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.The 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.When 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.
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.After 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!After 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.After 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.Apart 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!