Backpacker’s Guide to Salento

Colombia - Salento - Main Church

The church in the main square

Salento is a small town in the heart of Colombia’s coffee region. It’s very popular with Colombian tourists and also quite popular with backpackers. The architecture of most of the buildings is Spanish colonial and most of the cafes, bars, and restaurants here are littered with antiques like typewriters, coffee machinery, and radios. Some coffee shops even have functioning 100 year old Italian-made Bezzera coffee machines! The town sits on a small plateau and is surrounded by picturesque mountains and valleys.

Popular Activities

Visit a Coffee Farm. There are several coffee farms in the area that offer coffee tours in both English and Spanish. They’ll walk you through the process from growing to roasting. And of course, all the tours include a delicious cup of 100% Colombian coffee. Two of the best tours are at Finca Don Elias and Sacha Mama.

Hike in the Cocora Valley. The national tree of Colombia, the wax palm, naturally grows in the beautiful Cocora Valley. The valley is only a short drive outside of Salento and I think it’s not to be missed. Horse riding in the valley isn’t recommend due to the harsh work conditions that the horses are put through.

Horseback Riding. There are several horse farms and plenty of space in the surrounding hills and valleys to go for a trot or a full on gallop. Before you sign up for a horse ride, please check that the horses are taken care of. Alvaro Gomez’s Horse Rental on the north side of town is highly recommended.

Play Tejo. Tejo is about as Colombian as you can get. While playing the game is free, you are required to purchase a beverage (usually beer). The point of the game is to throw a metal weight at a target lined with gunpowder packets to create an explosion while you get drunk. It’s great!

Colombia - Salento - View from La Serrana

The View from La Serrana

Hostels

La Serrana. My favourite hostel in Salento. It’s located about 1.5km from the main square on a farm with great views. The facilities are clean, comfortable, and homely. Dorms from 22000 pesos.

Plantation House. Also a solid choice and very popular. Great view of the valley, great common areas. In town, but set up to feel like you’re in the middle of… a plantation. Dorms from 20000 pesos.

TraLaLa. Probably the most popular hostel in town. Didn’t get a chance to see it but it’s highly rated on just about every website.

La Floresta. It’s just over the bridge on the road leading to La Serrana. Comfortable, clean, quiet. Feels like you’re living with a local family. Dorms from 18000 pesos.

Eating and Drinking

While there are quite a few places in town to eat, the best restaurants in terms of price, amount of food, and quality are: El Rincon de Lucy and Alegra’s on Calle Real, Llillo’s in the main square, and Brunch de Salento (American food). Trucha (trout) is a local specialty.

For drinks, my favourites are Los Amigos (the tejo bar), Donde Mi’apaCamino Real, and the tiendas in the main square (it’s ok to drink in public). SpeakEasy is also recommended.

Services

The police station, supermarket, and ATM are all located in the main square. There are a couple of fruit and vegetable shops around town that are cheaper than the supermarket. The petrol station is a few blocks northwest of the main square and the fire station is a block further north.


View Salento, Quindio, Colombia in a larger map

Getting to Salento

There are buses about every 20min from Armenia’s bus terminal to Salento (3600 pesos). They operate from around 6am till 7pm. There are buses from Pereira too (5700 pesos) but they don’t run as frequently. The bus ride takes about 1 hour from either city.

Note: All prices listed are from March 2013.

Have you been to Salento? What was your favourite part of the town?

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