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salento main street

Two days in Salento, Colombia: Coffee Farms and Hiking the Cocora Valley

After visiting Medellin, Cartagena and Bogota it was time to leave the cities behind and check out some of the villages of Colombia. And Salento was the perfect choice. Here’s what we did in two days.

Day 1 – Visiting the Coffee Farms of Salento

Salento is a famous coffee growing area and it’s possible to visit the farms to see the process from growing to roasting. While a couple of places sell tours to these farms, it’s easy enough to walk to them from Salento and that’s exactly what we did.walk to coffee farm in salentoThe two farms which are most advertised are El Ocaso and Don Elias. El Ocaso is the main one people go to as it’s the one most set up for the tourist trade and even has a guesthouse on site. Always looking for something a little different, we chose Don Elias which is a family run organic coffee farm. Simply walk 5km to the west of town down Carrera 5 and you will reach the farm. It’s actually just past El Ocaso and you will see signs all along the way so you’ll know you’re on the right road. The views along this road are excellent and it is such a pleasant walk!

Upon reaching the farm you pay your 6,000 pesos and the young English speaking guy will take you around the farm for 20 minutes showing you the organic coffee process from growing to roasting. You’ll even get to taste the coffee.coffee cherries salentoWhen you’re done at the coffee farm, you can either walk back the way you came or walk up the driveway of El Ocaso and just before you enter their main compound, follow their fenceline on the right. Don’t turn down the road on the right. Just follow their fenceline down to the river and across the bridge. After crossing the bridge, turn right and follow that road along the river all the way to the main road. From here you can flag down a bus back into Salento. All in all a great day out. Some people also continue from the main road until a waterfall in the hills (Cascada Santa Rita), but that was way too much for us.bridge salento

Day 2 – Hiking the Cocora Valley

The Cocora Valley is a highlight of many people’s visit to the area and we have to agree that it’s pretty awesome. Again, tour agents in town sell tours of the valley, but you can easily do it independently.

First of all, catch a collectivo jeep from the main square (there is a woman there selling tickets). You’ll be dropped off next to a big gate with a sign. Most people enter through this gate and begin their loop this way. We chose to walk past the gate straight into the Cocora Valley itself thus doing the loop the opposite way to most people.Cocora ValleyAfter about 1km, there is a small farm gate with a guy sitting under a sun shade. Enter here. From here you will pay the guy, start climbing up out of the valley and get great views of the spectacular trees. We initially missed this turn off and ended up 1km down the road and next to a river — wrong turn!

The going is tough and you will be climbing steadily up go about 2800m. The altitude definitely makes things more difficult even if you’re already acclimatised like we were. After a few hours you will reach a national park hut with a couple of dogs. It’s here where you’ll rest and maybe even have a bite to each from the food you brought with you. Hint: Bring food and drinks with you!Cocora Valley cowsAfter a rest, start your descent. At this time you will meet other trekkers coming the other way. Keeping trekking until you reach a fork in the path and turn left (there is a sign). This path through the forest leads to the hummingbird sanctuary called Acaime. After a 20 minute walk you’ll reach the sanctuary, pay your 5,000 pesos entry fee and receive a cup of hot chocolate. The hummingbirds are awesome to watch and we actually spent about an hour there photographing them and eating our lunch.hummingbird acaimeAfter the hummingbirds, take the same path back but instead of heading back up hill at the fork, continue along the river, crossing numerous bridges. This part of the walk dragged on and on for us and took about 2 hours.

Finally, you reach the entrance gate at the main road and wait for a return jeep to Salento. A punishing yet highly rewarding day out. Definitely do it on your own and definitely ask for a map from you guesthouse. It’s actually not complicated at all.

We stayed in Casa Borbon guesthouse in Salento and found it to be an excellent base especially because the staff were so helpful with how to do all these activities on your own. Check the price of Casa Borbon guesthouse now on Agoda.
Check the price of Casa Borbon guesthouse now on Booking.com.

While in town, we also recommend having coffee at Jesus Martin. Easily the best coffee in town.coffee Jesus MartinApart from that, there’s not a whole lot else to do in town except wander around and enjoy the small town vibe. We loved it and I hope you do too!

Yellow Fever in Colombia: Free Vaccination in Bogota!

One of the problems with travelling in South America is the number of vaccinations that you should get before you go. There are so many diseases which are endemic to many South American countries that it really is wise to see a doctor before you travel.

I recently arrived in Colombia without a Yellow Fever injection. No big deal because I don’t expect that I will get it, especially because I don’t have plans to visit the jungles. But the problem is, Yellow Fever is endemic in Colombia. That is, it is prevalent in many areas of the country and if you catch it, there’s a good chance you will die from it (I read somewhere like 10%).

The main problem for most travellers visiting Yellow Fever endemic countries is that if you want to visit a non-yellow fever country afterwards, that country will usually ask you to prove that you are vaccinated against Yellow Fever. If you can’t prove it, they may deny you entry, especially if you are not a citizen of that country. So in order to avoid any hassles on my future travels and to protect against the low chance of actually getting Yellow Fever, I decided to get vaccinated against it in Bogota Airport.

How to get vaccinated against Yellow Fever for free in Bogota Airport

Located on the second floor of the Bogota Airport is a vaccination counter. You’ll see it right next to the tourist tax refund counter and it is signposted. It is open between 7am and 7pm daily and is operated by Fontibon Hospital. All you need to do is visit the clinic, take a number, fill in a form (which is in Spanish, but they give you a translation) and they will immediately vaccinate you against Yellow Fever for free. No questions asked. After vaccination, they give you a yellow booklet which is your proof of Yellow Fever vaccination.

It took me about 10 minutes from when I took a number to when I left the clinic. It was so quick and efficient that I recommend that absolutely everyone does it, no matter what your nationality. You’re going to need that booklet at some point in your future travels in order to avoid a hassle with the immigration authorities.

Fontibon Hostpital
Level 2
Bogota Airport
7am-7pm daily
FREE

So there you have it. A quick an easy way to get vaccinated against Yellow Fever in Bogota Airport.