Salento has changed A LOT since my last visit in 2009… The once quiet village that young backpacker would flee on weekends because it was too quiet now seems to be on everyone’s itinerary in Colombia… Nonetheless, this small Pueblo has kept its laidback and relaxing charm, and is a good introduction to the Zona Cafetera, especially if you have little time at hand!
Salento – A Typical “Pueblo” Paisa
Salento is a small village perched on the foothills of the Andes in the middle of Zona Cafetera. Apart from the scenic surroundings, the village’s particular charm stems from its picturesque “Paisa” architecture. The small houses are painted in bright white, but the wooden shutters that serve as windows and the doors come in all colors. Often a tiny balcony adorns the home.
Salento is also home of a vivid artist colony who produces jewellery, artifacts made from bamboo and local garment, like “Campesino” hats or ponchos. The stores and stalls line the narrow street leading from the plaza to the steps of the “Mirador”. The benches along this stretch are also popular hangouts for local men who preferably dress in robber boots, ponchos and a smart hat.
Discovering the Zona Cafetera
The coffee plantations are much different in this area of the Zona Cafetera from the ones in the surroundings of Jardín: you have here much bigger Fincas, not the small family coffee farms you can find further north…
On the first visit back in 2009, I enjoyed the visit of the Finca Don Eduardo, the Finca of the owner of the “Plantation House”, the Hostel that put Salento on the Gringo Trail. 7 years later, Plantation House still exists but has lost much of its prestige to newer, smarter competition. In 2016, I opted for the very popular Finca El Ocaso, approx. 5 kilometers from Salento, also offering a very good English tour…
Did you know that it takes around 70 coffee beans to make you a decent cup of coffee and that one coffee tree will produce around 0.5 kg of ready to consume coffee?
Valle De Cocora – Wax Palm Trees Watching Over The Cloud Forest
This out-of-the-world-scenic valley stretches to the east of Salento. Jeeps starts early in the morning from there and after 30 minutes drop you off at the head of the trail.
The first hour of the hike takes you through a narrow valley with slopes and ridges dotted with gigantic Wax-Palm Trees. Clouds seem to always hang on this part of the valley…
The second part of the trek takes you straight through the Primary Cloud Forest, the canopy immediately closes overhead and you feel completely immersed in green, lush rain forest. The trek is relatively easy but partly muddy and can be explored on foot or on horseback. Mostly it runs along the Rio Quindio, which needs to be crossed height times on small shaking hanging wooden bridges that seem directly coming from an Indiana Jones movie.
It is a 5 kilometer walk up to the Acaime Reserve, where you can enjoy a hot drink and observe the many fearless hummingbirds that feed on the sweet water of the various special hummingbirds feeders there. In total 7 species can be spotted, and your odds of seeing 5 are quite good.
Fit wanderers climb even further up, an agonizing, lung-bursting 3 to 4 kilometers to Estrella de la Aqua, before heading back to Cocora. If the views are not so spectacular due to the clouds hanging atop the mountains, the way back through the Wax-Palm Trees is a really nice walk, worth the extra efforts.
Salento is easier to reach than ever: depending on your itinerary, you can either take one of the 3 daily direct Minibuses that link Medellin to Salento in 6 hours (book one day ahead at least), or fly to Pereira and then take a Minibus to Salento.
There are so many accommodation options in Salento that you do not really need to book ahead, especially during the week. Everything there is very well organized and can be done on short notice…