Salento in the Cocora Valley lies at the entrance of the Los Nevados National Natural Park. Renowned for its lush vegetation and extensive coffee plantations, the town, founded in 1850, still preserves much of its paisa architecture.
Salento draws hikers eager to explore the meadows and forests of the valley and witness the colorful birdlife that populates the majestic wax palms.
Salento is home to numerous coffee plantations, including Finca El Ocaso, Don Elias, and the Plantation House. It is the ideal place to indulge your love of java and learn about the complex coffee-making process.
A six-hour trek through the Cocora Valley and its hundreds of 60-foot-tall wax palm trees includes a hike up to Acaime to the breathtaking hummingbird sanctuary.
Fresh trout is a delicacy in Salento. From trout al ajillo at La Fonda de los Arrieros to the fried trout at El rincon de Lucy, Salento is the place for delectable fish dishes.
Colombia is home to more avian species than any other country in the world. Andean Motmots, Emerald Toucanets, and Torrent Ducks are just a few of the colorful birds that make Salento their home.
At Aldea de los Artesanos, you can observe local artisans work at their craft or participate in one of the many art workshops.
Situated in the heart of Salento is the remarkable and breathtaking Cocora Valley. Year in, year out, tourists flock to this place to catch a glimpse of the lush green landscape. The Cocora Valley is located within the Los Nevados National Natural Park, which is the natural habitat of a wide variety of endangered flora and fauna.
If you're a fan of coffee, the Café Jesús Martín is a great place to stop by on your visit to Salento. It's located within a tranquil village that is adjacent to the street and three blocks away from Salento's main square. The coffee beans used in the making of the beverage are of high quality. The Cafe's menu is three pages long and filled with appealing options. Visit the Cafe Jesus Martin and try the locals' favorite drink, the Cafe Nevado (an espresso with chocolate and cream on top).
This is definitely the best place to get the perfect view of the nearby valleys and mountains. Get to the top by going up the colored stairs (which will take approximately 10 minutes). These are highly visible from the town center. Upon reaching the top, you'll notice that there is not much to see on that end. Take the path on your left. It will lead you to a shelter made of concrete where you'll be greeted with a magical view of the misty green landscape that lies beyond. Make sure you have your camera in place so as to capture every detail of the panoramic view.
Located a few kilometers outside of town is a place where you get to learn everything there is to know about coffee. Although it's possible to take a bus, taxi or bike, walking is the recommended option. Learn all about the different stages coffee goes through (growing, harvesting, processing, brewing) before it reaches your cup. For instance, did you know that coffee seeds, which are naturally green, germinate within berries that change color to bright pink when ripe?
Some locations have the unique ability to connect us to the culture of a new place. The Salento Town Square is one such location. Here, you get to learn about Colombia's way of life and interact with the friendly locals. Everyday life in Salento is simply one-of-a-kind. Various activities, such as vendors selling foods, children playing with smiles on their faces, and adults chatting as the sun sets are done in such a heartwarming way. Try out the local dishes at any restaurant. Try a delicious meal of rice, plantains and a side order of salad.
The best time to visit Salento is from December to March, the summer months, which are ideal for hiking and seeing the landscape at its lushest.
El Edén International Airport in Armenia (AXM) is 60 minutes from Salento. There are daily flights from Medellin and Bogota, and weekly flights from Fort Lauderdale. A taxi to downtown Salento is COL$85,000.
It's a 3.5 hour drive from Cali to Salento along Carretera 1 to Route 25.
There is daily bus service from Cali to Salento via Armenia, which takes between 5.5 and 7 hours. Fares range from COL$17,000 - COL$26,000.
The Salento Real, a casual yet colorful hotel, offers comfortable rooms, suites, as well as a restaurant and courtyard. El Mirador del Cocora, a quaint lodge, overlooks the mountains and valley.
Calle Real - the Calle Real area preserves much of its paisa architecture, known as bahareque, made from clay reinforced with canes.
Alto de la Cruz - the Alto de la Cruz lookout oversees Salento. The steps leading to the top are numbered and symbolize the Stations of the Cross.
Navarco - Navarco is a nature reserve with copious flora and fauna that can be explored on horseback.
A mototaxi, similar to a rickshaw, accommodates three adults. Fares start at COL$4,541 with COL$300 for each additional mile.
Car rentals in Salento start at COL$129,755 per day.
Salento has over 200 artisan shops on Calle Real.
Supercocora carries staples as well as fruits, baked goods, and beverages. Salento is relatively inexpensive. A gallon of milk averages COL$8,216 and a dozen eggs is COL$3,850.
Brunch de Salento serves pancakes, waffles, omelets, hamburgers, veggie burgers, and curry dishes. Entrees average COL$20,000. Café Bernabé Gourmet specializes in pastas and beef dishes. Entrees average COL$25,000.