Salento, Colombia is one of the most charming, scenic places in the country and the absolute center of Colombia Coffee Region. It’s a very popular destination among locals, who crowd it over the weekend; whereas during weekdays it has a chilled, almost sleepy feel.
While Salento itself is lovely – despite being quite touristy – it’s the surroundings that are truly worth the trip. So, if you are planning to visit Colombia, make it a point to go and to spend a few days there.
This post highlights all the unmissable things to do in Salento, and shares some practical information to organize your visit.
13 Things To Do In Salento, Colombia
Salento is charming place, and there is nothing better than a stroll around town to get a feel for it. The main square, Plaza Bolivar, is the best starting point. There you will find Nuestra Señora del Carmen church. The square is surrounded by cafés, bars and restaurants so it’s a good place to stop for a bite.
From the square, you can then head to Calle Real, the main pedestrian street. It’s a pop of color, with white buildings adorned with colorful banisters and windows, souvenir shops, a couple of restaurants and some interesting bars.
There is no way you can visit Salento and not eat trout. I think I had it for virtually every meal when I visited. Every single restaurant and eatery in town serves trout. You can have it with just about a million toppings. Locals rave by one that is grilled and then topped with a creamy, cheesy and garlicky sauce. If that isn’t your thing, opt for the plain grilled one for a lighter option. The typical sides include rice and patacones – twice fried and pressed plantains which in this part of Colombia are huge.
The best place to try trout is a local restaurant called Rincon de Lucy. Portions are huge and prices fair.
Try the food trucks
Oftentimes, street food is the way to go in South America – and Colombia is no different. In Salento, you’ll find a whole area lined with food trucks. It’s a few blocks from Plaza Bolívar down Calle 6. Trucks sell all sorts of food: from arepas to Mexican burritos, sandwiches, burgers and even kebabs. It’s a very budget friendly place to eat.
Referred to as Colombia’s national sport, tejo is a lot of fun to play or – if you don’t fancy that – watch. The game consists in launching very heavy metal puck (called tejo) at gunpowder targets placed over a metal ring across the court. As you can imagine, it literally gets explosive, loud and a lot of fun whenever you hit the target.
The best place to play tejo in Salento is Los Amigos, a few blocks from the main square. There is no fee to enter or to play, but you will have to buy a drink – which actually is the perfect way to enjoy a game. If you don’t feel quite ready to go for a full game, opt for the mini-tejo court which is meant to make it a bit easier for newbies.
Admire the view from the Mirador
For incredible views of Salento and its surroundings make sure to walk up to the mirador Alto de la Cruz. It’s an easy walk from Calle Real. Once up, you will find people selling street food and souvenirs, and you can walk the easy trail to the shelter for even better views.
Have a drink at Billar Danubio Hall
As you’ll walk along Calle Real, you will inevitably spot a large bar where men of all ages are sitting drinking beer or aguardiente or playing a game of pool or domino. I’d dare say that 95% of the customers are men, but it’s a fun place to hang out and have a drink even for women.
Hike in Valle de Cocora
If there is one place you shouldn’t miss when visiting Salento, that’s Valle de Cocora. Located east of Salento, this is a place that will make you wow. Imagine mountains and deep green color; and trees, lots of trees everywhere. Except they are not regular trees, they are palm trees! Cocora Valley is famous for its wax palm trees that can reach up to 60 and even 70 meters.
The best way to explore Cocora Valley is on a hike and there are several trails of varying length and difficulty.
Practical Information: To get to Cocora Valley, get one of the jeeps that depart more or less every couple of hours from the main square. The first one goes at 6:10 am and the last one at 4:00 pm. The ride costs 3600 pesos ($1 USD) and takes about 30 minutes.
Make sure to read my post “A Complete Guide To Hiking Valle De Cocora, Colombia.”
Visit Reserva Natural Acaime
Located in the Cocora Valley, Reserva Natural Acaime is a hummingbird haven. It takes about one hour to get there from the place where the jeeps drop you off, and there is a small fee to visit – which actually includes a drink which, at that point, will be welcome. There are at least 6 varieties of hummingbirds and you can spot all of them as the zip past people.
Go to Santa Rita waterfall
One of the nicest places to visit at a short distance from Salento, and which can be reached on a nice hike is Santa Rita waterfall. There is a small fee to get to the waterfall, but worth it to enjoy a place that is blissfully isolated and refreshing.
Visit a coffee farm
You can’t go to Colombia Coffee Region and not visit a coffee farm. Besides, this is one of the few places in Colombia where you can actually enjoy good quality coffee. Indeed, the country that produces the largest quantity of excellent Arabica coffee, exports most of it and is often left with just the cheap stuff.
While with the help of international corporations Colombia is pushing for a sustainable, high quality coffee culture, make sure you show your support for the local producers and visit a coffee finca. There are several near Salento, but the most recommended one is Don Elias, an organic farm at about one hour walk from town that offers tours in English and Spanish. Tours last about an hour and at the end of it you are offered a cup of excellent coffee.
Another excellent coffee finca is El Ocaso, which is a few km outside of town. The tour around the coffee farm lasts around one hour and at the end of it you are even taught how prepare coffee the Colombian way. You can book your visit to Finca El Ocaso here.
Then have coffee in town
With so much coffee around, Salento has some lovely coffee shops. The most popular one is Jesus Martin, where you can have a cup of good espresso (so says the Italian) or regular coffee, as well as a slice of cake or a cookie to go with it.
Go shopping at Aldea del Artisano
At a short distance from Salento town center there is a small community of artisans that you can visit to observe how local souvenirs are made, and where you can buy a thing or two to take home with you. It’s much better than shopping on the crowded and overpriced Calle Real in town.
Go mountain biking
One of the most popular things to do in Salento, Colombia, is mountain biking. Several companies in town run mountain biking expeditions which take you to explore the region and the coffee plantations. Alternatively, you can rent bikes directly from your hostel. Make sure to get a good map not to get lost!
Practical Tips To Organize Your Trip To Salento, Colombia
Day trips of Salento and Colombia Coffee Region from nearby cities
Salento truly is the most charming small town in Colombia Coffee Region, and if you plan on visiting you should base yourself there. If, however, you’re planning on staying in a bigger city nearby, you have the option of visiting Salento on a day trip. These are the best ones:
- Cocora Valley, Salento and coffee tasting
- Wax palms, Salento and coffee tour from Salento or Pereira
Organized multi-day tours of Salento and Colombia Coffee Region
The best way to enjoy Salento and all that it has to offer is to travel slowly and spend at least a couple of days in the area. If you are time constrained, can’t be bothered to organize your trip but still want to go, there are some good multi-day trips option departing from Bogota and even Medellin.
These are the best ones:
- 3 day trip to Coffee Region from Bogota
- 3 day trip to Coffee Region from Medellin
- 4 days Coffee Region: Cocora Valley, Salento, Filandia and thermal springs
Guided tours of Colombia that also go to Salento and Colombia Coffee Region
If you would like to visit Colombia and include Salento and Colombia Coffee Region in your trip, but don’t really care for planning and would rather leave the job to the experts, you can count on a handful of great guided tours of Colombia run by G Adventures. The following all go to Salento and the Coffee Region:
- Classic Colombia – a 16 day tour that crosses the country from Bogota to Cartagena and Tayrona National Park.
- Colombia Journey – a 9 day tour covering strictly the best of the country.
- Colombia express – a 9 day tour that goes to the most famous destinations, including Colombia Coffee Region.
- Colombian culture, Caribbean and Lost City – a 22 days tour that goes to the most famous destinations, combining adventure and relaxation.
Where to stay in Salento
For as small as it is, Salento has some excellent accommodation option suitable for all tastes and budgets. These are the best places to stay in town:
- Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel has nice private rooms with beautiful mountain views, and some very good dorms. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Hotel Salento Plaza has plain, clean rooms set around a beautiful garden. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Casa Borbon has plain rooms with incredible views of the mountains. It’s located right in the heart of Salento. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Hotel Terasu Salento has very spacious modern room overlooking the mountains and set around a beautiful garden. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Casa La Eliana is an excellent budget friendly option, with private rooms as well as dorms. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
How to get to Salento
Salento is easily reached from Pereira and Armenia, the two largest cities in Colombia Coffee Region. Buses from Armenia to Salento run around every 30 minutes and the ride takes about one hour. There are about 6 daily buses connecting Pereira to Salento, and the ride takes about one hour and 15 minutes.
If you are traveling from Medellin, you will have to change in Pereira and the overall journey will take you up to 8 hours, depending on how quickly you manage to get a connecting bus to Salento.
If you are traveling from Bogota you can either fly to Armenia or Pereira and then take the bus to Salento.
Alternatively, you can opt for ground transport all the way, with (preferably) a direct bus to Armenia, where you will have to change and take a bus to Salento. It’s a long trip that will take anything between 10 and 12 hours in total. The good news is that the views along the way are beautiful and that buses in Colombia are comfortable. The bad news is that then road is very windy and that Colombian bus drivers aren’t exactly champions of safety. Make sure to take dramamine!
How to move around
Salento is quite small, and the best way to explore it is on foot. If you want to visit the surroundings, you can opt for a day trip with one of the many agencies in town, or you can hire a taxi for the day (make sure to haggle the price for a flat fee) or even rent a motorbike.
When to visit Salento
I visited Salento in March and there was no way of escaping the rain. On any given day it would start pouring between 12:00 and 2:00 pm, and it continued raining for a few hours. I guess this explains why the region is so lush and green.
Temperatures vary slightly throughout the year, remaining between 27 and 30 during the day and dropping to about 17 at night. The driest months are July, August and September.
Salento is a popular destination among Colombians, so your experience will vary a lot depending on the time of the week you visit: it can get really crowded at weekends! If you want to experience Salento when it is both charmingly quiet and fantastically lively, make sure to stay for a few days and include a weekend. There are plenty of things to do in Salento to keep you entertained anyways!
What to pack for your trip to Salento
When you pack for your trip to Salento and Colombia, keep two things in mind: this is a place where you will be staying outdoors most of the time, and it practically pours every day.
The following is a very essential list of things you really have to take with you:
- Osprey Manta 28 – an excellent daypack that has lots of pockets to organize your stuff. Recommended for short hikes.
- A 10 L drybag – use it to store your camera the minute it starts raining.
- Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX or another pair of excellent hiking boots – if you plan to hit the trails, you can’t go without them. Make sure to get a pair that is water repellent.
- A pair of hiking pants such as Kuhl Cliffside Convertible.
- A couple of cotton t-shirts such as the Kuhl Sora t-shirt, and the Kuhl Wunderer shirt. For short sleeves opt for Kuhl Kyra and Kuhl Sora.
- A sweater or a micro fleece for those times it gets cooler. I love Kuhl Lea Pullover.
- A rain jacket or a poncho. Kuhl Airstorm rain jacket protects nicely from rain and wind.
- A good DSLR camera. I have a Nikon D3300.
- A couple of good lenses – go for a 18-105 mm for wide angle and landscape, and a 70-300 mm for wildlife.
- A couple of memory cards.
- If you aren’t into photography opt for a compact mirrorless camera.
- Water bottle and filter – avoid using plastic.
- An umbrella – this really is an essential item.
Other useful information
i recommend taking an actual travel guide with you for those times you are stuck with no wi-fi and whenever you need to find quick information. These are the ones I recommend:
Further readings about Colombia
For more information and for inspiration on things to do and beautiful places to visit in Colombia, check out my posts:
- 17 Unmissable Things To Do In Bogota
- 30 Incredible Things To Do In Cartagena
- Where To Stay In Cartagena – The Best Neighborhoods And Places To Stay
- An Excellent Guide To San Gil, Colombia
- A Concise Guide To Villa De Leyva, Colombia