Salento and the Cocora Valley in Quindío
Salento is located in the heart of the Colombian coffee zone in the northeast of the region Quindío. From Medellin it is very easy to get to Salento by bus. A one way bus ride costs about 37.000 COP and takes between 6 and 8 hours. Busses go daily from the Terminal del Sur between 4:30 AM and 11:30 PM. There are two bus companies that go to Armenia the Flota Occidental and Flora Arauca. Most people go first to Armenia and then take the bus to Salento which will take around 45 minutes.
How to get there?
The busses of the Flota de Occidental leave leave hourly from Medellin. The busses are very comfortable and equipped with TV and WIFI. As I mentioned before most people go to Armenia and then continue to Salento but there is also the possibility to get of the bus one stop before Armenia and get a bus from there to Salento. When I did the trip we unfortunately over slept the stop so we also had to go from Armenia. The bus from Armenia will cost 3,600 COP per person.
Most people proceed instantly to Salento as Armenia does not have a lot to offer for tourist and travellers.
Salento is a typical beautiful colourful pueblo like many others in Colombia. Life usually happens at the main square with its typical arrangement. You find a church and around the square plenty of bars and restaurants. The atmosphere is very relaxed and I always get into the mood to have a beer. Only on weekends it can get very noisy when the Vallenato is bumping through the massive speakers of the bars.
But instead of drinking beer and relax we first had to find a place to sleep.
Eventually we found a very nice place very close to the city centre that is called Hostal Estrella de Agua. We booked a lovely two bed room with a shared bathroom. The price for the hostel was 20.000 COP per night. The hostel also offers dormitories, rooms with a private bathroom and Camping space.
Valle de Cocora
From Salento jeeps (Willys) leave to the valley everyday at 6.10, 7.30, 9.30 and 11.30 in the morning and it takes around 20-30 minutes to get there. I recommend going early in the morning as in this area it gets quite often quite cloudy in the afternoon and you also avoid masses of tourists. The jeeps leave at the main square and cost 3,400 COP per person. Also get to the collection point a little earlier in order to get a comfortable place on the jeep. Coming back from the valley you can take a jeep every hour from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
When you arrive at the Valle you will have different options you can either just head straight for the wax palm trees. In order to get there just walk straight along the marked path until you see a vast amount of incredibly high and surreal looking palm trees alternatively you can rent a horse and ride the Cocora loop or you can simply walk the long loop of the Valle de Cocora by foot. But if you decide to hike the loop be aware that it will take around 4 – 5 Hours. Furthermore you will have to decide if you go the circle starting from right or left. When you start left you will reach the valley first thing and later have the option to visit the Casa de los Colibris and then head back a long the river. Starting from the right obviously things will be the other way round. I still believe it is better to start from the left as in the afternoon the valley often gets cloudy and rainy. Also the steepest part of the hike you will hike down and not up.
Visiting the „Casa de los Colibris“ where you can watch different kinds of Colibris will cost you 5.000 Cop there you will be provided with hot choclate, agua panela and white cheese and it is a very nice place for a break. If you are lucky you can even spot mountain tapirs, spectacled bears, sloths, or mountain lions. But do not expect to see them as this will rather be an exception
The valley (Valle de Cocora) itself is just a marvellous, stunning and surreal place. Something comparable I had never seen before. The huge palm trees that can get 70 metres tall are simply breathtaking as is the nature and that makes this place a perfect place for a hike. The Valle de Cocora is certainly one of the Must-See destinations in Colombia.
What else to do?
Apart from hiking and strolling the beautiful streets of Salento there are obviously more things to do. Here are some suggestions
Play Tejo with the Locals
Tejo is a traditional sport where you have to throw a metal puck. The aim of the game is to cause an explosion on a clay hill 15 meters away. The locals certainly will be eager to explain to you how the game works over a few Cervecitas.
Visit a Coffee Farm
As Salento lies in Colombia’s coffee zone visiting a coffee plantation is something that offers itself. In the surround there several coffee plantations and visiting a coffee finca or hacienda is definitely worth it. Here you can see how coffee is grown, harvested and processed. Some of the coffee farms even offer accomodation. A Tour of 30 minutes will cost around 6.000 COP. Depending on the farm there are also different and longer tours being offered. You like coffee and its history then stop by at Don Elias or the Plantation House it presents itseIn der Umgebung finden sich etliche Kaffeplantagen und ein Besuch bei einer der Kaffeefincas oder Haciendas lohnt sich auf jeden Fall. Hier könnt Ihr sehen wie der Kaffee angebaut und verarbeitet wird. Einige der Kafeefarmen bitten auch gleichzeitig eine Unterkunftsmöglichkeit an. Eine 30 minütige Tour kann man ab 6000 COP machen. Es werden auch längere und ausführlichere touren je nach Farm angeboten. Schaut doch einfach mal bei Don Elias oder beim Plantation House vorbei.
In the entire Eje Cafetero you will find plenty of trucheras (Trout farms). This also applies for Salento as well and you will certainly find some trucheras in the nearby area. Also trout is on the menu of almost every restaurant. In the Trucheras you can catch a trout yourself, buy one or order one in the restaurant of the farm. If you don’t want to go as far to eat fish just order a backed trout with cheese in one of the restaurants around.
When you travel to Salento I recommend you to stay at least one night or even two. The first day you can visit the Valle de Cocora and the second the village of Salento and one of the coffee farms.
Here are some recommendations on where to stay. I listed places for different budgets.
Hostal Estrella de Agua
Carrera 5 # 6-24, 631020 Salento, Colombia
I accidentally ended up in the Hostal Estrella de Agua during my first visit in Salento. And as it turned out this place is very cosy and beautiful. Apart from that the staff is very friendly and the rooms in the Hostel are cheap. Furthermore it is very close to the main square, Apart from privates rooms with shared or private rooms, there are also dormitories and camping space available. For more information click here
Low/Middle price range
Posada Casa Salento
Calle 7 # 4-43, 631020 Salento, Colombia
This very cosy Posada is also located close to the centre not far from the main plaza where the jeeps leave. The value for money is unbeatable. For more information or booking click here
Upper Prize range
Hotel Salento Real Eje Cafetero
Calle 3 No 4-31 , 631020 Salento, Colombia
In case you are not travelling on a budget then this might be the place for you. From the hotel you get easily to the centre by foot. The value for money is very good and so is the service. For more information click here.