In this popular post, you'll find an updated (January 2018) list of our very favourite things to do in Salento Colmbia.
Salento is the tourist destination of the 'coffee' triangle', popular with backpackers and vacationing Colombians alike. In fact, should you visit on the weekend, it can be a little overwhelming.
The town we visited beforehand was Jardin, perhaps our very favourite place in Colombia; Salento had some big shoes to fill. Thankfully, our mid-week visit lived up to the hype.
Sure, there are more gringos than you can shake a stick at, every other shop is hawking bags from La Guajira and badly made ponchos but the countryside surrounding it is unquestionably beautiful.
So, stay in the town to enjoy the trout and the tejo, but make sure you head into the hills to truly understand why everybody loves Salento. Here's our quick guide to making the most of your visit.
Things to Do in Salento colombia
#1 eat trout
Turns out it is almost impossible to go to Salento and not eat trout - it is literally on every single menu, with plenty of restaurants selling the region's favourite fish and little else.
Although you can have the trout with a myriad of toppings, the most popular seems to be baked in a creamy, garlicky sauce and topped with lots of cheese. Doesn't sound terribly healthy does it? But, by damn, it tastes delicious.
Word of warning, Emily went for the grilled galic option and was breathing fumes for two days after. Maybe not ideal if you're heading out in a small bus the next day!
Cost: Prices vary depending on toppings etc, but expect to pay around $10,000 for grilled trout, and up to $14,000 for one baked in a rich sauce in a ma and pa type restaurant.
We highly recommend Restaurante Andrea. It's on the main street on the left hand side if you walk from the plaza. Dishes come with fresh fruit juice, rice, HUGE patacones and some salad.
#2 play tejo
Who wouldn't want to spend a few hours drinking beer and blowing things up? That's exactly what you can do in Los Amigos. After two and a half months in Colombia, we were amazed that it took until Salento for us to hear of Tejo.
Popular all over the country, it is only here that we have seen this pastime promoted to gringos. They even have a half size area for those of us less adept at flinging heavy balls of metal over long distances. As it turns out, the shorter distances really didn't make it that much easier to hit our targets, but a number of very loud explosions more than made up for it.
If you don't feel like playing, Los Amigos is a cool spot to sit with a cerveza and watch the competition between locals.
Cost: This is a play as you drink sort of place, and it pretty much only sells beer. Each person who wants to play has to purchase a bottle ($3500 per beer), plus pay a supplemental 1000 COP per person (updated Jan 2018)
How to get there: Los Amigos is located two streets north of the main street (Calle Real), on Carerra 4, halfway between Calle 3 and 4. If you get lost, just ask a local - everybody knows Los Amigos!
#3 visit a coffee finca
Slap bang in the centre of Zona Cafetera, it would be rude to venture all the way to Salento and not take a coffee farm tour. Given that most of the good stuff is exported outside the country, this is one of the few chances to enjoy a cup of the highest quality.
A finca that is highly recommended, and the one that we visited, is Don Elias. Family run (his grandson is the main guide), this coffee farm is on a much smaller scale than some others we have visited, with all processing done by hand and the coffee being sold exclusively to visitors.
Cost: A 30 minute tour, finishing with a fresh cup of coffee, costs $10,000 per person (price updated Jan 2018). Tours start whenever there are people there, and so you'll not have to wait longer than 25 minutes for a new one to start.
How to get there: If heading from the centre of town, cross the yellow bridge and keep walking straight. You will pass the entrance to La Serrana, and Yambolombia on your left hand side - but there are signs all along the way for Don Elias. This walk is a little longer than we expected, taking around 1 hour, but it is a lovely way to enjoy the countryside and take in the vistas.
Definitely stop in at the little fresh juice shack (rickety hand-painted wooden signs) on the way there/back.
#4 hike valle de cocora
On everyone's Salento to-do list is the spectacular Valle de Cocora. No doubt, you have seen the image of this remarkable spot before - it adorns many postcards throughout the country. But, to experience it yourself is quite remarkable.
For a lot more information, check out our full article on the valley.
Cost: Aside from transport (3,600 COP), entrance is free.
How to get there: 4WDs leave the main square at the following times - 6.10, 7.30, 9.30 and 11.30 in the morning, 2 and 4 p.m. in the afternoon and take around 20-30 minutes. We recommend getting there at least 10 minutes early as they tend to fill up fast!
#5 take a walk to the river and discover the countryside
If you arrive in Salento at the weekend, the town centre can be a little overwhelming with tourists and touts literally everywhere. If you need to escape this, we'd recommend taking a walk down to the river.
Simply head up the stairs to the mirador and take one of the footpaths heading down the hill. Once you get to the road, take any path on the left and should find a track leading to the river. You will pass photogenic farmers, cows happily lining up to be hand milked and some of the lushest green fields we've seen in months.
A number of places also rent bicycles if you feel like doing it on two wheels.
Where to Stay in Salento
La Serrana | A Colombia style hacienda located on a 20 hectare farm with 360 degree views of rolling mountains and valleys. Sound good? Keep reading. High ceiling rooms in a full of beautiful antiques, a well-stocked guest kitchen (with popcorn machine!) - you can even buy fresh milk from their very own cows. Talk about a countryside experience! Check availability and prices here.
Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel | A new hostel, but already a firm favourite amongst visitors to Salento. This huge farmhouse set in acres of land and with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside is situated at the edge of town, six blocks from the town centre. Big, well-equipped rooms (both dorms and privates) and wonderful common areas is touted by many as ' the best hostel in South America'. Breakfast not included in the price. Check availability and prices on Hostelworld or Booking.com
La Casona de Lili | Our time at Casona de Lili felt like staying in a fabulous family home; a lovely setting to get to know travellers whilst watching a movie inside or over a beer in the garden. Excellent location on the main street with probably one of the nicest kitchens we had in all of Latin America! Check availability and prices here.