Salento is the dream. A cute colourful town, cobblestone streets, with a pretty plaza and bars filled with cowboys, situated right in the middle of Colombia’s coffee region. We fell in love as soon as we got there and by the end of our stay it was one of our favourite places in South America.
To get there from Bogota takes some time but is quite simple. A seven hour bus from Terminal Norte (go Bolivariano they have seatback TVs and wifi!) to Armenia, then change to a 1 hour local bus to Salento.
High on our list of things to do was visit one of the many coffee farms in the surrounding area. We chose Finca Don Elias as it was one of the smaller, family run farms. The walk from town takes around 50 minutes through fields and into the countryside. When we arrived, Don Elias himself was there to greet us and welcomed us in with great warmth. The Don only speaks Spanish so although we could have a general conversation with him, we took the tour of the farm with his American grandson.
The tour was really interesting and we saw how the coffee process works from the seed all the way to the cup, with a freshly brewed coffee at the end.
The Cocora Valley is close to Salento and makes for a beautiful day hike. To get there just show up at the square at certain set times and take a Willy! This is the name for the jeeps that drive around the town and out to the valley.
We trekked the full loop which takes around 5-6 hours and goes through the valley of the palms, home to the tallest species of palm tree in the world. Make sure to stop of at Acaime hummingbird sanctuary, pay the entrance fee and get a free drink – hot chocolate with a side of cheese to dip in anyone?
The dish of the day in Salento is trout and we tried a few versions. Usually fried or baked in sauce it was always delicious and cheap, the best we found at the pop up restaurants in the main square.
The town itself is really small and after a while you start to recognise people. We loved sitting in The Danubio, a cowboy filled bar owned by Jairo who would sit and have a drink with us and be patient with our Spanish. We spent one night playing the game of Tejo at Los Amigos, where you throw rocks at dynamite to make it explode!
Big thanks to Juan, Ricardo and Lucho at Café Willys for giving us copious amounts of beer and tequila, taking us to Salento’s only “nightclub” and generally making us feel super welcome in their country. In the words of Colombian slang – Salento…¡Que chimba!