Salento: More than ‘Coffee Country of Colombia’

The Basics
From Medellín, there are a few options for getting to Salento. The most simple is to rent a car, though I haven’t done that yet in Colombia. You may also take the bus, which runs out of the North Terminal. Many friends have taken this bus and it can be 6 hours or more, depending on traffic and road blocks. Since we were going during Semana Santa (Easter Week), which is a busy time for local travel, we opted for option 3: flying. Flights from Medellín’s local airport, Enrique Olaya Herrera, to Armenia were about $100USD round trip. Pereira is another option to fly into, also not far from the town of Salento.

From the airport, we hired a driver to take us directly to our hostel in Salento (100,000 COP/$35USD). It is possible to take buses from the bus station near the airport, but we went for comfort since my parents were along for the ride. This option would cut costs for sure, but who doesn’t love door to door service once in a while?

We stayed at Hostel el Zorzal, just outside town. We loved the location for being close enough to walk to the plaza in less than 10 minutes, but also away from the noise of the evenings and crowds. Included in our package: private rooms, small balconies with seating, common areas with tables and chairs, hammocks with bird-viewing, breakfast to order with fresh fruit, and refillable coffee (always a plus). They also offer bike rentals for $7,500/hr or for a fixed daily rate.

Get Your Adventure On
Kasaguadua Reserve: I can’t recommend this place enough. A group of guys buy land in Colombia and turn it into an ecological reserve. They offer daily tours (for donation only!) which provides all the information I could want about the biodiversity of this gorgeous land. In addition, they built ego-friendly lodging complete with an indoor communal space with hammocks, shelves of books, and warm tea being served. Catch them each day at 9:00am. We grabbed a jeep from the only jeep place in the town (Calle 3 and Carrera 3) for 12,000 COP per vehicle.

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Nick, our knowledgeable and comical tour guide at Kasaguadua

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Ocaso Coffee Farm

Ocaso Coffee Finca/Farm: This tour was recommended to us by the locals in town as well as friends who visited here before us. I can’t compare it to another coffee farm tour, but we did enjoy learning the step-by-step process of planting, growing, and maintaining coffee plants, as well as harvesting, processing, producing, and selling some of the sweetest coffee I’ve ever tried. For 15,000 COP per person, we had a 2 hour tour of the farm that included a cup of the fresh roast. They are located at least 1 hour walking from town, or you can take a jeep from the town center (Calle 3 and Carrera 3). This place is Rainforest Alliance Certified and also has small shop with snacks, local food, drinks. Tours begin every hour on the hour in English starting at 9 a.m.

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Getting a chance to help with the sampling batch

El Mirador: Just a few flights up stairs from the center of the town, we found this incredible view. It was worth the climb to spend a moment appreciating the natural landscape in this part of Colombia!

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Cocora Valley: Getting into the valley is about a 30 minute ride in–you guessed it–jeeps. The cost is 3,800 COP per person for a packed ride (including 3-4 standing and hanging on the back in case you’re seeking adventure!). Jeeps leave each morning at 7:30, 8:30, 9:30, or whenever a jeep fills up. Private rides are available for 31,000 COP one way and we chose this on the way back so we didn’t have to wait for others to join and fill the ride. Upon arrival, we headed towards the entrance to the park for a beautiful, if also super muddy, hike. There is an option to enter fincas/farms, which charge a small entrance fee. Another option is to make the full hike around the loop to the waterfall. Horse riding is also possible, which could be better than going through mud in your shoes or boots. We enjoyed the hike and views of the famous wax palms, the world’s tallest palm trees. We found a nice creek to dip our feet in and ventured across a bridge not recommended for the timid! Restaurants are available just outside the park to get a taste of the local trout and giant patacones (fried plantains).

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Horseback riders in Cocora Valley

Eats and Drinks
Lurciernaga: Beautiful, modern space, which is an unlikely find in small-town Colombia! I was blown away by the view overlooking the whole town. Add a fireplace and live music and I’m sold. We sat on the patio for a view of the sunset over the town and enjoyed their mixed menu of both local cuisine and international dishes. FYI this place is also a hostel and I hear their beds are super comfy 🙂

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Jesus Martín: Perfect for a taste of local coffee. Breakfast options, sliced cakes, bags for coffee to bring home, and a calm environment available here.

Veggie: Loved this vegetarian restaurant tucked away on the corner of Carrera 5 and Calle 5. Amidst a country of carbs on top of carbs with a side of carbs, their falafal salad was refreshing!

What Next?
Whenever we make it back to Salento, my plan is to stay at the Kasaguadua Reserve. I loved their mission, welcoming vibes, and knowledge about the surrounding landscape. Also…sleeping in a dodecagon hut? Duh.

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