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 colours. Often a tiny balcony adorns the home. Especially the plaza around the village church features some impressive buildings, which all host a bar on street level.
Now, do not draw the wrong conclusions from the abundance of drinking holes – to call the village tranquil is probably a wild exaggeration! That is the reasons why backpackers hardly ever stay for the weekend, but head for Cali or Medellin for some serious partying. Que pena, because they miss the city coming alive on Saturdays, with busloads of Columbian tourists from Bogota, Medellin, Cali or Pereira. Here they soak up the fresh air and eat trout, the local specialties.
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 stalls line the narrow street leading from the plaza to the steps of the mirador. The benches along this stretch are popular hang outs for local men who preferably dress in robber boots, ponchos and a smart hat, carrying a small whip? seems a must.
The charm of Salento, the stunning scenery around it and the pleasant climate have attracted an ever increasing number of tourists. Although the vast majority is Columbians from the big cities, backpackers can be spotted more and more frequently, especially after the first hostel, the Plantation House, opened five years ago. Back then it took some guts to invest in a business like this, but it certainly has paid off for Tim, the British-born owner and his Columbian wife Christiana. As a best pick in the Lonely Planet, here travellers from all corners of the world gather here, exchange their stories and receive valuable information from the patron himself. It is indeed a lovely place, a 100 year old farmhouse turned into a hostel with a nice garden around. The family and the staff is completely devoted to making their guests feel comfortable and welcome.