A comprehensive list of all the awesome things to do in Salento with a few that you probably never heard about.
Salento is probably one of the best towns to base yourself for exploring the Colombian coffee region, so-called Eje Cafetero. Not only because it is a very charming, colourful town with tones of things to do but also as there are many tours and trips you can do from Salento. I actually extended my stay because I found Salento to be a great base to work, relax and enjoy this beautiful region of Colombia. So if you are not sure if Salento is worth visiting, wonder no more.
Although Salento is more touristy than Jardin or Filandia, the array of activities and access to great trips, including fantastic Cocora Valley, makes it one of the best towns in the Coffee Triangle region of Colombia.
Salento is mainly known for being in the centre of Colombia lush coffee region boasting incredible mountains, nature, diverse fauna and flora and being a bird watchers paradise. It is also often visited due to its close proximity to the wonderful Cocora Valley. When visiting Salento, you will also have the opportunity to take a ride in classic Willy jeeps and venture on some of the best hikes in the country. And of course, as it is a Colombian coffee region, you will be able to taste some of the best coffee out there.
Salento has retained its colonial, old-world architecture and charm with a traditional feel and very laid back Colombian vibe. It is also very safe and packed full of Colombian magic.
So how many days do you need to explore Salento, Colombia? I would suggest a minimum of 3 days if you want to hike the Cocora Valley and tour some traditional coffee fincas. But you could easily stay for a week and have something to do every single day.
If I managed to persuade you to stay in Salento for a few more days, here is the comprehensive list of all the cool things to do in Salento.
Visit Coffee Factory / Finca in Salento.
You could not say you visited the Colombian coffee region if you didn’t witness the coffee-producing process in one of the traditional fincas. There is at least one in most of the region’s towns, and Salento boasts at least four worth visiting. You will learn about coffee growing and manufacturing processes, and of course, taste the sample of the best coffee.
You will be surprised to hear that this is a rare treat in Colombia, especially outside the coffee region. Coffee in Colombia, in general, isn’t of the best quality as the majority of Colombia best quality beans are exported.
Although good quality coffee is available in stores, most Colombians and coffee shops opt for the cheap brand. Hence usually, the coffee served on the street, in restaurants, and in hotels is of poor quality and often heavily sweetened to kill the sour taste. For the best coffee in Colombia, you will have to opt for a high-end coffee shop like Juan Valdes or take a coffee farm tour in Salento 🙂
What can you expect from a coffee tour in Salento, Colombia? Most of the tours offer a comprehensive introduction to the growing process of Colombian coffee. They take place on the little coffee farm, and you are shown the whole process from the growth of the beans all the way to drying and comparing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ coffee beans. Many say that this experience creates an inability to tolerate a bad coffee moving forward, which I think is a good thing.
The best coffee farms to visit in Salento are Cafe Ocaso, Don Eduardo and Finca Momoto. I personally recommend Finca El Ocaso as you can combine this very highly rated coffee tour with a fantastic hike. Finca El Ocaso is located 5km from the Salento centre, and a walk there is enjoyable and boasts some incredible vistas.
Drink some more coffee in the town
Luckily you can have a great coffee in the town of Salento as well. There are few great, traditional looking and very quirky coffee shops in Salento. If you are normally drinking your coffee with milk, I suggest trying Tinto (black coffee) at least once. I have learnt to drink black coffee in Colombia and particularly enjoyed it in Salento as the coffee was simply excellent. If you are a sucker for great views, make sure you visit Botanica coffee shop near the Miraduro for the sunset.
Have a cup of delicious coffee at Jesus Martin coffee shop too! It is is located just off the main square and is a go to place for the best coffee in town.
Stroll the colourful streets of Salento, including Calle Real (the Salento’s main street)
Many pueblos in the Colombian coffee axis have retained their traditional appearance and atmosphere. Men are sitting in coffee shops wearing cowboy hats and sipping coffee from fancy china, traditional colourful buildings and street food, all spiced up by ever so present Colombian music. You will simply fall in love with the vibe and charm of those towns. Salento is no different.
Take a walk down the Callee Real, where many coffee shops and restaurants are located as well as many artisan shops with some of the best artisan jewellery I have seen in a while. It was so hard for me to resists spending all my money there. Get lost along the colourful streets and snap some of the best Instagram worthy photos.
Enjoy magnificent views from Miraduro de Salento
Climb the mirador just before the sunset; you will not regret it. One of the main attractions in the town of Salento is el Mirador Alto De La Cruz offering a wonderful view over the town. Climb the steep steps to the top of the mirador, where you will find an ‘I love Salento’ sign. After snapping some photos, don’t go back the same way. Turn to the left and take a path down until you reach Mirador de Salento, where you will be able to enjoy the magnificent view of the mountains and valleys. Make sure you stay for the sunset!
Take a ride in Willy Jeep
Willy Jeep is not only a symbolic vehicle of the Colombian coffee region but it has also been recognized as an official Colombian Cultural Heritage.
Willy jeeps were Used by American Army during the Second World War. After the war American army started selling them at a very attractive price in developing countries, including Colombia. The first Willys appeared in Colombia in1946. Colombian farmers and cafeteros appreciated them for their power and manoeuvrability and were used to transport goods, animals and passengers.
The fully loaded jeeps hold the name of ‘Yipao’ (and the cargo is pretty impressive) and are also often called ‘mulas mecánicas’ (mechanical mules).
It is a lot of fun sitting in the jeep, and while in the coffee region of Colombia, you will be transported that way at least once. From Salento, this is the way to get to both Cocola Valley and Filandia. There are around eight seats available for the passengers, but 2 or 3 of them are not actual seats as you will be standing at the back of the jeep. Make sure you don’t miss this fun activity and way of transportation.
Hike the spectacular Cocora Valley
Visiting Cocora Valley is one of the best things to do in Salento and often a main reasons many tourists and travellers visit the town. And although it isn’t the only great thing about the region, it is undoubtedly one of the best. If you are a hiker, make sure you take on the full 5 hours loop hike. It is one of the best hikes I have done, and I hiked in Madeira, which is hard to beat.
This spectacular trail will take you into the forest, jungle, rivers, farmland, and of course, the tallest palm trees in the world. It takes, on average, 5 hours to complete the hike, which includes many stops for photos. It can be pretty challenging at times but totally doable. I have met a whole family of 3 generations on the trek, so if you are at least moderately fit, you will greatly enjoy it!
This hike can be either done clockwise or counterclockwise. If you do it counterclockwise version, you will start with the more challenging climb and very easy walk down, ending up in the Wax Palm Valley. The counterclockwise option is usually the recommended one, yet I (as I do) did the opposite and really enjoyed it.
Don’t fancy walking for hours? No problem! You can also opt-in for a shorter walk to Wax Palm Valley which would make around an hour-long visit and would be equally spectacular. The choice is yours, but it is definitely an unmissable attraction while visiting Salento.
The best app to use while hiking in Colombia and in coffee region is Maps.Me. I was new to this app and totally loved the simplicity of its interface.
Hike to the Santa Rita waterfall
There are many great hikes starting from Salento, Colombia, and a walk to Santa Rita waterfall is definitely one of them. I have not been blessed with the best weather during my stay in Salento, so I only managed to hike twice, and unfortunately, this particular one wasn’t one of them. But if I ever return, I will not miss out on the hike again. I have, however, been told that both the hike and the waterfall itself are fantastic, so if you manage to get a good clear day, try to fit it in.
Have a warming aguapanela
It can get cold in the is part of Colombia. I wasn’t rewarded with the best weather during my three-week stay in the region, and towards the end of my Cocora Valley hike, the weather turned around pretty dramatically. By the time I came back to Salento, I was totally frozen. It was the time for aguapanela.
I am not a fan of sugary drinks, yet this was a godsent on that particular day. Colombians love their aguapanela.
Aguapanela or agua de panela is a traditional and popular Colombian drink. It is made from panela (unrefined sugarcane), boiled at a high temperature, and then crystallized. This is added to hot water, often served with lemon and a piece of cheese on a side. It is kind of a Colombian tea drink. Great after a long day hiking 🙂
Eat Fresh Trout
In the coffee region of Colombia, you will not only drink the best coffee but eat the freshest trout. It is a signature dish, and a grilled trout is extra delicious. Usually served with rice and patacones, trout is a signature dish of the region.
Try Obleas with arequipe
And while we are on the topic of food – you need to try obleas with arequipe.
Salento was also the first place where I tried arequipe. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, but something about Salento and the surrounding area made me crave sweets. So I tried the obleas (round waffles) filled with arequipe. I will just say one thing – If you never try arequipe in your life, your life will not be complete.
PS. Many coffee shops also serve a carrot cake to die for!
Visit the Artisan Village (Aldea de Los Artisanos)
It is absolutely crazy that no one is talking about this place. I was lucky enough that I had been told about it by the owner of my hostel.
Aldea de Los Artisanos (The Artisan Village) is a small community located 10 minutes walk out of the town of Salento. You can learn how the artisans create their craft and buy some great handmade jewellery and artisan goods. But there is absolutely no pressure to purchase anything.
Those guys will be more than happy to show you around, and all their workshops and display are held in their homes. This was a great experience, and as much as I resisted purchasing souvenirs in the town, I bought a necklace in one of the shops there, not only because it was beautiful but also because I wanted to support the local artists.
The artisan town is beautifully set within the valleys and mountains of Salento, and the whole trip could be made in an hour. Please put it on your list!
Go bike riding or rent a quad bike.
I was surprised to see many folks coming to Salento specifically to take a mountain bike tour. It turned out that there are many trails suitable for off-road bike riding, so if this is something you love, do it in Salento. You can also rent a quad bike (only available with the guide) and take an off-road tour of the surrounding area. It is indeed a great and unusual way to explore this wonderful region.
Go Horseback riding
Horseback riding is very popular in the area of Salento, and the great news is that you can take a ride around Salento trails but also enjoy the Cocora Valley from a horse saddle. Book your adventure here, and you will definitely have an unforgettable experience. I have passed many riders during my hike, and they have seemed to have a really great time!
Fancy some extreme sports? Paragliding in Salento is truly unforgettable! This beautiful land of mountains and valleys is spectacular from the land. Imagine seeing it all from the above! Just ask at your hostel or any local tour company and experience Salento from a different point of view. Literally.
Take a day trip to Filandia
I loved Filandia! It is one of the prettiest and most charming towns I have visited in Colombia. Not only it is extra colourful, full of awesome artisan shops and surrounded by incredible mountain views, but it also boasts some of the best restaurants and coffee shops in the area. Make sure you take a day trip to Filandia during your stay in Salento, and when there, you cannot miss lunch in restaurant Helena Adentro. The trout there was incredible, but all the menu looked fantastic, and this restaurant is now one of the most famous in the coffee region of Colombia.
From Filandia, you can also make an excellent secret hike to doble cascada (double waterfall). And if instead of staying in Salento, you would prefer more off the beaten path base, Filandia could be just that!
Have a glass of wine and listen to life music in Cafe de Alma
In the evening, head to Cafe de Alma and relax while pondering over your daily adventures. The service and staff in this place are top class. They have live music most of the night and are very nice and reasonably priced (for Colombian standards) red wine.
I loved ending my day there. It is nicely located at the bottom of the viewpoint and a great spot for people watching.
Are you surprised that there are so many things to do in Salento? I was as well! I really didn’t expect this town will have so much to offer. Although very popular and touristy, especially on the weekends, Salento is a great place to base yourself in the Colombian coffee region for all the activities and for a great relaxed time.
Let me know what you think! And if you go, I will be looking forward to hearing your thought. Please comment below. And until then, happy travelling!
Salento Know Before You Go – Important Information and Travel Tips
- Salento is safe. Salento and the whole coffee region of Colombia, particularly its colourful pueblos, are the safest part of Colombia for me. I had absolutely no concerns or worries about strolling the vibrant streets after dark. I had a glass of wine in my favourite corner bar and safely walked to my hostel well after 9 pm. Of course, don’t completely take my word for it. It is Latin America, after all, but as everywhere else in the world, you just need to be careful and mindful. Yet I have felt very safe in Salento, people were helpful and nice, and there was always police on the street in case you needed help. I also hiked alone in Salento as well as in Jardin, which was the first hike I felt totally safe to walk the trails in Colombia with no one around me.
- Tap water in Salento is safe to drink. In large part of Colombia, you can safely drink tap water (which is excellent news for us environment cautions travellers!), and Salento is no different. Fill out your water bottle in your hoster, and you are ready to go.
- The weather is unpredictable. Pack accordingly and always carry a rain jacket. I had a lot of rainy and overcast days during my stay in Salento. On a sunny day, it is really hot. But in the mountains, the weather can change very quickly. If you go out for a hiking trip, pack a warmer sweater and a rain jacket.
- It gets busy on the weekends. Especially with Colombian tourists, so get your tours done during the week.
- There are cash points in Salento, but still, cash is a king. You will not have to get your cash before arriving (Bancolombia, which never let me down, has an ATM in Salento), but you will need cash for the tours and in many other establishments. Also, check with your hostel as not all will accept card payments.
Read Some More Of My Colombia Guides And Stories: