Known for its coffee farms, year-round mild temperatures, and being the gateway to Cocora Valley and Natural Los Nevados National Park, Salento is an unforgettable place that should be on your “must-see list” when visiting Colombia. From where to eat, where to stay, and things to do in Salento, we have one epic travel guide waiting for you below.
Salento is a charming town. Full of restaurants, quaint streets, and loads of outdoor fun for those looking for some. Outdoor fun, not your speed? No worries. You can rest up in a quiet accommodation out in nature to escape the hustle and bustle of Colombian’s large cities.
However you choose to spend your time in Salento, one thing is for sure, you’re bound to love it. It’s beautiful, laid back, and ready for you to experience. Let’s get to the best things to do in Salento!
The Ultimate Salento Travel Guide
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Where Is Salento?
Located due west of Bogota, you’ll find the quiet and colorful town of Salento. Sitting at 6,217 ft. in elevation in the Quindío region of Colombia, Salento is one of the best coffee towns in all of Colombia. With its high elevation, moderate temperatures, and adequate rainfall, Salento is lush, mountainous and the perfect Colombian destination for those outdoor lovers and coffee enthusiasts.
How To Get To Salento
Flying Into Salento (Armenia or Pereira)
Salento is nestled away, so getting there takes a little bit of time. The quickest way to get to Salento is to catch a flight into either Armenia or Pereira, which are the two closest airports to Salento. Once in Armenia or Pereira, you’ll need to drive an hour to get the rest of the way. You can either rent a car, call an Uber, or see if your accommodation in Salento offers airport pickup.
Taking A Bus To Salento
If you are on a budget or have the time, traveling overland by bus to Salento is for you. The good thing about Colombia is bus travel is a well-oiled machine. Popular with budget travelers and backpackers, traveling by bus in Colombia is a great way to get around the country.
Medellin to Salento By Bus
Taking a bus from Medellin to Salento is around a 6.5 to 7-hour journey. Departing several times a day Flota Occidental is the operating bus transporter for this route. You can book online or ask your accommodation in Medellin for assistance.
Bogota To Salento By Bus
Whereas from Bogota, the route is not as direct. It’ll require two buses to get you to Salento. First, you’ll need to book a bus to Armenia or Pereira taking around 8-10 hours. Once in Armenia or Pereira, you’ll need to catch a connecting bus to get you the rest of the way (about an hour) to Salento.
How Many Days Do You Need In Salento?
At a minimum, two days. One day for Cocora Valley and the second to explore Salento. If you can spare another day, three days in Salento would be the perfect amount of time to spend there. We only spent two days (three nights) in Salento and wished we had one more day to enjoy.
For accommodations in Salento, you have two options. Staying in the town of Salento, or outside of town. If you stay in Salento, you’ll be right in the thick of everything and able to walk to the many amazing restaurants, in-town coffee shops, and just outside-of-town coffee farms. If you are outside of town, you’ll be in the quiet of nature.
We opted to stay out of town at Glamping Lumbre, a little glamping getaway in Salento, and loved it! And since we had a rental car, we were able to come and go as we pleased in between Salento and Cocora Valley.
The Best Things To Do in Salento, Colombia
1. Go Hiking in Cocora Valley & See the Giant Wax Palms
The absolute highlight of Salento and the reason so many people flock here is to see the nearby Cocora Valley. Located 20-25 minutes away from Salento, Cocora Valley is the sprawling lush valley home to 200 ft. high palm trees.
Great for hiking, bird watching, or just taking in the breathtaking scenery of the region, Cocora Valley is a must-visit when exploring Salento. Accessibly by shared-jeep rides (Willy’s) from Salento’s main town square, visitors can visit Cocora Valley for a few hours of hiking and see those giant wax palms up close.
You can read everything you need to know about hiking in Cocora Valley through our guide!
2. Stroll down Calle Real in The Heart of Salento
The colorful and bustling street of Calle Real. Home to shops, cafes, souvenir shops, and authentic artisan stores, Calle Real is one of the main (if not the main) streets in Salento. It’s crowded and bustling but one of the best streets in the town to wander down and enjoy.
3. Take a Coffee Tour at Las Acacias Coffee Farm
Next to taking a hike in Cocora Valley, taking a tour of a coffee plantation is the second absolute must-do when visiting Salento. There are loads of coffee plantations to choose from, two of the most popular being El Ocaso and Don Eduardo.
While these places have fantastic reviews, we opted for something a little more on the quieter side. Our hotel recommended Las Acacias Coffee Farm and it was fantastic!
The coffee farm is sustainable and a single origin, single farm roaster. Meaning, the only place you can get Las Acacias Coffee is from the farm itself, nowhere else. Las Acacias Coffee took our small tour group around their plantation showing us how they grow, harvest, and eventually roast the coffee beans. The tour was about an hour and costs $20,000 COP ($5-$6 USD) per person and you get a free coffee afterward.
4. Devour The Local Delicacy, Trout
On every menu, you will find trout. It’s the one food you have to eat when in Salento, it’s their town’s staple cuisine, a regional delicacy, and it’s damn good. The trout is fried and while various toppings are offered, the garlic sauce is the way to go.
5. Hike To A Waterfall or Two (Cascadas de Cocora or Santa Rita Waterfall)
Located near the town of Salento are two waterfalls. One, is the tallest waterfall in the region, Cascadas de Cocora (pictured below), the other is Santa Rita. Cascadas de Cocora sits on the property Glamping Lumbre and is free to those staying at their accommodation. To get here, it’s about a 12-minute drive from Salento and then about a 30-minute steep hike to the base of the falls.
The other Salento waterfall is Santa Rita, which is located on the privately-owned Finca Santa Rita about 20 minutes from Salento and costs $7,000 COP to enter. To get here, you’ll need to catch a ride to the trailhead and hike 25 minutes to reach the waterfall
6. Wander Around Salento’s Main Square, Plaza de Bolívar Salento
A large square in the heart of Salento is home to many restaurants, cafes, street performers, and vendors selling souvenirs and fresh juices. Walk the square a few times before veering off down Calle Real or another colorful Salento street.
At the end of Calle Real, you’ll find a set of stairs leading to the top of an overlooking hill. Once at the top, you’ll have views of the town of Salento below. Perfect for sunset, plan to walk up, grab a beer from a local vendor and watch the sun fall below the horizon.
8. Play Some Tejo
If this is your first time in Colombia, Tejo may be unfamiliar to you, but something you should definitely play! Tejo, the national sport of Colombia, is similar to the American backyard sport of cornhole (also known as “bags”), but with gunpowder. Yup, gun powered
The idea is fairly simple. Throw a metal ball (the Tejo) and aim to hit a clay board at the end of a “runway”. Depending on where your Tejo hits, varying amounts of points are awarded. There are small little triangles of gunpower on the clay board and when the Tejo hits those gunpowder triangles, BANG! We’ll get a reverberating bang and the crowd will cheer. It is a freaking blast!
You can play, or watch Tejo at Cancha De Tejo Los Amigos.
9. Enjoy Music at Kafe del Alma
In the evenings, Kafe Alma offers live music for its patrons to enjoy. It’s a small, open-air bar with a great vibe located right on Calle Real. From local beers to cocktails, plan to end your day at Kafe Alma and enjoy the night.
10. Check Out Salento’s Coffee Shops
If you can’t make it on a coffee tour, make sure to definitely visit Café Jesús Martín. Jesus Martin, known as the man who saved Colombian coffee, has a café right in the heart of Salento. The coffee beans are hand-selected by the café and prepared by trained baristas to ensure its patrons sip nothing but the best quality coffee.
From traditional brews like espresso to amazing cold brews, Café Jesús Martín is a must-visit when strolling the streets of Salento.
11. Take A Day Trip To Filandia
If you have the time and are looking to experience another colorful Colombia town, consider adding Filandia to your Colombia itinerary. While we did not get the opportunity to visit, from what we are told, it’s well worth the trip, if you have the time.
Located 20km / 13 miles northwest-ish of Salento, the best way to get here is by driving the 35-minute route. If you do not have a car, you can opt to take a bus from Salento to Filandia and coordinate that with your accommodation.
Filandia, from what we are told, is similar to Salento, just not as crowded with tourists but just as colorful with its white houses and bold, colorful accents.
13. Explore Los Nevados National Park
Now, if you have more than a few days in Salento and love hiking, definitely consider hiking to Nevado del Tolima Summit or to Paramillo del Quindio Summit. Full disclosure, since we only spent two days in Salento, we did not get to tackle these two hikes. However, if we had the time, we definitely would have done one of them, they sound amazing!
- Nevado del Tolima Summit: Sitting over 17,000 feet (5,212 meters), Nevado del Tolima is a dormant volcano located in Los Nevados National park. The summit is so high, that it is always covered in snow. To access the summit, you can book a four-day trek and experience amazing views and glaciers along the way.
- Paramillo del Quindio Summit: For something a little less intense, Paramillo del Quindio sits at 15,500 feet (4,750 meters) and is around a 3-day trek.
Best Places To Eat In Salento
One thing Salento has a lot of is restaurants and cafes. Trust us when we say you won’t go hungry here. A few of our favorites as well as some highly-rated picks are just below.
- Camino Real: A fun bar with beer, cocktails, and lot of food options, and a rooftop too!
- Cumana Bistro Food: An unbelievable Venezualin restaurant and our favorite meal we had in Salento
- Coco Bowl: Vegetarian restaurant offering fresh and healthy smoothy bowls with Vegan options
- Brunch de Salento: Owned by an American and serves up huge breakfast portions that are damn good
- El Rincon de Lucy: Serving up traditional Colombian food like fish, beef, and chicken with sides of rice and plantains.
- Café Bernabé: the more luxurious and expensive of our food options but we are told the food is fantastic!
- Makao: This place was recommended to us by a fellow traveler for the trout and it was so good!
- Somevi Pizzeria: If you are craving some pizza, head here.
- Hamburguesería El Cacharrito: For those looking for tasty burgers and a good atmosphere
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)