Salento, Quindio is a quaint little town in the heart of the coffee region where most travellers heading to Valle de Cocora will stay. But Valle de Cocora is not the only reason why people come flocking to Salento. Tucked between the rolling hills of the Western and Central Andean cordilleras, it is renowned for its breathtaking 360° views and colourful, painted traditional houses.
It’s very small, you probably only really need a day to wander about the town. I’d recommend 2 days for a Salento-Cocora trip, with 3 days being perfect for a more relaxed trip and giving you a day to recover from the hike, wander the surrounding hills or have a day in Filandia.
Like all traditional plazas in Latin America. Small, church, restaurants. Park in the centre, at the weekends surrounded by stalls selling fruit, coffee, and traditional Colombian food. V lively at the weekend, people drinking beer, playing music and dancing. Always lots of 4×4 Willys parked. Looks like a step back in time!
Although all the houses in Salento are traditionally painted, Calle Real is perhaps the most striking. The colourfully painted doors match perfectly with equally vibrant balconies which overhang onto the bustling street below, which is dotted with wooden park benches and old-fashioned street lamps. It is a street of artisanal shops selling local handicrafts and cafés. Calle Real connects the the main plaza with the steep steps that lead to the mirador Alto de la Cruz.
There are two main viewpoints, one that looks out onto the valley and another over the town. Most people take the horribly steep 250 steps at the end of Camino Real. Save yourself the pain and take the scenic route with a more gentle incline. Take a short walk up Carrera 4, which takes you to the viewpoint “Ecoparque el Mirador”. Enjoy the views from there, and then take a concrete path by the fence on the right of the viewpoint, which will take you up to the other mirador which looks out of the town. It’s a bit gritty to be honest. Then you can take the steps down to Camino Real.
In the coffee region you can find coffee tours left, right and centre, walking around town you’ll see posters and most accommodation will also have recommendations. Here are the most popular Salento coffee tours:
Filandia is a smaller, less touristy version of Salento. Similar to Salento, it has many colourfully painted houses, but it is a more authentic town that is less commercial and little geared towards tourists, especially foreigners. Just 10 minutes walk from the Plaza you will find the Mirador Colina Iluminada del Quindio, a 27-metre-high wooden structure with 360 views of the Coffee Region. There is also the natural reserve Barbas-Bremen 680 hectares of forest with hundreds of species of flora and fauna. Filandia has many lovely restaurant, we would particularly recommend the beautiful Helena Adentro which serves delicious Colombian-inspired tapas in a stunning glass patio. The maranitas pork, choriopan de chorizo santarrosano (restaurant version of a typical regional hotdog-like street food) and berenjena de finca (aubergine with goats cheese).
Salento has a range of accommodation both in the town itself and in nearby coffee farms (fincas). In the fincas, you can enjoy the tranquility of the surrounding mountains and truly be in the nature and many offer pick-up and drop-off service from the centre of Salento. However, staying in the town is more convenient if you want to be able to wander the streets and go out for meals. Both are great options, and Salento is so small that nothing it too much effort or too inconvenient.
For solo, social backpackers, Tralala and El Viajero are popular options. Many people choose to stay as close as possible to the main Plaza or Calle Real (Calle 6), but I would recommend staying on the outer edges to get the best of both worlds – convenient location and mountain views.
We stayed at Luciernagas Hostel, just 5-10 minutes’ walk from the main plaza with breathtaking mountain views with spacious rooms. The dorms have real beds, and all the private rooms have a balcony. The private rooms are small but perfectly sized.
Patacón (Main Plaza)
Salento is locally renown for its delicious patacón, that is giant smashed plantain that has toppings of your choice, much like a pizza. The Main Plaza has many street stalls offering patacon from about $10,000COP.
Luciérnaga is also a restaurant bar with glass walls, outdoor seating and a fantastic view. We went for breakfast but the lunch menu also looked delicious.
Meals from around $15,000
Meraki offers a range of international-style meals which are locally sourced. You can sit outside – nicely lit and lovely atmosphere. We a vegetarian hotdog with teriyaki fried vegetables and crispy plantain, and parcels of chicken in soft pastry. I wasn’t a huge fan of the vegetarian protein used for the hotdog, but the rest was delicious – especially the chicken parcels. But my favourite was definitely dessert – their homemade chocolate cake with crushed peanuts and strawberries is absolutely divine.
You cannot get directly to Salento. To get to Salento, you must first get to Armenia or Pereira. Then you can get a bus to Salento.
You can fly to Armenia or Pereira from any main city, then get a bus to Salento. Avianca has 4 flights a day Bogota to Armenia. Vivacolombia has flights to Pereira from Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin, (as well as Santa Marta and Barranquilla)
The easiest way to get to Salento is to go to Armenia or Pereira, as there are few direct buses to Salento from the big cities. You could also go to Pereira, but there are more buses that go from Armenia.
Bus from Bogota to Armenia (9 hours)
Buses go from Terminal Salitre and run every hour or so from midnight until 5pm, for around $50,000COP ($17USD/£13/€14)
Bus times from Bogota to Armenia:
01:30, 04:00, 05:30, 07:00, 11:00, 13:00, 16:00, 18:00
00:30, 01:30, 02:30, 05:00, 06:00, 08:45, 12:00
04:00, 06:00, 08:00, 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 17:00
Bus from Medellin to Armenia (7 hours)
From Terminal Sur
04:30, 06:30, 08:45, 09:45, 11:15, 13:00, 15:00, 18:00
Every hour from 00:30 to 23:30
There are also direct buses from Medellin to Salento four times a day with Flota Occidental leaving at 9am, 11am, 1pm, 4pm. The journey
lasts 6.5 hours and costs $45,000COP
Bus from Cali to Armenia (3 hours)
Buses run every 20 minutes between 4am-9pm. Cost $22,00COP
Companies Expreso Treso, Palmira, Tax Belalcazar, Velotax, Transa
Once you are in Armenia, buses run frequently to Salento and takes around 45 minutes.
every 20 minutes 05:20-20:00
every 20 minutes 05:40-20:00
06:30, 08:40,10:00, 11:40, 13:40,15:00,16:40 and 18:40
06:30-18:40 every hour
If you are coming from Pereira, be sure to go early as possible as it will be difficult to get to Salento after 9pm. If you miss the last bus from Pereira, you can get a bus to Armenia but ask the driver to drop you off on the vía a Salento. Here, the bus that comes from Armenia to Salento will pick you up on its way. You will see a turn off the main road on the left which goes to Salento. When you get off the bus, you just need to cross the road and you will see a bus stop. You shouldn’t have to wait long for the next bus!
From Pereira – vía Salento – Salento $6,500COP + $2,800COP
There are a few options that will take you directly between Medelllin and Salento. You need to go from Terminal Sur in Medellin.
Buses leave from Carrera 2 between 4&5, next to a school.
Buses from Salento to Armenia
Every 20 minutes from 6.00am to 9.00pm
Buses from Salento to Pereira
07:50, 10:00, 12:50, 14:50,17:50, 20:00
(more frequent at the weekend)
Direct bus from Salento to Medellin
8:00, 10:00, 12:00, 16:00
There are regular bus from Armenia and Perieira to Bogota, Cali and Medellin.