Salento is an idyllic mountain town in Colombia known for its coffee farms, colorful buildings, and low-key vibe. It’s a favorite among backpackers and travelers, for good reason. It’s always nice and cool there, and the views are incredible. It’s hands-down my favorite place I’ve traveled to in Colombia. There are lots of awesome things to do in Salento! Keep reading to get all the details to plan your trip to this special place.
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Where to Stay in Salento, Colombia
Hostels in Salento:
Viajero Hostel: There are plenty of great hostel and hotel options in Salento. We stayed in a private room at Viajero Hostel and absolutely loved it. It was affordable and was the nicest private hostel room I’ve stayed in. The view from our private balcony was amazing! They have a great outdoor patio and bar area to hang out as well. It’s a bit further from town than other hostels, but that’s why the views are so epic. It’s only about a 7-minute walk to the heart of town, so I still consider it conveniently located.
Hotels in Salento
If you aren’t the hostel type, or are wanting more of a luxury accommodation, consider booking Kawa Mountain Retreat. It looks BEAUTIFUL! I definitely want to stay here if I come back to Salento for a second visit. The views from the rooms are incredible.
When is the Best Time to Visit Salento, Colombia?
The best time to travel to Salento is January and February, and June – August. While the temperatures are pretty pleasant year-round, these months are in the dry season.
However – even in the driest month of July (which is when we visited), you can still expect it to lightly rain about twice per day. Make sure you pack a rain jacket!
How Many Days Should I Spend in Salento?
You can see the main sights and get a good feel for the town with 2 days in Salento, however you may not want to leave! The chill vibes of the people and the town are super welcoming. I could have spent a week here just hanging out.
How to Get to Salento, Colombia
The easiest and quickest way to get to Salento is to take a 1-hour flight from Bogota to either Periera airport (PEI) or Armenia (AMX) airport. The flights are super cheap from Bogota (they typically range from $30-70). Salento is a little under an hour drive from each of those airports. There are no Ubers in the area, so I recommend arranging a private transfer from the airport to Salento through your hotel/hostel, or you can book one here. This is what we did – it cost about $30 for the ride to and from the airport.
Alternatively, you could also take a bus directly to Salento from Medellin, or from Bogota to Salento (with a stop in Armenia to switch busses). In my opinion, the flights are so cheap and easy that I only recommend the bus if you are on a super strict budget and have a lot of time.
How to Get Around Salento
Once you are in Salento, the town itself is super walkable. If you want to visit the coffee farm or Cocora Valley (more on this later!) then instead of a taxi, you take a “Willy” from the center of town. A “Willy” is a colorful, reconstructed Jeep back from WWII and is the main form of transportation in Salento. You can buy tickets for the Willy in the center of town (it’s about $1 USD) and then wait until it’s your turn to squeeze in the back. You might even be prompted to stand on the back bumper of the Jeep if there is no space to sit in the back (which we did twice). It’s a bit scary but also a fun way to ride around!
The Best Things to Do in Salento, Colombia
There are plenty of awesome things to do in Salento. It’s such a cool mountain town, and is my favorite place to visit in Colombia!
1. Visit a Coffee Farm (Finca)
One of the most popular things to do in Salento is to take a coffee tour at one of the local coffee farms (called a “finca”). Located in the coffee triangle of Colombia, coffee is what Salento is known for and is their main export. If you are a coffee lover (and even if you’re not!) taking a coffee tour in Salento should be high on your list of things to do in the area.
There are a few different coffee farms to choose from. After reading a few reviews, we chose Finca Don Elias because they have a good English-speaking tour guide, and the tour only lasts an hour. Since we only had 2 days in Salento, we didn’t want to be on a longer tour that some other coffee farms offer.
How to Get to the Coffee Farm in Salento
To get to Finca Don Elias (or any other coffee farm you choose), walk to the main plaza in the center of town and buy tickets for the “Willy” Jeep and mention you are going to a “Finca”. The counter will sell you the Jeep ticket + the ticket for the actual coffee tour. The grand total was 25,000 COP, which comes out to about $5 USD round trip. You then wait in line for the next Willy Jeep to show up, and hop on! The ride is about 15 minutes from town.
Which Salento Coffee Farm Should I Go To?
I highly recommend Finca Don Elias! Our tour guide, Jesus, was super friendly and easy to understand. He’ll take you on a tour outside around the beautiful property and explain how the coffee beans are grown and picked, and also will teach you interesting facts about other native plants growing on the grounds. You’ll get to pick some ripe coffee beans, and then take them up to their machine to husk the beans and grind them.
After your tour, you get to sit on their terrace with an amazing view and enjoy a cup of fresh coffee from the beans you picked off their farm. Can’t get any fresher than that! It was delicious, and the views and vibe of the place was incredible.
Once you’re done, walk back up to where you got dropped off and wait for the next available Willy to stop by and pick you up. This might take a while. We waited about 30 minutes, but there is a bar right there if you want to get a beer or have a snack while you wait.
If you have more time and want a longer coffee tour, I’ve heard great things about the very educational tour at Finca el Ocasa.
2. Wander Through Town
The town of Salento is incredible, with bright colorful buildings nestled among lush green mountains. I highly recommend walking around with no agenda or plan and just soak in the scenery, pop into whatever shops strike your fancy, and enjoy the culture of this small town! Definitely check out Calle Real, which is the main street with the most colorful buildings, shops and restaurants.
4. Hike Valley de Cocora
Visiting Valley de Cocora is what brings most people to Salento, and for good reason! Valley de Cocora is a lush green mountainous area located in the Andes Mountains in Los Nevados National Park. It’s known for the Wax Palm Trees, which are the tallest palm trees in the world and are also the national tree of Colombia. Hiking in the Valley de Cocora is the most memorable and epic thing to do in Salento. It’s breathtakingly beautiful!
You can either hike the full loop, which takes about 5-6 hours, OR you can take a shortcut and just hike to where the palm trees are, which will take you about 1 hour.
Benefits to Doing the Full Loop Hike in Valley de Cocora:
If you like hiking and have enough time do to it, doing the full loop hike will take you across streams, past a waterfall, and to a hummingbird sanctuary before ending the loop at the famous Wax Palms.
Even if you love hiking, I would not recommend doing the full loop if either of these two factors apply to you:
- If you have limited time in Salento and want to make the most of your time there
- If you don’t have proper hiking shoes with you, or if you have plans to travel around Colombia after Salento and don’t want to travel around with muddy shoes
Both of these factors applied to us, so we did the shorter hike just to the Wax Palms and back. It was amazing!
How to Get to Valley de Cocora
Similar to the coffee farms, to get to Valley de Cocora, simply walk to the main plaza of Salento and buy a ticket for the Willy. It cost 4,000 COP round trip (about $1 USD). It’s about a 30 minute ride. To get back, wait in the area where the Willy dropped you off and get on the next available one (make sure you save the other half of your ticket stub for the return!).
What Time of Day Should I Go to Valley de Cocora?
I highly recommend going in the morning, before 9am. The first Willy departs at either 6:10 or 7:30am (I’ve heard different times, so double check at the ticket counter the day before if you want to be on the first one).
It’s best to get there before 9am not only to beat the crowds, but also to get the best weather. It tends rain in the afternoons, which would make it super muddy and not as enjoyable. Get there in the morning for the best chance for clear skies and epic views, and to stay dry!
What to Expect When You Get to Valley de Cocora?
When you get off the Willy, you’ll see signs pointing you in the direction of the Wax Palms hike, and will pass by a few small bars and cafes if you need a drink or a snack. You’ll first see a spot to buy a ticket to go through a section that has photo-ops scattered throughout, mostly “Encanto” themed ones (the movie Encanto is set in Valley de Cocora). Skip this (unless you are a big fan of the movie or if you like man-made photo ops!) and keep walking past it, following the signs for the hike. It’s pretty intuitive once you get there to figure out how to go straight to the famous Wax Palms area. Once you get to the right area, you’ll see a spot to buy tickets to enter (about 10,000 COP).
Spend some time wandering around, hiking up the hills, and soaking in the amazing scenery with the towering palm trees. There’s also a little cafe with a patio overlooking the scenery, which is a great spot to stop for a snack and a coffee on your way back down.
3. Try Pan de Bono
Pan de Bono was hands down our favorite thing we ate in Salento! You have to try it. It’s a soft, doughy ball filled with cheese and yucca. Great for breakfast or a midday snack!
The best place to go to get this is from a panaderia called Casa de Pan. It can be difficult to find on Google Maps, but just walk down Calle 5 and you’ll see it about a block and a half from the main plaza. It was so good we went here twice during our two days in Salento.
5. El Mirador
While you’re wandering around town, make sure you head up to El Mirador to check out a birds-eye view of the town. Simply follow the colorful stairs at the end of the street from the main plaza (right near the smoothie spot called Coco Bowl). Head up the stairs and check out the view!
6. Get Drinks in Town
Right near El Mirador is the bar called Kafe del Alma. I highly recommend this spot for happy hour time frame! It was so nice to sit out on the little patio tables, people-watching with a cocktail in hand. They also have live music inside which you can hear from your outside table. Good vibes for sure.
We also loved the bar at Viajero Hostel – the drinks were obviously cheap, but the views at our hostel were insanely beautiful. The bar is outside, so it’s a great place to sip on a drink and watch the sunset!
7. Get Coffee in Town
Even though you’ve already done the coffee tour in Salento, I still highly recommend getting some quality coffee in town too! The best place to go is Jesus Martin, which is conveniently-located right near the main square. The coffee is great, the people are friendly, they play great music, AND they have a nice little interior courtyard seating area. What’s not to love? They serve food there too in case you want a snack with your coffee.
8. Play Tejo
If you want to feel like a true local Colombian for a night, play their local game, called Tejo! It’s kind of like their version of the American game cornhole. You throw a puck at these little packs of gunpowder that are caked in this soft mud-like substance. If you hit a pack of gunpowder that explodes (it just makes a tiny little “pop” sound), then you get a point!
The best place to play Tejo in the area is at a bar called Los Amigos. When you walk up to the bar, you pay to get some of the gunpowder and pucks to play (I forgot how much, but it’s cheap). It’s a fun way to end the day, interact with other locals and travelers.
There are so many things to do in Salento, but it’s also the kind of small mountain town where you could be completely happy with no plans for the day, just soaking in the good vibes and the lush, green scenery. It truly is a special place!