SALENTO: Fifty Shades of Green

With this title I’m only trying to lure you into reading this chapter. In reality there are millions shades of green here in Salento. Before creating this place, God must have had a good night sleep and in the morning his favourite breakfast. And then he tossed countless trees and bushes and flowers on majestic mountains and created a paradise outside of paradise.

Sunrise over Quindio.
(Caspar David Friedrich was a wimp.)

After finishing his work, God felt a bit tired, therefore he quickly invented coffee plants of the highest quality and added them to this region that we call Quindio. It is Colombia’s smallest departamento and its coffee region.

The other man’s mountains are definitely greener. 
Coffee cherries 

Then good people came and constructed a chess board of cute little houses, and since they were in such a good mood being in this rich and lush environment and animated by their third cup of coffee, they painted them in bright colors. And they gave the place the Italian name Salento, because Italian is world’s most beautiful language, and this place deserves only the most beautiful.

Salento’s busy high street carrera 3
Salento by night
In Salento, food is synonymous to trout. At every restaurant you can order about five types of preparation; there are even trout burgers.
This one here is “trucha dorada” with “patacon gigante”, a giant chip made of green plantain. 

As things go, pretty attracts tourists, consequently there are packs of backpackers occupying the small place, and many shops and restaurants jumped on this global fusion-vegan-yoga-bandwagon. As a side effect, local people are much less friendly than in other places. Because, have I told you that Colombians are the most polite and friendliest people ever? Because they are. They are warm and welcoming and sweet.
Another very traveller friendly custom is that they don’t cheat, take advantage, try to sell you everything or talk you into something. Having been to quite many other places where people are also very friendly so they screw you over with a smile, I really love Colombian vendors, cab drivers, bus conductors, receptionists – basically everybody I had to deal with by now.

Valle de Cocora
(It looks so mushy ’cause it’s way up in the clouds)

For obvious reason, activities around Salento are all about nature: hiking, horse back riding, more hiking, swimming at a waterfall, hiking uphill, hiking downhill, and when you’re tired, there’s still hitch hiking.

The most unique and superb part is the Valle de Cocora located about 7.5 miles from Salento. Once you get there, there are several trails through the jungle that are not designed for couch potatoes. Because they are not designed at all. You have to climb over rocks and roots, wade through mud and horse dropping (because couch potatoes can do most part of the track riding), cross improvised bridges and climb pretty steep parts.

Creek Crossing 

Almost halfway up you can make a rest at an enchanting hummingbird reserve containing different species of hummingbirds as well as other birds and wildlife. That sounds cozy but the detour up to the reserve was for me the hardest part. Finally reaching there I was soaked in sweat and freezing in my sopping wet shirt once I cooled down a bit. Nevertheless the short break is refreshing before the last bit of mountaineering.

Going downhill you are rewarded for all the hardship by fantastic views of the Valley: On a bright green velvet grass carpet stand hundreds of wax palms that grow to a height of 150 to 200 ft. And since they grow only in the Andes of Colombia (and a small part of Peru), they are named after the region Quindio “Ceroxylon Quindiuense”. A majestic name for a majestic tree.

Green on Green 
On the serpentines around Salento Willy-Jeeps are the most common, comfortable and fun way to get around – and to school.

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Salento, nestled in the coffee mountains of Quindío, is the epitome of Colombian life: A small town with little houses painted in all the colors the hardware store had available.

The lucky people of Salento are spending their life right in a picture postcard.

Surrounded by rolling hills and rough mountains, lush greeneries watered by creeks and waterfalls – and coffee, lots and lots of coffee.

There’s a bus going every hour from Cali to Armenia and from there you take a minibus to Salento in the Quindío, Colombia’s smallest departamento and main coffee region.

If you’re coming from Medellín, there might be a direct shuttle to Salento  – since we were able to do it the other way around.

Salento is a very charming small town and especially the main square and Carrera 6 are extremely well maintained.

The houses are nicely painted everywhere in Salento – hence on Carrera 6, they are even a bit more colorful.
Doors and windows in bold colors.

As things go, pretty attracts tourists, consequently, there are packs of backpackers occupying the small place, and many shops and restaurants jumped on this global fusion-vegan-yoga-bandwagon. On the upside, there is an excellent infrastructure, many small shops, a small supermarket, banks, and ATMs.

If you don’t want to walk, there is always horseback riding. 
Anyway, for obvious reason, the main activities are taking place outside of Salento and are all about nature: hiking, horseback riding, more hiking, swimming at a waterfall, hiking uphill, hiking downhill, and when you’re tired, there’s still hitchhiking.

On the serpentines around Salento Willy-Jeeps are the most common, comfortable and fun way to get around – and to school.

A hike to the coffee fincas can be taken guided or individually. I honestly don’t see a reason what you need a guide for since you can’t get lost – it’s one road: Leave town to the southwest on Carrera #5 and keep walking.

Sumptuous bushes and trees as far as the eye can see.

 At the fincas, you get a guided tour and can buy coffee. We stopped after about one hour at the first one called Las Acacias which proved to be the smallest and best one. The others we checked had bigger groups and the coffee there was more expensive.

Coffee cherries. 

The most unique and superb part is the Valle de Cocora located about 7.5 miles from Salento. There are jeeps leaving from the main square taking you to the parking lot of the Valle.

Plaza de Bolívar with the church Nuestra Señora del Carmen.

From here, you can either just see the majestic fields of wax palms and do a short stroll.
Or you hike the whole tour that takes about five hours. If you’re not a big sports(wo)man, it might be a bit hard, but it’s absolutely doable and totally worth it.

Green, green grass of….Salento.

There are several trails through the jungle that are not designed for couch potatoes – since they are not designed at all. You have to climb over rocks and roots, wade through mud and horse dropping, cross improvised bridges, and climb pretty steep parts.

It’s definitely not a manicured English garden you’re walking.
A bridge.
Creek Crossing 

Almost halfway up, you can take a break at an enchanting hummingbird reserve containing different species of hummingbirds as well as other birds and wildlife.

Resting with the Humming Birds.

That sounds cozy but the detour up to the reserve was for me the hardest part. Finally reaching there, I was soaked in sweat and freezing in my sopping wet shirt once I cooled down a bit.
Nevertheless, the short break is refreshing before the last bit of mountaineering.

There they are: Wax palms.

As you reach the Finca La Montaña, you get another overwhelming view – and it’s said to be the halfway point. I don’t know if it’s because from here, we were walking downhill, but to me, the first part felt far longer.

Ms Green on the Green.

Going downhill, we were finally rewarded for all the hardship by fantastic views of the Valley: On a bright green velvet grass carpet are hundreds of wax palms that grow to a height of 150 to 200 ft. And since they grow only in the Andes of Colombia – and a small part of Peru – they are named after the region Quindío “Ceroxylon Quindiuense”.
A majestic name for a majestic tree.

More amazing views: It’s worth it to get up a bit earlier and climb the stairs to the Mirador de Salento, the viewing platform, at the eastern end of Carrera #4.

From the Mirador at the end of Carrera 4 you have a grand view….

Watching the sun rise and the world waking up over the mountains and hills….there is not a more majestic way of welcoming the new day!

….of the sunrise….

….and Salento town.

Best place to sleep:

Accommodations in Salento are mostly hostels, but there are also few hotels as well as fincas in secluded places in the coffee mountains. Since we were there for only two days and used public transportation, we preferred to stay close to the center.
Our boutique style hotel Salento Real Eja Cafetero was close to the main street yet in a quiet neighborhood.
Cozy, rustic rooms arranged around a patio – with a good breakfast included.

You can check their availability and prices here.*

Best place to eat:

Every restaurant offers trout – at the same price and the menus printed on identical paper were only the restaurant’s name differs.

However, I’d like to recommend to restaurants: The first one is El Tejadito De Salento, located on Carrera 6 #32. The portions are generous, the staff is friendly’n’fun, and the views just amazing.

In Salento, food is synonymous to trout. At every restaurant you can order about five types of preparation; there are even trout burgers.
This one here is “trucha dorada” with “patacon gigante”, a giant chip made of green plantain.

The other one is El Rincón de Lucy, also located on Carrera 6, #32 at the corner with Calle 5. They have a rather limited menu – about two main courses per day, but these are truly a bargain since you get a starter and even a house drink with it.



And if you’re not very hungry, just grab one of the Arepas the lady is preparing freshly right on the street.
They are small tortillas with some fixings like e.g. aromatic cheese.
Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Colombia? 
Then go to the main post and take your pick!


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