Things To Do In Salento – Hiking, Coffee and Culture
Salento is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Colombia. People flock there to see the stunning Cocora Valley and its towering wax palms. The town of Salento is also super pretty with its traditional colorful Colombian buildings. It is also a coffee lover’s dream as it is in the middle of Colombia’s Coffee Region. I enjoyed my time in Salento and think that you really should visit if you are in Colombia. I hope you enjoy my list of all the best things to do in Salento Colombia.
1. Hike The Cocora Valley
Hiking the Cocora Valley is the most popular thing to do in Salento and what attracts most tourists to the area.
The Cocora Valley is just a 25-minute drive from Salento. It is a spectacular area that is covered by giant wax palms. I had seen pictures of the palm trees many times before arriving but you really cannot appreciate their size until you see them in person.
The palm trees can grow up to 60 meters or 200 feet tall and the valley was turned into a national park to protect the trees. They were becoming endangered due to their use in a religious celebrations. So luckily the government stepped in to prevent them and they are now one of Colombia’s biggest tourist attractions.
The best thing to do in the Cocora Valley is to go for a hike. But it is a fairly long hike that you will need to be in decent shape for. We saw a few people really struggling but we had no problem with it.
If you don’t feel like hiking then you can still just walk to the El Bosque De Las Palmas or the palm forest. This is the famous hilltop that is covered in massive palm trees.
It is one of the most beautiful areas in the whole valley so even just visiting this part is worth the visit. Entrance to the Palm forest is 20,000 COP or 5 USD.
Cocora Valley Hike
If you choose to do the Cocora Valley hike which you should do! It will take you about 5 hours to complete. But you have one big decision to make and that is whether to do the hike clockwise or anticlockwise.
If you do the hike clockwise you will start at the Palm Forest and end the hike going down the valley on the other side. If you go anti-clockwise you will start in the valley and hike uphill to end at the Palm Forest.
I recommend going clockwise because in our time in Salento, the weather was often better earlier in the day. So you want to have the best weather possible when you see the Palm Forest. Plus the hike up the valley is steep and rocky so I would rather go down than up it. We passed a few people who were struggling going up the hill.
When you do the hike clockwise you will also pass over private land at the end of the hike. At one point you will pass through a gate where you should have to pay the landowners 6,000 COP to pass over their land. Although when we went through there was no one at the gate. So if you pass later in the day there might not be anyone there to collect the money.
How To Get To The Cocora Valley
Getting to the Cocora Valley is super easy. You just have to head to Plaza Bolivar and look for the lineup of colorful Jeeps called Willys.
Next to the Willys is a ticket booth where you can buy a ticket that costs 4500 COP or 1 USD each way. The jeeps leave very frequently and on busy days will leave about every 10 minutes or when they are full. There is schedule on the ticket booth saying that they only leave every hour but we saw them leaving much more frequently than that.
The last Willy will leave the Cocora Valley back to Salento at 5 pm.
TIP : Not everyone will sit inside the jeep. Two or three people will have to stand on the back of the jeep and hold onto the roof. I recommend doing this for a better view. If you sit in the back you can’t really see out the windows and it is quite cramped. But if you stand on the back you will have an awesome view while you drive through the Cocora Valley.
Cocora Valley Tours
We enjoyed exploring the Cocora Valley solo but there are also tours if you would like a guide. You can book this Cocora Valley Hiking Tour for 78 USD and have a guide to show you the way.
In my opinion, it is best to do the hike solo and figure it out by yourself. But if you are not a confident hiker or travelling alone it could be a good option.
2. Go On A Coffee Farm Tour – Best Thing To Do In Salento For Coffee Lovers
Going on a coffee farm tour is the best thing to do in Salento if you are a coffee lover. Salento is located within the Coffee Axis of Colombia and grows some of the best coffee in the world.
I was already a bit of a coffee snob before I arrived in Colombia. But after spending three months in Colombia I think that my coffee snobbery has increased!
When you go on a coffee tour you get to see first hand what it takes to make a good cup of coffee. You will also see the rubbish ingredients that they use to make cheap coffee. Which will most likely inspire you to never drink cheap coffee again.
Salentos’ coffee farms are located a little bit outside town so you can either hike to them or jump in a jeep.
Where To Take A Coffee Farm Tour In Salento?
To get to the coffee farms in Salento you can either take a willy from the main square or walk. We chose to walk and enjoyed the walk to get there. It took about 40 minutes from town to reach the coffee farms and it is just on the side of a dirt road. So it may not be as nice during the weekends when there is a lot more traffic on the roads.
If you do not feel like walking then you can just catch a Willy from the main square. Simply buy a ticket from the ticket booth at the Plaza Bolivar.
At the ticket booth, you will see signs with all the available coffee farm tours. They will tell you all the tour times and when they are in English and Spanish so it is super easy to organize.
Finca El Ocaso
Finca El Ocaso is the most popular place to take a coffee tour in Salento. They have been doing tours for a long time so everything is well organized.
A tour costs 40,000 COP or 10 USD and takes 1 and a half hours. You can also pay 100,000 COP or 25 USD for a premium tour that lasts 3 hours and has a smaller group. For more details about tour times check out their website here.
If you do not feel like a coffee tour then you can also just enjoy a coffee at Finca El Ocaso’s onsite cafe. We had already done two coffee tours in Colombia when we arrived in Salento. So we just walked to Finca El Ocaso and enjoyed a coffee at their cafe. The view is beautiful and they make really good coffee.
Las Acacias Coffee Farm
We stopped at Las Acacias Coffee Farm on our way to Finca El Ocasos. It is also a great place to grab a coffee. In fact, I liked the coffee here even more than at Finca El Ocasos.
The cafe at Las Acacias is much more basic than at El Ocaso but it has a beautiful view and fantastic coffee.
A coffee tour at Las Acacais is for one hour and only costs 25,000 COP or 6 USD. You will most likely smaller groups at Las Acacias as it is a smaller farm. But it is a great deal for those on a budget.
TIP : There are many other coffee farms with tours. If you look on the side of the ticket booth next to the Willys at the main square you will see advertisements for many. You can then choose one and then jump in a Jeep straight there. Just be warned that it may be hard on some days to get a Jeep back into town. So either be prepared to wait or to hike back to town.
3. Walk Calle Real
Calle Real is the main tourist street in Salento and is lined by pretty colonial buildings. It is a great place to go for a walk and check out the shops and souvenir stores.
But I have to be honest even though it is a nice street it could be kept in much better condition. I thought that the footpaths and roads were in quite bad condition considering it is the main street for tourism.
Still, the colorful buildings and doorways are really beautiful and great for taking photos. I am also not usually a fan of souvenir shopping either. But I have to admit that some of the souvenir stores along Calle Real had some interesting products. So some of the shops are worth having a look around.
TIP : Make sure to visit Calle Real in the morning as many of the businesses have their doors closed. In the afternoon all the doors are open and you cannot see the doors. So the morning is the best time to take some photos.
4. Climb Up El Mirador De Salento
For the best view of Salento, you need to head up to El Mirador de Salento. If you walk along Calle Real right to the very end you will end up on a staircase.
This staircase will take you up to the El Mirador where you can get a nice view over Salento. From the viewpoint at the top, you can see Armenia in the distance if it is a clear day. There is not a whole lot at the top apart from some vendors selling some snacks.
TIP : Make sure you walk around to the left and you will find another mirador that has a beautiful view of the Cocora Valley.
5. Take A Day Trip To Finlandia
Filandia is another colorful colonial town just a 25-minute drive from Salento. It is nowhere near as popular with international tourists. But I think that the town itself is even prettier than Salento. Going on a day trip here is one of the best things to do in Salento, Colombia and I was surprised how nice it was.
I recommend coming to Filandia on a Sunday because there is a farmers market at the main square. Sunday is also when the most tourists are in town but I think it really added to the atmosphere.
How To Get To Filandia From Salento
To get to Filandia from Salento you can also catch a willy from the main square. They should leave every hour on the hour and cost 8000 COP or 2 USD each way.
You cannot buy an open-ended return ticket like to the Cococra Valley. So when you arrive in Filandia you will have to buy your return ticket at the main square. There will be a guy hanging around the Willys in Filandia to buy the ticket from.
6. Santa Rita Waterfall Hike
The Santa Rita Waterfall hike is nowhere near as impressive as the Cocora Valley. But it is still a very nice area to explore if you have some spare time in Salento.
There are a few small waterfalls and paths through thick jungle and some tunnels which are cool to check out.
To get to the hike you need to make your way to Finca Santa Rita. To get to Finca Santa Rita go to the Salento Bus Terminal and catch the bus that is going to Armenia. Just tell the driver that you want to go to Finca Santa Rita. He should drop you off at the start of the road that leads to Finca Santa Rita which is marked here.
You will have to walk up a dirt road for about 20 minutes before you reach Finca Santa Rita. It is a nice walk through the countryside that passes alongside a river and then through farmers’ fields.
Once you reach Finca Santa Rita you will have to pay 7,000 COP just under 2 USD to enter the property. There is a map at the entrance that will show you all of the trails on the property.
It is super cool that they made a map but we found it super confusing to follow! So make sure that you have maps.me downloaded before you arrive because the map on there will be much more useful.
7. La Fabrica De Chocolates
Colombia is not only a great place to grow coffee but it is also the perfect climate to grow chocolate. La Fabrica De Chocolates is a local family-run chocolate factory that makes very good chocolates with locally grown cacao.
We always like to have high-quality chocolate when we can find it. Because just like coffee if you buy the low-quality stuff it not only tastes way worse but the farmers also get ripped off.
So make sure to check out La Fabrica De Chocolates. They have a lovely sitting area to enjoy some chocolate and a drink.
I tried the cold brew cacao drink and it was super interesting! It almost smelt alcoholic but then tasted like a strong tea. It was not for everyone but if you want a new experience give it a go.
8. Cacao Farm Tour – Best Thing To Do In Salento For Chocolate Lovers
The coffee region of Colombia is not only great for growing coffee but Cacao also grows well there. So there is some very good chocolate that is made in Colombia.
While in Grenada we visited 5 different chocolate factories. So we didn’t feel the need to visit another Cacao farm in Colombia.
But I highly recommend visiting a Cacao Farm and learning about the chocolate-making process. You will gain a much greater appreciation for chocolate and the effort that it takes to make a high-quality bar of chocolate.
It will also probably discourage you from buying mass-produced chocolate. This is because it is such an inferior product and the large companies rip off the Cacao farmers.
The best place to do a Cacao Tour in Salento is at Finca Evelyza. At Finca Evelyza you will learn the whole chocolate-making process from bean to bar.
To organise a tour contact Finca Evelyza via whats app on +57 311 3107655. They will pick you up from Salento and it will be cheaper than organizing your own transport.
9. Have Some Drinks And Play Tejo
Playing Tejo is the best thing to do in Salento Colombia if you want to have some fun with friends and a few drinks.
Tejo is a traditional Colombian game where you throw discs at small packages of gunpowder. It is a lot safer than it sounds and is fun to pay with a group of friends and some drinks.
The game is thought to have originated from a game played by the indigenous people of central Colombia. So the game has hundreds if not thousands of years of history.
Cancha De Tejo Los Amigos is the best place to play Tejo in Salento. It is located close to the town center and costs 5,000 COP plus you need to buy a drink which will cost about 7,000 COP. So in total, it will cost about 12,000 COP or 3 USD>
10. Explore Los Nevados National Park
If you are into hiking and want an adventure then the best thing to do in Salento, Colombia is to visit the Los Nevados National Park. This national park is located high up in the Andes and has a unique landscape covered in Volcanoes, glaciers, and high-altitude swamps.
We did not get the chance to go hiking in Los Nevados but it looks like a very unique place. You technically could go hiking here by yourself but you would need to be very experienced. The weather is very unpredictable in the national park so you could get in trouble very easily if you are not prepared.
If you would like to go hiking in Los Nevados the best place to book a hike is with Paremo Trek. They do many hikes around Salento and have very good ratings.
Best Restaurants In Salento On A Budget
There are a lot of great restaurants in Salento if you spend a bit more money. But we are always looking to save money while eating out so all of the options below will be light on your wallet.
Cumana is a Venezuelan restaurant that was one of our favorite places that we ate in Salento. We had never eaten at a Venezuelan restaurant before and Cumana made a very good first impression.
The food is super tasty and beautifully presented. They have many traditional Venezuelan dishes that we had never heard of and the food was also nice and healthy.
I recommend trying some of their traditional drinks. They were super unique and very good.
La Posada De Rubi
La Posada De Rubi is a relatively new small restaurant that we stumbled across because everything else was shut. But we are glad we found it.
The prices are very reasonable with mains costing around 20,000 COP or 5 USD with very generous portions.
The food was also really good and nicely presented. If you want to fill yourself up try the Cazuela Paisa. It doesn’t look like a lot when it arrives but it is incredibly filling.
Restaurante Cocina y Horno Salento
Restaurante Cocina y Horno Salento is a traditional Colombian restaurant close to the main square. Trout is one of their specialties and they do it very well.
El Rincon De Luci
El Rincon De Luci is the place to go if you want the cheapest meal possible in Salento. Their menu del dia is only 15,000 COP or 4 USD.
This includes a main, soup and drink. You can choose from trout, beef, or chicken for the main. There was a bit too much-fried food for our liking.
But we had just finished a hike so it was the perfect place to refuel. Plus it was the only place that we could find that was open!
Arepa Fusion Food
Arepas are a popular street food and kind of the Colombian version of tacos. I have to be honest that I am not usually the biggest fan of Colombian Arepas. They are usually quite bland and lacking flavor.
But at Arepa Fusion Food they make tasty Arepas with lots of flavor. When you arrive you will be given a paper form to fill in all the toppings you want on your Arepa. So you can customize it to taste however you want.
Arepa Fusion Food is great if you want to sit down and grab something quick to eat.
Donde Laurita is one of the most well-known restaurants in Salento. It is usually packed with tourists on the weekend and has a fun quirky interior.
The food at Donde Laurita is traditional Colombian food such as trout and Bandeja Paisas. The food was good but a little more expensive than other places we tried. But the restaurant has a nice atmosphere and is worth a visit.
Coco Bowl is a vegan restaurant located at the top of Calle Real near the Mirador. The make a range of healthy vegan meals such as buddha bowls, burgers, pad thai, and more.
Bumi Cocina Natural
Bumi Cocina Natural is a small restaurant on the outskirts of town that focuses on organic ingredients. Many of their dishes are a healthier twist on traditional Colombian dishes. They have many vegan and vegetarian dishes. But they also have meat dishes with organic locally sourced meat.
It is not the cheapest restaurant but all the ingredients they use are super fresh and full of flavor.
El Rincon De Lucy Campestre
El Rincon De Lucy Campestre is a great budget restaurant to visit while you are visiting coffee farms. It is located on a dirt road outside Salento close to Las Acacias coffee farm. There is another El Rincon De Luci in Salento but they are not connected in any way.
There is a great view from the restaurant and the food is cheap. A menu del dia only costs 18,000 COP or 5 USD and was very good.
Where To Stay In Salento
Yambolombia Hostel is a great hostel if you want to be out in the countryside. It is about a 35-minute walk from Salento but is located in beautiful peaceful farmland. There are plenty of common areas and a breakfast is offered for just 15,000 COP or just under 4 USD.
Dorms can be as low as 8 USD per night and privates are as low as 28 USD.
If you are looking for a hostel closer to town then I recommend Hostel Tralala. It is just one block from the main square and has excellent reviews.
You can book a dorm bed for just over 10 USD so it is great value for money.
La Posado De La Plaza
If you are looking for a budget hotel in Salento then La Posado De La Plaza is a great option. They have double rooms for around 45 USD per night.
It is centrally located and also has a shared kitchen if you would like to make your own meals.
If you feel like a local experience and want to work on your Spanish then I can highly recommend our Airbnb hosts. They are a family that lives on the outskirts of town and staying with them was one of the highlights of our stay.
The downstairs of the property is a shop and bakery. So every morning they made us freshly baked bread and coffee. It was definitely not the healthiest food but it tasted so good and it was so nice to wake up to.
The family was also so nice and talkative and really helped us to improve our Spanish while we stayed there. You will have to walk through the shop and the house to get to your room.
So do not book this place if you want to have a super private place. But if you want an awesome local experience and to practice your Spanish then this is the place for you.
How To Get To Salento
Most people that travel to Salento will be either coming from Bogota or Medellin. The two main options are to fly or catch the bus. Flights within Colombia are very cheap so flying will be the best option for many people. But if you are on a very tight budget the bus will of course be the best option.
Make sure to read our How To Get To Salento article for more information about all the best ways to get to Salento.
How Many Days In Salento?
Salento is a small town and most people only come for 2 or 3 days. We stayed for 12 days and enjoyed our time. But a big reason for that was that we had an amazing Airbnb host family that was the highlight of our trip.
But if you just want to see the main sights in Salento then I think that 2-3 days is more than enough. The main things to do is see the Cocora Valley and visit some coffee farms which does not take very long. But if you want to take things a bit slower then stay for 4-5 days.
If you are staying in town for a while and work online like us you may be looking for a gym. There is really only one option in Salento and that is Energym.
It is a small gym but has everything you need and is just 10,000 COP just over 2 USD for a day pass.
Now You Know All The Top Things To Do In Salento Colombia
Jardin Colombia is one of our favorite towns in Colombia. The day we left we were already talking about coming back one day. A big reason for that is that our host family was so awesome and brightened up our stay.
But even without an awesome host family, Salento is still one of the best places to visit in Colombia. The Cocora Valley and coffee farms are stunning and any traveller would love to experience them.
I hope you enjoy Salento and also remember to check out our other Colombia articles listed below!
- What to do in Puerto Nariño
- What to do in Leticia
- Go on Medellin’s best Coffee Tour
- 25 Free things to do in Medellin
- Insider tips to Laureles, Medellin
- Visiting Comuna 13 in Medellin
- Best free outdoor gyms in Medellin
- Top things to do in Guatape
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