the end where you'll arrive at Estrella de Agua. This viewpoint offers spectacular views of the valleys rolling off into the distance.
Valley entry - 2,000 COP (£0.55)
Jeep to valley - 4,000 COP (£1.10)
Things to do in Salento #3 - Drink beer and play with gunpowder
Drink beer and play with gunpowder or, as it's known by the locals, 'Tejo' is an old game which takes place out the back of the 'Los Amigos' pub on Carrera 4. First thing you need to is that beer is mandatory, seriously. I know, right? It's already a winner. Beer in hand, and from 10 feet away, the objective is to throw a small but heavy metal puck at a pile of small parcels filled with gunpowder. The parcels are lined around a steel ring in a pit of clay and if you hit one it explodes with a bang and some smoke. Sounds odd but it's great fun and the local guys there are incredible to watch. Definitely worth checking out.
Beer - 5,000 COP (£1.35)
Gunpowder - 3,000 COP (£0.90)
Things to do in Salento #4 - Lose yourself
Salento is beautiful. One of the best ways to get acquainted with a new place is to just walk around and explore the town. Luckily, Salento is small so you can cover most of it in around an hour. The small, cobblestone roads, the bright and colourful buildings and the friendly, smiling locals means you and your camera will have a great time.
Things to do in Salento #5 - Try the fish
For such a small place Salento certainly has no shortage of gastronomic goodness. in particular, trout. This seems to be the most popular dish in town and you can get it pretty much everywhere. In soup or fried or... well, actually that's it, but it's still bloody delicious and super economical for all us budget travellers.
Things to do in Salento #6 - Get juicy in Plaza Bolivar
Salento's charismatic central square is the perfect setting for a relaxing afternoon. Dozens of street food vendors, restaurants and little bars line the roads offering up an array of delicious food and drinks. There is a large selection of juice stands blending up your chosen fresh fruits right in front of you. We'd also highly recommend the coconade which is a lemonade-coconut hybrid and it's deeeeeelicious.
Things to do in Salento #7 - Check out Salento's oldest coffee machine
You'll find Cafe de la Esquina on the corner of Calle 5 and Carrera 5 near Plaza bolivar. Inside you'll find (what we have been told) is the oldest coffee machine in Salento. The cute old man who owns the cafe will make you a fresh cup of tinto whilst he shows you photos of his father, and grandfather before him, using the machine in the same cafe.
Cup of fresh tinto - 2,000 COP (£0.55)
Things to do in Salento #8 - Take a ride in the jeeps
Whilst these are the main and most practical form of public transport to get around Salento to the various sights and attractions, they also serve as a mini attraction themselves. You can find an array of brightly coloured jeeps lined up on the North side of the plaza ready to ferry tourist and locals alike. Even if you have nowhere in particular to go, just hop in for the experience.
Jeep ride - 3,000 - 5,000 COP (£0.90 - £1.35)
Where to go next
Cali - Take the Expresso Alcalar bus bus to Armenia (1 hour) for 4,500 COP (£1.20) then change to the Trejos premium to Cali (3.5 hours) for 20,000 COP (£5.40)