In the heart of Colombia’s Coffee Triangle (Eje Cafetero), lies Salento, a charming small town with some incredible things to do.
Ready to hop in a Willy (jeep) to discover Salento’s world-class coffee farms? To hike through the Corcora Valley under towering wax palm trees? To stroll endlessly colorful colonial streets, play tejo, and savor traditional paisa food?
A visit to Salento is an essential Colombian cultural experience – and a magical one too, thanks to the region’s magnificent flora and fauna.
In this guide, you’ll discover everything you need to know for the perfect trip to Salento!
Here are 14 epic things to do in Salento, plus where to stay, the best coffee shops and restaurants, and must-know tips.
Why You Should Visit Salento
My four-day visit to Salento came as I entered my third month of traveling through Colombia. And it quickly became one of my favorite places in the country!
Your trip to Salento will be filled with the three C’s: Coffee. Color. And Corcora. The ultimate trifecta.
Salento’s laid-back atmosphere, friendly locals, coffee shops and coffee fincas, vibrant streets, and the incredibly beautiful Valle de Corcora are reason enough to visit Salento for a few days.
The stunning nature here emanates an undeniably joyous vibe. And the views of the area’s endemic wax palms truly are an amazing sight to see.
And yes, if you’re wondering, Salento is touristy. But it is not overly busy, nor overrated or overpriced.
You’re going to love it.
Feel free to use this table of contents to jump to different sections of this guide, or simply read on. This Salento travel guide has it all!
Table of Contents
- Why You Should Visit Salento
- What to Do in Salento, Colombia
- 1. Hike in the Cocora Valley National Park (Valle de Cocora)
- 2. Glamp Under Millions of Stars
- 3. Visit a Coffee Farm (Finca de Café)
- 4. Explore Salento’s Colorful Streets
- 5. Climb Up to the Viewpoints (Miradores)
- 6. Visit Salento’s Best Coffee Shops
- 7. Stop by De Olier Chocolate Factory
- 8. Go Birdwatching
- Where to Eat & Drink in Salento
- Where to Stay in Salento, Colombia
- What to Pack for Salento
- How to Get to Salento
- How to Get Around Salento
- Final Thoughts on the Best Things to Do in Salento
- Salento, Colombia Travel FAQs
- Did you know…
What to Do in Salento, Colombia
1. Hike in the Cocora Valley National Park (Valle de Cocora)
Of course, the top thing to do in Salento is hiking in the Cocora Valley National Park!
Home of the Quindio “wax palms,” the world’s tallest palm trees, the Valle de Cocora is a wondrous, lush, green landscape of soaring mountains, dotted with spotted cows and horses. Trout-filled rivers rush through the valley as butterflies flutter about, in the shadows of the iconic 60-meter-high palms. And it’s far more breathtaking than you could imagine.
The most popular hike is the Acaime Trail. Moderate in difficulty, it covers about 7 miles (11 kilometers) and takes about 4.5 hours to complete. I loved every moment of it.
Along the way, you’ll pass by various viewpoints. Mid-way through, you’ll also have the option of a 1-hour round-trip detour to visit the Casa de los Colibris. Taking a little break, hot chocolate in hand, as dozens of hummingbirds flit and twitter around you is such a beautiful experience!
A few times along the way, we wondered if we were heading in the right direction, but we always were. All in all, the hike is pretty straightforward, so you shouldn’t need a guide.
Though if you’d prefer hiking with a guide, so you can soak up some local knowledge and learn about the local fauna, then check out this Full-Day Cocora Valley Hike with Lunch.
2. Glamp Under Millions of Stars
After spending a couple of months in Colombian cities, I wanted to experience as much of the country’s natural beauty as I could.
Glamping under millions of stars, at Lumbre Glamping, fit the bill.
Located mid-way between Salento and Valle de Corcora, staying at Lumbre Glamping immerses you completely into nature, while providing all of the comforts of home.
Climbing into my comfy bed, gazing out at twinkling stars, and waking up to sunbeams, birds chirping, and lush mountain views, was magical. With floor-to-ceiling windows, each of Lumbre’s 10 tent-cabins offers this experience.
Not to mention, each room includes a spacious bathroom and private outdoor lounging area.
The grounds also feature a campfire area, a massage deck (featuring sounds of the river rushing below), a restaurant, a spa, and two magnificent waterfalls that you can hike to. Details on the waterfall hike are included later in this guide.
I can say, for sure, glamping is one of the best things to do in Salento. My experience in Salento would have been half as special if I’d just stayed in town. So, if I were you, I’d make sure I went glamping in Salento – for one night, at least! Book your stay at Lumbre Glamping now.
FYI: A Willy (a shared jeep; the main mode of transportation in Salento) from Lumbre to Salento costs 3,000 COP (or about $.60 USD), and the journey takes about 15 minutes.
3. Visit a Coffee Farm (Finca de Café)
Coffee lovers, listen up! As the heart of Colombia’s coffee region, you can’t leave Salento without touring at least one coffee farm!
Before arriving in Salento, I did a lot of research on the best coffee tour experience, and came across Finca El Ocaso’s Premium Coffee Tour. It was the most incredible experience, and a toss-up for my favorite thing to do in Salento – along with the Acaime trail, of course.
About El Ocaso’s Coffee Farm Tour
Nestled 20 minutes outside of Salento, spending time at this lush, idyllic coffee farm was a dream.
The coffee tour started out with an explanation of how exceptional, sustainable coffee is cultivated. Then, we set out into the leafy farm to pick as many ripe (red and yellow, not green) coffee “cherries” as we could in 10 minutes. Next, we witnessed how the cherries are processed – from picking to fermenting to drying to roasting.
Then came the super fun part! We learned about the different aromas and flavor profiles that make great coffee, through nose tests and taste tests.
First, we tried to guess 10 aromas – from hazelnut, vanilla, and apple, to rubber, leather, and smoke – taking notes all the while. Then, we made and taste-tested multiple coffees, guessing the beans’ processes (natural, washed, honey, passion 300, and pasilla) and choosing our favorites. Finally, we learned how to prepare perfect cups of coffee ourselves, through different methods: siphon, Aeropress, and Chemex.
It’s safe to say, I left Finca El Ocaso with a renewed love for coffee culture, and a whole lot of new coffee knowledge!
How to Get to Finca El Ocaso
To get there, simply purchase a round-trip Willy ticket from the booth in the town square. The journey costs just 3,000 COP (or about $.60 USD) each way. You’ll get the 1:30 PM Willy out there, and the 5:00 PM back.
Alternatively, when you book your Premium Coffee Tour online, transportation from your Salento hotel is included.
4. Explore Salento’s Colorful Streets
The quaint colonial town of Salento is beyond beautiful.
Its white buildings – adorned with decorative doors, paneling, and window-frames in every color of the rainbow, flower pots, and wrought-iron lanterns – are the perfect backdrop for coffee-drinking. And photos.
The main street, Calle Real, is lined with souvenir shops. Filled with lovely rugs, traditional baskets, jewelry, woodworks, candles, and just about everything else you can imagine, the souvenir shops are worth a browse. You’ll also find plenty of food trucks and stalls serving up traditional snacks.
After you’ve had your fill of Calle Real, make sure to explore the quieter side streets.
And of course, spend some time in the main plaza, people-watching under the palm trees.
RELATED READING: 17 Lovely Things to Do in Villa de Leyva, Colombia
5. Climb Up to the Viewpoints (Miradores)
Continue to the end of Calle Real and you’ll find a set of stairs leading up the hill, to two different viewpoints of Salento and the surrounding landscapes.
The first, Mirador Alto de la Cruz, features views of the town, plus some nature trails that head down the back side of the hill. Instead of heading back down to town, follow the ramp that leads to right, and you’ll find a wooden platform featuring another, even more fabulous viewpoint: the Mirador de Salento.
Along the way, you’ll pass by many food vendors, handicraft stalls, and ladies selling traditional sweets.
These miradores would be amazing places to watch the sunset!
6. Visit Salento’s Best Coffee Shops
While in town, you must visit a coffee shop or two.
My two favorites were Jesús Martin and Concreto, for different reasons!
Jesús Martín is one of the most highly-acclaimed coffee operations in the region. Don’t believe me, just stop by the café and see the many awards and certificates that adorn its walls. With the highest commitment to quality, Jesús Martín’s finca (located in nearby Quimbaya) cultivates some of the finest beans around, and roasts them in small batches to perfection.
We chose to try their Exotic blend (of geisha and bourbon), brewed in a Chemex. With a dark chocolate aroma and sweet, sour flor de jamaica (hibiscus) flavor notes, it was super complex and delicious!
This modern, minimalistic coffee shop drew me in with its cool design, but won me over with its oat milk! A rarity in Colombia. If it’s a latte, flat white, or other espresso coffee you crave, then head over to Concreto.
There’s an express location near the town square, and a sit-down café perfect for reading a book (or playing Monopoly Deal – our favorite travel companion!) at the other end of Calle Real.
7. Stop by De Olier Chocolate Factory
If you love artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate like I do, then don’t miss a visit to De Olier Chocolatl.
In the heart of town, you’ll find De Olier’s chocolate factory. Here, they make super high-quality chocolate from scratch, from cacao grown at their own local farm. As bean-to-bar implies!
At De Olier, savor a hot chocolate (a must!) and a brownie in the garden. Then, walk up to the counter to taste all kinds of chocolates, choose your favorites, and buy some bars and bonbons to take with you.
My favorite bars were the 85% and the passionfruit! And at 15,000 COP (about $3 USD) per bar, they were an absolute steal!
8. Go Birdwatching
Salento’s incredible variety of exotic, colorful birds might just turn you into a birdwatcher!
If an early morning walk through the Andean jungle with a nature guide, while watching extraordinary birds and other wildlife, sounds like your jam, then book one of these three awesome tours. They’re all operated by the same bird-loving company!
I saw an Andean Motmot for the first time in Salento and was so excited!
9. Play Tejo at Los Amigos
For just 5,000 COP (about $1 USD), how can you say no to playing Colombia’s national sport, tejo?
Tejo involves lots of beer-drinking and gunpowder – and Los Amigos, in the center of town, is the place to play. What could go wrong?
In case you’re not familiar with tejo, here’s a synopsis…
Kind of like Cornhole, the aim of the game is to lob the tejo (a heavy iron weight) at the bocín (metal ring), that’s held in place on a board of damp clay. The ring is laced with sachets of gunpowder (mechas). Naturally. You get 1 point for being the closest to the ring; 3 points for causing an explosion; 6 points for a bullseye; and 9 points for hitting a bullseye with an explosion.
I felt a little intimidated playing tejo in the big cities, so my first experience was in Salento. Luckily, Los Amigos is super welcoming to travelers, and their staff will give you a walk-through of the rules.
Playing tejo is one of the best things to do in Salento. It’s alcohol-induced, loud, smoky, dangerous fun. And a can’t-miss, quintessential Colombian experience.
10. Hike to the Cocora Waterfalls (Cascadas de Cocora)
On Lumbre Glamping’s farmland you’ll find two magnificent waterfalls: one smaller, one larger.
At 9 am, we set out to find them, and had the entire place – the trail and the waterfalls – to ourselves!
The steep uphill journey takes about 30 minutes – part way on grassy hills overlooking the valley’s rolling hills, and part way through shady jungle trails.
If you’re a guest of Lumbre Glamping, entry to the waterfall trail is free.
If not, entry costs 15,000 COP per person (about $3 USD); this fee helps with the upkeep of the trail. Guest or not, use of Lumbre’s hiking poles is included. You’ll need them! The hike is straight uphill!
11. Hike to Santa Rita Waterfall
I decided not to hike to the Santa Rita Waterfall, since I already went to the Cocora Waterfalls.
But if you need more waterfalls and natural pools in your life, go for it! You’ll find the trailhead in the nearby town of Boquia, a quick bus or private Willy ride away from Salento. The hike up to the waterfall and back will take about 2-3 hours.
If you’d prefer to go with a guide, this Cocora Valley and Santa Rita Waterfall Tour includes visits to the best viewpoints in Cocora, horseback riding, and explore Santa Rita’s waterfalls, pools, caverns, and tunnels. Book your Cocora Valley and Santa Rita Waterfall Tour now.
12. Go on a Horseback Riding Tour
Going horseback riding is one of the top things to do in Salento, Colombia!
We decided to explore Corcora on foot. But if you love horses, or just want to experience this iconic Salento activity, then check out this Cocora Valley + Salento Horseback Riding Day Tour.
As with all animal tourism activities, you should always do your own research to ensure that the horses are healthy, happy, and lovingly cared for. According to the reviews I read, the horses on this horseback riding tour are.
Personally, I’ve been on three other tours with the company that operates this one, and they were all great.
13. Eat Trout
Trout is a local specialty in Salento, and almost every restaurant in Salento serves up their signature version.
You’ll find it prepared a million different ways: fried or grilled alongside beans and rice; inside of omelettes; in sandwiches and burgers; and baked into creamy gratin.
Salento’s rivers are filled with wild trout. But as we finished our hike in Corcora, we came across a huge trout farm. Assuming this is where most of Salento’s restaurants source their trout from, you’re likely not eating wild fish. Which, for me, was pretty disappointing.
Nevertheless, my favorite place for trout was at El Rincón de Lucy. On the other hand, the recommended dish at Donde Laurita (the trout gratin) was a total disappointment. I wouldn’t go there again.
14. Take a Half-Day Trip to Filandia
Another wonderful town in the heart of the coffee region, Filandia is located just 30 minutes away from Salento. I had planned to visit this town, but ran out of time.
From what I heard, Filandia is a less touristy version of Salento, but just as beautiful – if not, more beautiful. You only need 2-3 hours there to stroll the colorful streets, pop into a coffee shop, and enjoy a fabulous lunch at Helena Adentro over sweeping views of the Eje Cafetero.
To get to Filandia, simply check the Willy schedule in Salento’s main square, and hop on. The journey costs 8,000 COP (about $2 USD) each way. Willys leave every hour or two. If I were you, I’d buy a round-trip ticket.
Where to Eat & Drink in Salento
I’ll be honest, the foodie scene in Salento has a long way to go. That said, there are a few gems, from coffee shops to dinner spots. Here are the best places I discovered while in Salento!
- Jesús Martín: One of the most highly-acclaimed fincas and cafeterías in the region,you can’t miss Jesús Martín. Maybe a Chemex-brewed geisha coffee of the highest quality? Or a cappucino? Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong.
- Concreto: A cute little coffee shop, perfect for espresso-based coffee. And they have oat milk, which is hard to come by in Colombia.
- Cumaná: Super delicious Venezuelan food and incredibly friendly service. We loved the tequeños (fried “peasant” cheese sticks), Cuajada de Pisillo with trout (kind of like a Spanish tortilla), the veggie soup, and the Dominó arepa (with “peasant” cheese and beans), along with some fresh fruit juices. 10/10 would go back!
- El Rincón de Lucy: A good place for cheap, local food in a quiet corner of town. Go for the trout, with sides of rice, beans, plantains, salad, and fruit juice. The whole experience comes out to about $3.
- Brunch de Salento: Owned by an Oregonian, this popular restaurant is open all day and serves up American favorites from waffles and omelettes to burgers and lasagna. Brunch de Salento also puts together packed lunches, perfect for your hike in the Corcora Valley.
- Café Bernabé Gourmet: Here, you’ll find Colombian food made with local ingredients and an international twist. I’ve heard the coffee is good, but I didn’t try it myself.
- Coco Bowls: Inspired by his travels in Southeast Asia, the owner opened up his own little slice of Bali in Salento. Here, you’ll find health-conscious vegetarian food, from açai bowls and avocado toast to wraps and bliss bowls.
- Lumbre: Our beautiful glamping experience included a lovely daily breakfast. We also ate quite a few healthy lunches and dinners at Lumbre‘s restaurant (think: soups and veggie burgers), overlooking amazing valley views.
Where to Stay in Salento, Colombia
Whether you want to stay in Salento or the surrounding countryside, I’ve rounded up the best accommodation in the area.
- Lumbre Glamping: This is where I stayed, and I would do so again and again! Soaking in the area’s extraordinary nature, while enjoying the comforts of home, makes for an unforgettable experience. If you can swing it, glamping is one of the best things to do in Salento. Book your stay at Lumbre Glamping.
- Hotel Terasu Salento: Located a stone’s throw from Salento’s main square, this hotel features a leafy garden, a quiet, relaxing environment, and lovely guest rooms with individual terraces. Book your stay at Terasu Salento.
- Finca El Ocaso: Want an immersive coffee farm and nature experience? Then stay at 20 minutes outside of Salento at Finca El Ocaso, the beautiful coffee farm I raved about in #3 above! Book your stay at Finca El Ocaso.
- Viajero Hostel Salento: The most popular hostel in town, Viajero offers fabulous views of the surrounding mountains, and a variety of room types to suit every budget. Just a few blocks from the center you couldn’t ask for a better location. Book your stay at Viajero Hostel Salento.
What to Pack for Salento
Salento’s weather can be all over the place. Generally speaking, this green area received a decent amount of rain! But it can also be very hot, and very cold at night!
Be prepared for all weather with warm and cold weather clothing, rain gear, and of course, hiking gear.
- Hiking boots, hiking socks, and hiking poles: for exploring Corcora and waterfall hikes
- Natural insect repellent: yes, there are mosquitoes in Salento!
- Natural sunscreen
- GRAYL Geopress water filter: so you can safely drink any water
- Warm jacket: it gets cold at night in Salento
- Waterproof rain jacket: don’t let a little rain stop your adventures
- Binoculars: for spotting the abundant wildlife
- Travel insurance: an absolute must-have on an adventurous trip full of hiking and Willy rides
How to Get to Salento
There are many ways to get to Salento, the best option for you will depend on your budget and timeline.
Take the Bus to Salento
Typically, travelers visit Salento after exploring Bogotá or Medellin, as geographically, Salento is right in the middle. From either city, you can take the bus to Armenia. Then, you can hop on another bus to Salento. From Bogota, the journey will take 9+ hours. From Medellin, the journey takes 7+ hours.
Wherever you depart from, you can expect a long, winding ride – and often, roadworks, accidents, and other delays that can tack on a few hours to your journey.
The best place to search for bus routes and fares throughout Colombia is on this website.
Fly into Armenia or Pereira
You can fly into the coffee region from anywhere in Colombia. But depending on where you’re coming from, you may have a stopover.
There are two airports within an hour or so of Salento: Pereira and Armenia.
I flew in and out of the Pereira airport. From the airport, I took an Uber Comfort to Salento for 220,000 COP (or about $48 USD). I arranged a taxi back to the airport for 180,000 COP (or about $40 USD).
The Armenia airport is also about 1-1.5 hours away, traffic dependent. A taxi from Armenia to Salento costs roughly the same.
You can also take the bus from either airport.
Choose to fly into whichever airport has the better flight schedule/cost. I use this website to find the best airfare.
How to Get Around Salento
Willys – Salento’s shared jeep taxis – are the most common form of transit in Salento.
They are absolute beasts when it comes to conquering the bumpy dirt roads around the region, and can uncomfortably pack up to 14-16 people; 10 or so inside – and a few outside, standing on the back bumper, hanging on for dear life.
Willys leave the main town square on a regular schedule, heading out to Valle de Corcora, Filandia, the Fincas Cafeteras, and more. They’re cheap too. No matter where you’re headed, you can expect to pay a set rate of less than 5,000 COP (about $1 USD) for a one-way journey.
You can also take private journeys via Willy, but for the same price as a private taxi.
Simply walk up to the booth in the main square and tell the attendant where you’d like to go.
Taxis are abundant in Salento. Ubers are not. You can grab a taxi from the main square, just be prepared to pay way more than you would in a shared Willy.
If I were to visit Salento over again, I would 100% stay outside of town again, at Lumbre Glamping or a coffee finca. And if that were the case, I would definitely rent a car. I wish we had rented a car for our Salento trip, but we didn’t know any better!
We spent a lot of money on jeeps and private taxis (especially to/from the airport) and we were at the mercy of their schedules. If we had rented a car, we would have saved money, plus we would have squeezed in a visit to Filandia, and possibly another spontaneous coffee farm stop.
That said, if you plan to stay in town, and only leave to visit Valle de Corcora and one coffee finca, then you’ll get by easily without a rental car!
Considering renting a car? You can pick up your rental at Pereira or Armenia airport. This is my favorite website for snagging the best deals on rental cars worldwide.
Final Thoughts on the Best Things to Do in Salento
I just left Salento, and I literally cannot wait to go back.
From hiking in Corcora, admiring those iconic wax palms, and touring the fincas, to savoring incredible coffee and chocolate, and exploring the sleepy town’s colorful streets, I loved my time in Salento.
There are so many incredible things to do in Salento, so make sure to stay long enough to do them all! 3 or 4 full days will suffice.
And please, don’t forget your hiking boots with good ankle support (like I did). You’ll need them! Especially if you want to explore even more of nearby Los Nevados National Park!
MORE COLOMBIA TRAVEL INSPIRATION
Salento, Colombia Travel FAQs
Yes, Salento, Colombia is absolutely worth visiting. Of course, the main draw cards to Salento are hiking in the magnificent Valle de Corora and going on a coffee tour. But more than that, Salento is a cultural experience. You’ll play tejo, eat local food, and explore the town’s colorful streets. The nature is also incredible; waterfalls, exotic fauna, glamping, horseback riding, and other breathtaking experience await in Salento! Salento is touristy, to be sure. But there’s a reason why. Salento is a must-visit on your Colombia trip.
3 or 4 days is the perfect amount of time. That way, you’ll have plenty of time for all of the best things to do in Salento! Including hiking in Cocora, touring coffee farms, exploring the town, checking out the souvenir shops, admiring the wax palms, going birdwatching, hiking to waterfalls, and more. This guide details all of the best things to include in your Salento itinerary for 3 or 4 days.
This Salento travel guide details the best ways to get to Salento. In summary, you can take the bus to Armenia from other cities in Colombia, and then hop on another bus to Salento. Or, you can fly into Pereira or Armenia (both airports are about 1 hour away from Salento) and then take a bus or taxi to Salento.
Once you arrive, get to exploring! This guide details what to do in Salento, from hiking in Corcora and touring coffee farms to waterfall hikes and traditional food.
You can fly into either Pereira or Armenia to get to Salento. Both airports are located about 1 hour away from Salento. It really just on the best fares and schedules you can find! From either airport, you can take the bus or a taxi to Salento. This website is my favorite for finding cheap airfare.
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