Salento is an adorable little town in Colombia’s coffee region and one of my favorite places to go for a weekend trip. It’s only a bus ride away (ok, two bus rides away) from Cali and gives me a chance to get away from the heat while enjoying some delicious coffee.
When to go: Surrounded by mountains, Salento is a beautiful town and there are plenty of things to do when you visit. Naturally, there are more things to do on the weekends, but it’s also much more crowded. During the week, you can still find plenty to do, but it feels a little more like a ghost town. I like to have some peace and quiet from time to time, so I loved going during the week. But if you’re traveling alone the weekend might be a better option.
How to arrive: Salento is easy to reach by bus from Cali, Pereira, Medellín, and Armenia. From Medellín and Cali, you need to take a bus to Armenia or Pereira (if you’re in Cali, Armenia is the better option). The bus from Cali is around $23,000 COP and takes 3-4 hours.
I always use the company Expreso Palmira because it’s a small bus with professional service and wifi (although sometimes the wifi doesn’t work, just a heads up!).
Once you arrive at the terminal in Armenia or Pereira, you need to take a short bus ride to Salento. It’s about a 45 minute ride and costs $4,000-$5,000 COP.
When you arrive to Salento there are plenty of things you can do to make your visit unforgettable! These 9 activities will help you make the most out of your trip:
1. Drink some coffee!
What better place to drink coffee than in Colombia’s coffee region? And with chilly mornings and evenings, a hot coffee is just the thing to help warm you up! Salento is filled with little cafés that have delicious, local coffee and baked goods. Try some different ones to help you decide on your favorite! (But be careful because drinking too much caffeine is actually a real thing).
The best coffee I’ve tried here is Café Quindio’s organic coffee, but there are so many other brands that I’m sure there are better ones I haven’t tried yet.
2. Visit a coffee plantation
If you want to learn more about the coffee you’re drinking, head to a nearby coffee plantation and learn about the process. It’s a great way to spend a beautiful day outside and you can learn more about the differences between high-quality and sub-par brews. Most tours also give you the chance to pick your own coffee beans! For a really cool experience, choose a tour that goes to the coffee plantation on horseback.
3. Try the trout
Salento is famous for its trout. On the weekends, people from nearby towns and cities flock to Salento for a delicious lunch.
I’ll admit I haven’t tried it. I had some motion sickness last time I went and fish was the last thing I wanted, but it looked delicious! It’s typically served with a giant patacon, which is a mashed and fried plantain.
You can find trout in nearly every restaurant in Salento, for anywhere between $14,000 and $20,000 COP. You can also visit the trout farms in Valle de Cocora. Which brings us to number four…
4. Visit Valle de Cocora
Okay, so I’ll admit the first time I went to Salento I didn’t visit Valle de Cocora. And all of my Colombian friends thought I was crazy. They told me that Valle de Cocora is the most beautiful place around Salento and the reason why everyone visits. My expectations were high, so the second time I made sure that I went.
And honestly…I was a little disappointed. Is it beautiful? Yes, absolutely. But unless you’re really into hiking or horseback riding there really isn’t anything to do. I did do a little hiking and took some awesome pictures, but next time I’ll definitely make sure I budget some money to go horseback riding.
In order to go to Valle de Cocora, go to where you see the colorful jeeps in Salento’s central plaza. It costs about $4,000 COP each way and the ride is beautiful. When you get there, you’ll see a few small shops and a few restaurants. There’s also an entrance to Los Nevados National Park, which is a beautiful place to walk.
The most famous restaurant in this area is Donde Juan B, but it’s much more expensive than the other restaurants so not the best option if you’re on a budget.
5. Climb up the stairs
If you’re in the main plaza, you’ll see colorful stairs at the end of one of the nearby streets. It’s at the end of the street with all of the people walking (not easy to miss).
At the top you’ll find a view of the whole town and a little park. The view here is nice, but it’s not the best view in Salento.
For a truly spectacular view, walk to the left once your reach the top of the stairs. You’ll find a little trail and once you get to the end there’s a wooden structure overlooking the mountains. This is one of the most beautiful views you can find of the mountains surrounding Salento.
6. Shop for artisan crafts
If you’re looking for souvenirs or things to decorate your home, this is the place to go! You can find anything from hammocks to beautiful, hand-painted mugs. The prices are reasonable, but a little more expensive than in other cities in Colombia.
There are a variety of stores, but the prices are a little higher. For cheaper prices, head to the plaza and check out the artists selling their products there. But only during the weekends.
7. Head to a bar
Salento has a lot of great bars that make it easy to meet new people and enjoy some delicious cocktails. While most of the bars are great, one of my favorites is the Mojiteria Resto-Bar (I’m a sucker for a good mojito).
Just walk around the main plaza or around the streets and see which bar has a good vibe that’s calling your name. Relax at the end of the day with a delicious cocktail or beer. Or even another delicious coffee if that’s more your style!
8. Go horseback riding
One of the coolest, and most typical, things to do in Salento is horseback riding. Tours range from $10,000 COP for half an hour to $80,000 COP (or more on the weekends) for an overnight camping trip. I went on a 90-minute tour that cost $45,000 COP. It was an excellent experience and I was able to see a lot of beautiful scenery and we even crossed a river on horseback. All tour guides offer more or less the same tours.
I’m not a seasoned horseback rider so I was a little terrified, but in the end it was a great experience. I was with my two best friends from the United States and the tour guide didn’t speak English but still did a great job at communicating with them!
One way to find a tour is to go to the central plaza and ask around. But I recommend going to Valle de Cocora and finding a horseback riding tour there because the scenery is stunning.
9. Hang out in the central plaza
It’s filled with people and families just having a great time. Buy some fresh fruit or some beer and spend a few hours chatting in the plaza with friends. During the week there aren’t that many people, but on the weekends it’s filled with groups of people just relaxing and having a good time. The ideal time to hang out here is from 5 P.M. to later in the night.
Have you ever been to Salento? What activities would you add to this list?