Salento is a beautiful colourful town located in the Quindio department, called “father Salento”, because it is the oldest town in Quindio. This department belongs to the Colombian coffee region, the famous “eje cafetero” which is extremely popular among backpackers. It is characterised by its colourful architecture, amazing nature, and of course as the producer of some of the best coffee in Colombia.
Salento is a destination for all tastes, it’s definitely one of the towns you can’t miss in Colombia. We really had a good time there. We especially enjoyed the relaxing vibes, the impressive nature, the food, the tasty coffee and it’s comfortable weather which is just about perfect.
If you are looking for a list of some of the top things to do in Salento to make the most of your time you have come to the right place.
1. Discover all the corners of Salento
Simon Bolivar Square
The towns main square is called plaza de Simon Bolivar. It’s the centre of the town and you will find a lot of different restaurants and cosy little cafes.
Pro tip: go have a delicious coffee at one of the cafes and try the patacones in one of the restaurants. You will notice the coffee having a sweet taste to it which means it’s from the Salento region.
Calle Real: artesanal shop street.
YES, SHOPPING! It is a long street packed with small local shops with all kinds of handicrafts: jewelry, handmade clothing, organic soap, you name it. Try the arequipe here, it’s delicious.
If you’re into souvenirs, this is paradise. You can find everything! The prices are a little high, but you can probably negotiate the prices a bit. You are contributing to the locals and sustainable tourism which is great.
You will feel like in Oxford Street, but with a Colombian vibe to it. The end of the street you see in the picture is our next destination.
2. Alto De La Cruz Viewpoint
This is the perfect thing to do on your first day as it’s just in town and it doesn’t require any planning or a lot of time.
After a few minutes of going up a steep stair you will find this beautiful viewpoint. It is a peaceful and quiet place where you can breathe the clean air and just enjoy the views. You will most likely not find many tourists there (just a couple of local dogs) as the long stair up scares away some people.
On sunny days you can see the snow in the Los Nevados national park from there.
3. Cocora Valley
This is for sure the most popular thing to do while in Salento so it gets pretty crowded on the trail, but it’s totally worth it as it’s a beautiful hiking experience. It’s the perfect day trip from Salento and the hike itself takes about five hours. The beautiful thing with this hike is that you don’t need a guide to do it and the trail is easy to follow.
Our tip is to go early in the morning before the crowd gets there. You catch a jeep from the main plaza for 4.000 cop and you take it back from the place it drops you off at, the ride is about 25 minutes.
The Cocora Valley is located in a mountainous valley that belongs to the national park Los Nevados and it is home to the national tree of Colombia, the wax palm. You are surrounded by these impressive palms during a part of the hike which is really cool. They are endangered and really important to the endogenous ecosystem. We were lucky to get a perfect sunny day, but it also rains quite a lot and it gets cold sometimes from what we have heard so be prepared.
How to get to the Cocora Valley?
- Go to the plaza (Simon Bolivar Square).
- Make the line for the jeep (in front of the police). The cost of the jeep is 4.000 cop.
- Enjoy the beautiful 25-minute ride.
- The jeep only stops at the entrance of the trail so get off there.
What does it cost?
The entrance fee is 3.000 cop (about one dollar).
Are there different trails?
The trail is like a circle. You have two options (about 6 km either way); you can start the hike walking along the river, this part is pretty flat. You can also start at the wax palm forest. There you are surrounded by wax palms and the views are amazing. This part is steeper, but as a reward you get great views. We did the latter and even though it was the steeper part (not too steep) we could really enjoy the views without being too tired to appreciate them as it was at the start of the trail.
- The wax palm forrest to hummingbird reserve (5,6 km): The jeep drops you off roughly 1 km before the wax palm forest. It will be obvious you have arrived as there will be a lot of huge palms around you. There you pay the entrance fee and you hike up the trail. There are some amazing viewpoint on the way up with beautiful views where you can catch your breath for a few minutes, drink some water and take a couple of pictures. Then you continue up to the finca. From there you can choose to take the way to the hummingbird reserve which is half an hour longer than the main route. Entrance fee is 5.000 COP, but actually you will pay for a drink (soft-drink, hot cholocate or the traditional drink, aqua panela). There are some hummingbirds there, but not many. It’s a nice little place, but for us it wasn’t really worth going there. They offer a descent lunch for 10.000 cop as well. You then return to the main trail along the river. Finally, you get to the wax palm forest and to the entrance where you will find the jeep taking you back to Salento.From “la truchería”: It is the same trail but in the opposite direction.
We entered at the wax palm forest because it was recommended, both of the routes have steep and flat parts and you will see the same. The route we did was steeper on the way up and flatter on the way down.
Wax palm forest.
Can you imagine de height of this palm?
Viewpoint from the finca.
The way back along the river.
The final part.
- Bring a lot of water (more than 2 litters)
- Bring sunscreen even if it is cloudy or rainy. Remember: you are at a high altitude closer than usual to the sun.
- Bring waterproof rain jacket (just in case).
- Bring some snacks, there aren’t any places on the trail except at the hummingbird place which serve a descent lunch for 10.000 cop plus 5.000 cop entrance fee, which in our opinion is not worth to go as there’s only a couple of hummingbirds there.
- Plastic bag, to put your garbage in as there’s no garbage containers on the trail.
4. Have one of the best food experience
There are a lot of high-quality affordable options in town. We had one of the our best food experiences in Colombia here! In this section we will tell you our favourite place:
We really recommend you to try the famous patacones. They are not like the normal patacones you usually find around South America, these ones are way better. It consists of a thin and crispy plantain with different sauces on top, cheese and the toppings of your choice. Pure awesomeness.
You will find you this in each local restaurant, we went to a place just by the plaza called “Donde Laurita”, an entire patacon for 12.000 COP. Try the arequipe dessert for 5.000 COP. The atmosphere is really cosy and the staff is super friendly.
Brunch (vegetarian/vegan options)
This isn’t just a place for brunch like you might expect from the name. They have it all: breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, smoothies, you name it. One funny thing is that you can order whatever you want whenever you feel like. For example a breakfast for dinner or vice-verca. The price is similar for all the meals which all are really big.
They have wifi. The staff are really friendly and they help you with everything (even tourist information).
Try the full-grain pancakes, the veggie burritos, the pineapple burger, the bbq burger and the peanut butter burger. They have a vegetarian option for their whole menu.
Unfortunately, we didn’t make any pictures, so you can imagine how we enjoyed the food!
This place is paradise if you’re looking for inexpensive high-quality healthy vegetarian food. We went here almost every day during our stay and we tried about half their menu and we were never dissapointed. They have healthy breakfasts for 8.000 COP, complete lunches for 12.000 COP, or dishes a la carta. Their tasty smoothies also deserve a shout-out.
Try the falafel, couscous, pesto pasta, the almond milk and the smoothie with orange, honey and pollen. Ask for the dish of the day!
Where To Stay?
We stayed at Casa la Eliana which is a nice little hostel in the centre of town. They have dorms and private rooms. We had a really cosy private room with our own bathroom. They have to parts of the hostel, one with kitchen and one without. We chose the one without as the room there was amazing.
They have a nice common area in the part we stayed at with hammocks and chairs. You can chill in the restaurant area as well, where we hung out most of the time. Another nice touch was the free delicious coffee and tea during the whole day.
The girls who work there are really friendly and helpful. Jesus the owner is a great guy as well and he will go out of his way to help you with what you need. Check their page for more info:
You will also find them on Booking and Hostelworld.
We hope you have enjoyed this post. Thanks for reading!