Salento, Colombia, is a little town that is becoming popular among the backpacking crowds, and for good reason. Here, you can wake up on a eco-farm and watch the clouds clear over the mountains. This is the heart of the Zona Cafetera, the coffee region of Colombia.
You’re lucky if you arrive in Salento during daylight, because the town goes rather dark after 8 or 9 pm, save for the tejo bars and some teenagers playing soccer at outdoor gyms in the town center. Our bus dropped us near the bridge shortly after sunset and we were left with no choice but to walk, because jeep taxis also don’t run past evening hours.
Stay at La Serrana
There was nothing we didn’t love about La Serrana Hostel. See our review of this lovely eco-hostel here.
Hike the Valle de Cocora
This nature reserve is home to the world’s tallest palm trees. The species is the wax palm and they can grow up to 60m tall. It’s like a scene from another planet! The backdrop of the rolling green hills made for stunning photos.
To get there, grab your friends and take a jeep from the town center. Your adventurous friends will hang out the back. Your less adventurous (aka, us) will hold on with a tight bear grip inside.
💡 Pro Tip ™️ start the hike at the palm trees, and loop around through the forest, ending at the farm. Apparently no one knows that they should do this, and everyone does it the other way around. If you start early around 9am, you’ll get better light with the palm trees and it’ll be cooler outside! Temperatures go way up around noon. This hike takes anywhere between 3 and 5 hours depending on how many breaks you take.
If you are energized and ready for a detour, look for signs that lead to the hummingbird reserve! By hiking a bit farther from the main paths, you’ll find yourself at a small lodge that serves beverages and some food, and there will be a small admission fee. Once at the reserve, we could not believe how many hummingbirds we saw. We had never been so close to these amazing creatures!
Play tejo and watch things explode
Tejo is a Colombian game that involves throwing balls at a clay wall and trying to land on gunpowder. This isn’t legal where we come from, so we had to try! You can go to a tejo hall in the town of Salento with a group to play this game and drink beers at the same time, of course.
Bike to a coffee farm
In the town, there are several bike shops from which you can rent bikes for an entire afternoon. For routes, we were given a rudimentary map by the shop owner, with ‘directions’ to a coffee farm called Ocaso Finca, about a 40-minute downhill bike ride. 40 minutes downhill means an hour uphill. Lower those gears! It’s a tough ride.
At Ocaso Finca we took a group tour of the coffee plantation to witness how coffee beans are picked and roasted. Our guide had us go into the rows of bushes and we picked our own beans off the coffee plants. At the end of the tour, we all got to try fresh Colombian coffee!
Eat at Acaime
This is an outdoor restaurant where we had a memorable dinner. Among us and our friends, we enjoyed steak, chicken and local trout, and sat around a table with candles lit in wine glasses.
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Do you have additional ideas of what to do in Salento? Let us know!