Colombia has many amazing destinations and Salento is no exception. Salento, Colombia is probably the most popular spot in the coffee region as it is a cute and colorful little town with easy access to the Cocora Valley, or Valle de Cocora.
Salento is a Colombian municipality in the department of Quindío. It is known as the Father Municipality of Quindio for being the oldest of this department.
Salento is like a historical account of the region since its streets reflect intact the tradition of the initial settlers.
It’s all about location
Located 26 km from Armenia, on the western side of the Central Mountain Range and to the northeast of the department.
Although this municipality is small, it has a great variety of tourist attractions among them the impressive Cocora Valley.
The climate is temperate during the day, and a little cold at night.
The architecture of the square and the old houses make it always look like a postcard. The people are really friendly and there is a gentleness that makes them stand out from the rest.
This town of colorful houses and balconies adorned with flowers counts among the residents some foreigners who one day arrived and decided to stay trapped by the charm of the place.
Getting to Salento is becoming increasingly easy as more and more people are discovering the area. Depending on where you are coming from, your desired level of comfort, budget, and time constraints, you will have a number of options.
The history of Salento is very interesting. Around January 5, 1830 when the liberator Simón Bolívar passed through the “Camino del Quindío” or “Camino Nacional”.
At that time he spent the night in a house made of straw (Tambos) in the place that today is the Boquía trail.
Bolivar also passed through this road at the beginning of the XIX century, after leaving Peru victorious in the process of independence.
Only 12 years after the liberator’s passage, the President of the Republic, General Pedro Alcántara Herrán created the Penal Colony on September 16, 1842, in the “Valle de Boquía”, being this event the beginning of the settlement.
Political prisoners from that war were sent from Panamá, Antioquia and Cauca to upgrade and maintain the road.
After completing their sentences they were given a plot of land in the region.
Sometime around 1854, a flood of the Quindío river destroyed the settlement of Boquía, and the survivors rebuilt their houses in Barcinales.
They retained the name Boquía for the new settlement, changing the name of the original settlement to Pueblo Viejo.
From that moment on it changed its name to Villa de Nueva Salento at the suggestion of Mr. Ramón Elías Palau, who was the first President of the Junta Pobladora, in 1865.
The first houses were built in the “Plaza de Mosquera” (the first name given to the main square in honor of the president of the time, Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera).
In 1871 an administrative board was established, presided over by Palau and including personalities such as Antonio Henao, Simón Castaño, Pedro Vicente Henao, Alejandro Echeverri, Aurelio Buitrago, Bruno Arias and Joaquín Buitrago. In that year the town had more than 14 thousand hectares of land.
The climate in Salento Colombia is what makes it a prime location for growing coffee. The temperature is pretty stable throughout the year.
While the temperature is always quite mild, you will need to watch out for the rainy season, as that could ruin plans especially if Valle de Cocora is in your itinerary.
In our point of view, the best time to visit Salento is February, August, and September. This is the sweet spot for good weather, and less rain without the big high season crowds.
The wet and rainy months are March-May, and October to December.
The dry season is January – February, and June to September.
Anytime in the dry season is also a wonderful time to visit weather-wise, but if you don’t enjoy crowds, you may want to avoid the high season.
The high season is December – January, and May – July.
This is a popular vacation time where you can see the highest amount of local and foreign tourists.
You may need to reserve hotels and tours ahead of time, and prices will be more expensive.
Arguably, December and May are the worst months to visit because it’s peak tourist season and also the weather is poor.
It is perhaps the most important municipality for tourism in Quindío.
It is an important cultural and tourist center where both tourists and its inhabitants are proud of its beautiful landscapes and a history in which the history of the region is given in large part and that gave rise to the development of Quindío.
There are three pillars that make the visits continuous.
1. The architecture was bequeathed by the Antioquian colonization. It is not only beautiful but also very well preserved.
2. The Cocora Valley. It is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Colombia.
3. Very good environment and attitude.
The tourist activity in Salento began seriously in the eighties with the promotion of the same and the department in the initiative: “We are Coffee and much more”.
Here a more traditional colonial architecture has been maintained than in many other cities, and a great part of its original constructions of bahareque.
The historic center was included as a world heritage site, as part of the “Paisaje Cultural Cafetero” (Coffee Cultural Landscape) in 2011.
Among the variety of activities, a visit to the Santa Rita waterfall was a must for me.
To get to the waterfall, you have to walk for 2 or 3 hours. The hike goes through mountains, forests and enters a valley until you reach the old railroad track.
The first thing to do is to bathe in the waterfall because the cold water is a delight after that walk. When leaving the waterfall it is important to go through the natural pool, it is a puddle that is located on the upper road behind the hut.
It is important to be full of strength to be able to climb the 253 steps that reach the Mirador de la Cruz.
When you reach the viewpoint you will find a great view of the surroundings and the nearest valleys.
Plaza de Bolivar is where all the atmosphere is concentrated, especially at night.
You can not miss a luxury juice or coconut lemonade. If you want, it is also possible to take a canelazo (typical of the area), it is brandy with cinnamon.
A good part of Salento’s economy is naturally based on coffee. Thanks to this, many visitors come to Salento just to learn a little more about the bean and to taste a cup of the most select coffee in the world. In fact, in Salento, it is possible to take tours to learn more about local coffee growing.
Some important attractions
Some of its most important attractions are:
Something that is evident is the beauty of traditional architecture. The houses are the most representative because they are evidence of the social organization of the municipality in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.
The buildings in Salento have the style of the traditional Antioquian towns, with lime walls, clay tiles, and balconies full of flowers.
Its beautiful architecture, added to the great warmth of its inhabitants, makes Salento an incredible destination.
Obviously, in the center of it all is the Plaza de Bolivar: In it are the monuments to the liberator Simon Bolivar in which there is a plaque that alludes to the passage of the liberator by these lands. There is also a monument to Pedro Vicente Henao who was one of the founders of Salento and the first school teacher of the municipality.
Not to be overlooked is the Church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen. It was the first parish to be established in the Quindío valley in 1843. In its original construction, it had two towers but after the earthquakes of the twenties, the church was rebuilt with only one tower. It was affected by the earthquake of 1999 which led it to be remodelled with advanced construction techniques to date the remodelling process has not been completed.
In some apartments, there are craft stores where you can buy products made of natural fibers and also admire the architecture of their apartment houses where the bright colors and the neighbouring natural environment of them are highlighted.
Things to do
One of the more fun things to do in Salento is learning how to play Tejo. This is a traditional Colombian game that is kind of like horseshoes with gunpowder.
The game is free to play but you must buy drinks. Each person gets a little weight to throw at a raised platform filled with clay. In the clay is a metal ring with little white gunpowder-filled triangles sitting on the edge. You get points for landing in the ring and more points for hitting and exploding the white triangles. It’s a lot of fun!
The Salento region is a great area to go horseback riding.
Horseback riding in Salento Quindio is magical! There are several activities on horseback visiting different and magical biodiverse places that combine nature, history, and tradition of the municipality.
Among the most outstanding to see are Forests and national roads, The Quindio River and trails, The Salento X3 waterfalls, and The horseback riding coffee farms.
The beautiful horseback ride to the Barcínales waterfall or as it is commonly known the Barcínales waterfall takes approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes in which you go around the urban perimeter of the municipality of Salento Quindío until leaving the national road on a dirt road surrounded by beautiful forests to a viewpoint and then continue to the waterfall where you can see all of Salento Quindío and take some very nice pictures.
The Cabalgata Rio Boqueron offers a unique moment of Griding through the municipality of Salento Quindio in the category of adventure, passing through the forest to the river areas and beautiful natural landscapes.
La Cabalgata Mirador Pilones is amazing. A great horseback ride of approximately 40 minutes in which we go around the urban perimeter of the municipality of Salento Quindio until we leave by the national road on a dirt road surrounded by beautiful forests to a viewpoint where you can see all of Salento Quindio.
If there is s delicious dish in Colombia is the patacón. Patacones, flattened and fried plantains, are very common throughout Colombia and South America.
However, they look different in Salento. Here they come out the size of a platter and can be ordered as a main dish with various toppings.
Surrounded by nature
One of the typical activities is drinking coffee and since Salento is situated in the center of the Eje Caftero it is only natural that we suggest a coffee tour plantation.
For this reason, some farms offer guided tours on the artisanal process of planting, production, processing, commercialization, and preparation of a Sustainable Specialty Coffee.
Basically, you should go to actual farms, where you will receive an informative presentation on the coffee production process, then you see how the roasting, grinding and percolating of the beans work.
Obviously, a visit to Los Nevados National Natural Park is a must. It was created in 1977 in the departments of Caldas, Quindío, Risaralda and Tolima.
The Ecopark El Mirador and Alto de la Cruz are a must visit. The first thing to know is that to get to the viewpoint and the Alto de la Cruz trail there are two options: one by climbing the Via Crucis (283 stairs), and the other is to walk along Carrera 4 and reach the structure made of bamboo and fine wood, there you can see the Cocora Valley and on a path to the Alto de la Cruz you can see the town of Salento.
We cannot conclude without mentioning the Cocora Valley. It is located to the north of the municipality between 1800 and 2400 meters above sea level. This is the habitat of the wax palm.
It has great biodiversity and a rich landscape of singular beauty because it has a mountainous relief and narrow valleys ranging from 1300 to 4750 meters above sea level.
In general, three landscapes stand out: mountain landscape, foothill landscape, and valley landscape. This is the most visited by domestic and foreign tourists, who arrive throughout the year to enjoy this beautiful ecosystem.
Salento is perfect for a long weekend or a 3-4 day trip. The best thing about Salento was its laid-back vibe.
It’s very relaxing to just leisurely be present and enjoy everything that Salento has to offer. You can actually spend some time admiring the beautiful colors of the building facades.
It is a timeless corner, formed by a handful of streets with colorful houses, neighbors with cowboy hats, a cheerful atmosphere, and such beautiful surroundings that you fall in love instantly, come on … is a little gem!
It is because of this magic that I come back every time I can. It’s like being inside a Harry Potter moving pictures, in a frozen moment where things and people move but keep a special aura. That’s why we love you!