If you say Eje Cafetero , you say Salento. The small, colorful village in the middle of Colombia’s coffee region is very popular among travelers. And for a good reason. Why does every visitor instantly fall in love? And what is there to do in the surroundings? In this article, I take you to the village of Salento, Colombia.
Salento: the coffee village of Colombia
Located at an altitude of 1900 meters, in the department of Quindío, in Salento you will find the most beautiful colorful houses, an impressive environment and a lot of conviviality. And the best coffee, of course. A visit to this beautiful village guarantees a great introduction to the typical Colombian coffee culture. The village has about 4,000 inhabitants, who live mainly from tourism. The major road between Armenia and Bogotá used to pass through Salento, but since the new road was built, Salento is quite remote after a scenic drive with many hairpin turns.
Traveling with the Willy in Salento
The Willy, the mode of transportation in Eje Cafetero. After World War II, they became popular in the Colombian coffee triangle, especially among farmers who wanted to transport everything. The wagons were filled with big bags of coffee, bananas, furniture and more. The Willy is strong enough to carry all that weight, even up steep hills. Ideal. Nowadays they are mainly used for transporting people, so if you want to go from one village to another you take the Willy. Looking for a fun challenge? Then go standing on the back side.
What to do in Salento?
Salento is especially fun for walking through, horseback riding, eating and shopping for the finest souvenirs or delicious coffee. What to see?
Simply stroll through the village and enjoy the typical colorful houses. It’s beautiful and cheerful! I actually associate that architecture with coffee now.
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen
The church at Plaza Bolívar is a beautiful one and worth visiting. The church was built in the year 1843, with two towers. During the 1999 earthquake, the church was severely damaged and reconstructed with only one tower.
In the square in front of the church you will find a monument of liberator Simon Bolívar and Pedro Vicente Henao, one of the founders of Salento and the first teacher of the small school in the village. In addition to the monuments, there are also 12 plaques with the details of each of Quindío’s 12 municipalities. At each plaque you will also find a wax palm.
Calle Real is the street you notice first. On both sides you will find colorful cottages, many souvenir shops and restaurants. The restaurant El Rincon del Lucy, on the corner with calle 4, is really delicious. Have a typical Colombian lunch before climbing the stairs to the viewpoint!
Climb the steps to El Mirador Salento
At the end of Calle Real you will find 253 colored steps up the mountain. At the very top you have a beautiful view of Salento, of the other side of the valley and the mountains. It is certainly not the most spectacular view in Colombia, but well worth it.
From January 3 to 9: party in Salento
Every Jan. 3 to Jan. 9, Salento celebrates so many years of the village’s founding on Jan. 5, 1842. Will you be in Salento during that time? Then check out the program by searching Google for Fiestas Aniversarias Salento.
What to do in the surroundings of Salento?
Salento is also the base for (day) trips in the area. From here you can easily visit many beautiful things in the coffee area. I myself love the area and could easily move there. So beautiful!
Recuca: an active coffee tour
I visited Recuca for the first time in 2014, and for the second time in 2015. Although I actually found it too focused on tourism the second time around, it’s still a fun tour. Not that expensive, you can have a delicious lunch, hoist yourself in traditional clothing and pick coffee beans. Of course, you’ll also learn all about the road to coffee! Check the location and opening hours here.
Visit an avocado plantation
How fun: seeing for yourself where the avocado actually grows! Just going to an avocado plantation will be difficult, but perhaps the finca where you are staying happens to have one. As was the case with us. The owners took us to their plantation, including explanations and walking tour. I haven’t seen anything this beautiful in ages…. Want to know more about visiting an avocado plantation and/or about the avocado? Click here!
El Ocaso: a coffee tour near Salento
I visited Salento again in November 2016, and this time I wanted to do another coffee tour. We chose El Ocaso, a finca near Salento. A little less massive than Recuca, with no traditional dance and dress style. In addition, a lot cheaper: we paid only 20,000 pesos per person (January 2019). The estate is beautiful with a great view, and again you will pick coffee beans and of course taste the best coffee you have ever had. I don’t like coffee at all, but here was the first time where I did like it. Click here for more information.
Hiking in Los Nevados
The beautiful Los Nevados National Park is among the highest mountain ranges in Colombia. Here you can do multi-day treks or walk to high snow-capped peaks on a day trip. There are several options, for example a departure from the Cocora Valley (see below) or a day trip from Pereira. We took a day trip to the glacier Santa Isabel at 4,750 meters altitude. An amazing adventure and an unforgettable experience in the Colombian snow! Do you want this tour? Find everything you need to know about this trek in Los Nevados here.
The Quindío Botanical Garden
Near Recuca, just south of Armenia, you will find a botanical garden: Jardín Botánico Quindío. Here you will find many hummingbirds, beautiful plants and flowers, a viewpoint and a butterfly-shaped garden. You can only walk through it with a guide, but it is absolutely worth it. The botanical garden is open Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Price: 30,000 pesos per person. Find more information here.
Valle de Cocora: hiking among the highest palms in Colombia
Many travelers come to Salento to hike in Valle de Cocora. This nature reserve is one of the most beautiful in Colombia, so this is not to be missed! Walk for hours among the wax palms, the tallest palm in the world. When you look up it almost makes you dizzy so high are the palm trees. There are so many of them too: wonderful! Want to know all about hiking in Valle de Cocora? Click here!
Filandia: the lesser known but wonderful other coffee village
Salento is not the only cute colorful village in Colombia; there are many more. In the coffee region, the village of Filandia is really worth visiting. Not only is it in the middle of beautiful nature and among coffee, but also this village is just as colorful and has a particularly beautiful blue church. In addition, you’ll find far fewer foreign tourists here, so you’ll see even more of the coffee culture. I myself stayed here for 5 days with my parents, and from here we discovered Eje Cafetero. Hostal Colina de Lluvia is a highly recommended place to stay!
What else to do?
There is much more, so you can also visit Armenia, go to Parque del Café, to Kasaguadua Nature Reserve and there are plenty of other coffee fincas. Or visit the Otún Quimbaya Sanctuary. Ranked in the top 100 greenest destinations of 2017, this natural park is well worth a visit. Hard to get to though, so great for those who like ecotourism and want more off the beaten path! You can also go horseback riding or mountain biking. In short: in Salento you won’t have to be bored!
Where to stay in Salento?
Despite having been to Salento many times, I have never slept there. Personally, I find the village too touristy to stay overnight and would rather stay somewhere in nature. Do you want to stay in Salento or find a ho(s)tel nearby? Check out the best deals here! Last time I stayed at one of the most beautiful places I have ever slept in Colombia: Eco-Hotel la Cabaña. A unique experience! Read and see all about it here!Tip: In high season (Colombian puentes, Easter, Christmas, school vacations in July and August and from mid-December through the third week of January), book your ho(s)tel in advance.
Or find your hostel or hotel in Salento here:
How to get to Salento?
Salento can be reached from Armenia or Pereira by bus. From Armenia, the ride takes about 45 minutes. Buses also go from Salento to several cities, including Medellín. For bus transportation, check the little bus station at carrera 2 # calle 4, opposite the little school with a sports field. Local transportation goes by the Willy. For example, Willy’s regularly leave for Valle de Cocora or coffee finca El Ocaso. They leave from Plaza Bolívar. Renting a car for this region is also possible! For example at Rentalcars. Immediately everything is well taken care of. Read all about driving in Colombia here.
From Bogotá, take a bus or plane to Armenia or Pereira. Flying takes about 30 minutes, taking the bus takes about 8 hours. To divide the trip into two days, there are nice stopovers to choose from:
- From Bogotá to Honda , to continue some days later to Armenia or Pereira
- From Bogotá to Melgar for Piscilago and from there on to Armenia
Want to go from Bogotá to Tatacoa and then on to Salento? That’s a long trip and for that too, Piscilago is perfect as a stopover on the route. Especially if you travel by car and want a day of rest.
Eje Cafetero: not to be missed while traveling through Colombia!
This article used affiliate links. Click here for more information.