Salento is one of Colombia’s most popular and iconic tourist destinations. Like most of Colombia's small towns, it is a colonial town with beautiful colored houses, cute balconies and lots of flowers everywhere. It's the heart of the coffee triangle and therefor famous for its coffee plantations. But the most iconic about this place is the very special Valle de Cocora and it’s definitely one of those places you have to visit. We dare to say that you haven’t been to Colombia if you haven’t visited Salento.
There is a direct minivan from Medellin (Terminal del Sur) to Salento (company Flota Occidental, cost 45.000 Pesos p.p.). The bus leaves 3 times a day at 9 am, 11 am and 1 pm. We arrived at the Terminal at 8.30 without booking in advance but this was no problem. We got on the 9 am bus and arrived about 6,5 hours later in Salento.
Salento has some really nice places to get some food that isn't expensive. The first night we went to Meraki where they serve an awesome and incredibly tasteful wrap with blue cheese. So good! Nice setting, friendly staff and fair prices.
The second night we ended up at the food truck square. They have about 10 caravans where you can order wraps, hummus, meat, local delicacies, whatever you want! Greet vibe, good food and enough variety so we came back the third night as well.
We booked a double room with private bathroom at Hostal El Zorzal and loved the place! The rooms are simple bus nicely decorated, the shower is strong and the building is surrounded by a lovely garden where you can sit down, relax and enjoy all the different birds. Really friendly staff, delicious breakfast and so peaceful and quiet. Definitely a place we recommend going to when staying in Salento.
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Salento is a peaceful little town with of course colored houses and friendly people and is a popular tourist destination. The town itself isn’t that special. You can walk up to the colored stairs to see the viewpoint and just walk around a bit to enjoy the peaceful vibe around the main square.
VALLE DE COCORA
The reason why we came to Salento was to visit the Valle de Cocora (2.000 Pesos entrance fee p.p.) An incredible place with slender, towering wax palms which are the Colombian national symbol and grow up to 60 meters high! While this is the main attraction of the Valle, and you can just go here by jeep, walk around bit and return, the place is also famous for its beautiful hike.
We wanted to start the day early and walked to the town square around 7.30 am to get on one of the first jeeps that will bring you to the Valle (4.000 Pesos p.p.) It’s a 30 minute drive and the jeeps drops you off at the startpoint of the hike. This hike takes your though a beautiful landscape, classic river crossings, Indiana Jones bridges and in our case muddy paths though the forrest. It was incredible! During the hike you can visit the Casa de los Colibris (hummingbird house) where you pay 5.000 and get the local drink hot chocolate with cheese.. Trust us, it tasted as strange as it sounds. But the real reason why you walk up here, is to see all the beautiful hummingbirds. And get a rest. We’re not really into birds but what’s not to love about these cute, colorful and superfast fellows. We sat here for about an hour before continuing our walk.
After the hummingbird house you can decide to continue the walk towards the palms, or go up a bit further. We choose the easy way and continued the normal walk which brings you to the wax palms. And this part of the walk is really incredible. We saw these giants sticking out of the mist and could not wait to get down there and see them from below. We learned later that these trees almost disappeared due to the use for making wax candles and building materials for farmers. But mostly because they were traditionally cut down annually for Palm Sunday. Since 1985 the Valle de Cocora is a protected area and it is one of the few places in the world where you can find these immense trees.
The total trip took us about 7 hours, including the jeep trips back and forth. You can do the trip when you have a basic fitness but do make sure you are acclimatized to the height and bring enough water and some snacks for along the way. A rain jacket and some sunscreen can come handy as well.