Colombia Latin America

Exploring Salento, Colombia

June 18, 2018

Salento, Colombia is a charming town located in the Eje Cafetero (Colombia’s coffee region). It’s the perfect escape from the city life in Cartagena and Medellín. We spent four days out in nature, enjoying the breathtaking landscape, and sipping delicious coffee. Quite honestly, it was one of my favorite cities during my backpacking adventure. 

Where to Stay

We stayed in La Serrana, a hostel and eco-farm about a 20-minute walk from town. If you want a fully immerse yourself in nature (which I’d recommend!) stay in one of the glamping tent, which offers spectacular views of the mountains. The meals at La Serrana are delicious, too. Breakfast includes eggs and coffee, and the sides (e.g. bacon, pancakes, smoothie) cost extra, but are well worth it. The dinners are communal style and only cost $5k pesos per person. Note: dinners require a minimum of 6 people and signup closes at 4pm.

Glamping at La Serrana

Scenic Views from La Serrana

The people at the front desk are extremely helpful. I personally appreciated that they are more than happy to practice Spanish with me, but they can definitely speak English. They helped take care of our laundry ($7k pesos per kilo) and made a few reservations for us.

What to Do

Day 1: Introduction to Salento

If you take a bus from Medellin or Bogotá into Salento, you’ll probably need some time to unwind. If time and weather permits, you can walk into town, which is about 20 minutes away. Go straight down the road (Carrera 5), walk past the bridge (shown below), and then turn right onto Calle 6.

Bridge to Salento's Town Center

Trucha (trout) is a must-try in Salento. My first sample of it was at La Fonda de los Arrieros, which was recommended to us by the hostel staff. I can’t speak to anything else on the menu, but the “Trucha Especial de la Casa” was delicious.

For a closer food option before town, you can stop by the restaurant Acaime, which has colorful seats made from recycled tires, and also serves trout.

Acaime

Day 2: Coffee farm and horseback riding

Learn how coffee beans are picked and processed at Finca el Ocaso. You’ll also be able to sample a cup of first-class coffee at the end. Tours in English are offered at various times throughout the day. Note that the coffee farm is about a 45-minute walk from La Serrana, so you may want to get a jeep to and from if you’re pressed for time or don’t want to walk.

Finca El Ocaso

In the afternoon, ride horses to see the Salento countryside. It’s about a 3-hour ride and it’s absolutely beautiful. We booked the tour through La Serrana to see the waterfall Cascada Santa Rita and it cost $55k pesos. We actually couldn’t access the waterfall due to flooding, but it was still worth it. The horses are sweet and well-trained, but if it’s wet and muddy, you’ll probably be splashed a few times!

Riding Horses in Salento

Day 3: Valle del Cocora

Valle del Cocora is a hallmark of Salento and worthwhile to see, but the hike is not for the faint of heart. For us, it was an all-day excursion mostly traversing through lots of mud mixed with horse poop (one girl in our group even lost her shoe in the mud!), avoiding barb wire, and going uphill for long stretches. Wear good hiking shoes! You can also wear rain boots (can rent them from the hostel) if they fit and are comfortable. Be sure to also bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and some pesos for the entrance fees. You can read more about the hike here.

Day 4: Kasaguadua Reserve, Cafe Jesus Martin, and Mirador

The Kasaguadua Reserve offers a fascinating tour on the biodiversity of the area and how Colombian society even reflects it.You can also see how they strive to achieve sustainable living in their eco-lodges. The tour starts at 9am everyday and requires a reservation. While the hike in and out of the reserve isn’t steep, you’ll still want to wear good hiking shoes to prevent slippage.

Kasaguadua Reserve Eco-Lodge

After the tour, head back into town for food and souvenir shopping. For lunch, I highly recommend Ethnia arte y sabor. It’s a small restaurant with artsy decor. Their menu of the day is includes an entree, soup, juice, and dessert for only $12k pesos. We were impressed by how fresh and delicious the food was.

Menu of the Day

Afterward, grab a coffee at Cafe Jesus Martin. Jesus Martin is known to be the man who saved Colombian coffee, and you can read more about it here.

Cafe Jesus Martin

If time (and your stamina) permits, you can hike up the Mirador Alto de la Cruz to catch the nice view of the city. You can get to the viewpoint by going along La Calle Real, the main street through the plaza. You can stop by any of the cute stores along the way.

Steps to Salento's Mirador

View from Salento's MIrador

Summary

A few of our Colombian friends told us they wouldn’t stay more than a couple days in Salento, but we found there was plenty to see and do within four days. We were also pleasantly surprised by how consistently delicious the meals were. Overall, Salento is definitely worth a visit!

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