11 AMAZING things to do in Salento Colombia: Top Salento activities

Wondering what to do in Salento Colombia? You can go for a hike, visit a coffee farm, or just walk around town.

Salento, Colombia is the kind of place you’ll fall instantly in love with. The town center is filled with colorful houses and shops. It’s in the mountains, with a nearly perfect year-round climate. It has some of Colombia’s best hostels, plenty of good restaurants, and fantastic coffee. It’s the perfect base for day trips to go hiking or visit coffee farms. And those are just a few of the best things to do in Salento!

 

Salento is a popular vacation destination for Colombian tourists. It’s also one of the most-loved small towns in Colombia among backpackers and international travelers. It may be a hidden gem no longer, but it’s still a wonderfully laid-back place to spend a few days. Visit on a weekday and it still feels quite sleepy.

 

Sound good? Read on for my list of the top Salento activities!

 

The best things to do in Salento Colombia

 

If you have limited time to experience Salento, spend it on day trips to the surrounding attractions. These are the absolute top things to do in the area.

 

Hike the Cocora Valley

 

One of the top Salento things to do is hike in the Valle de Cocora
The Valle de Cocora is a famous landmark in Colombia well worth hiking to.

 

Every list of the best things to do in Salento starts with the Cocora Valley. And with good reason! The hike to see the world’s tallest palm tree — the wax palm — is unmissable. In fact, I wrote an entire post about the Cocora Valley Hike here.

 

The valley makes for either an easy 90-minute stroll or a slightly more challenging 5-hour day hike, depending on which route to take. Either way, the views across the valley are amazing and the palm trees don’t disappoint.

 

You’ll definitely want to start out early for this day trip. The Cocora Valley is at the lower end of Los Nevados National Park, one of the highest mountainous areas in Colombia. So by mid-afternoon, even in dry season, it gets foggy and often rainy.

 

The Cocora Valley is about 45 minutes outside of Salento, and you’ll need to take a Willy Jeep (8,000 COP round-trip) to get there. It’s either free or 2,000 COP to hike, depending on whether the anyone is staffing the admission booths when you visit.

 

Take a coffee tour

 

One of the best things to do in Colombia is tour a coffee farm in the Salento region.
One of the best Salento Colombia things to do is visit a coffee farm like Don Elias’s.

 

Salento is in the Eje Cafetero, or Coffee Axis, in Colombia. This region produces some of the best coffee in the world. Colombian farmers are unique in that they pick every single bean by hand. Coffee is not just a business here — it’s a way of life.

 

The best way to get a glimpse of Colombian coffee culture is to visit a coffee farm. Luckily, the area around Salento has a concentration of them — you’re spoiled for choice. Choose a larger-scale farm like El Ocaso or a micro-production like Don Elias. Either way, you’ll come away with a much deeper appreciation of where your morning cup comes from. And you’ll get to sample some amazing coffee, too!

 

Most of the coffee farms are about an hour walk from the Salento town center, down a dirt road. You could also take a private Jeep Willy, or wait for one of the public Jeeps that pass every hour. The tours cost 10-20,000 COP, depending on which farm you choose. You can buy beans to take home directly from the producers starting from 8,000 COP per bag, and all the farms have a cafe attached.

 

Things to do in Salento’s town center

 

Have a little more time in Salento? These activities are all in the compact town center. They’re a great way to pass a lazy morning or afternoon after you get back from a day trip.

 

Climb to the Mirador for a view of the Los Nevados range

 

Views of the Salento town center from the Mirador
The Mirador offers great views of the town center and surrounding mountains.

 

You don’t have to go far to appreciate Salento’s incredibly scenic setting at the base of the Los Nevados mountain range. You can get the idea from right in the town center!

 

At the far end of Carrera 4 — otherwise known as Calle Real — you’ll find a set of colorful stairs. Climb them to reach the Mirador, where you’ll find the best views of the town center.

 

From the drink stands at the top, a small path to your left will take you to even better views of the surrounding mountain range. The path isn’t super well-maintained, so be careful and only do this when it’s light out. You can turn back at any time.

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The Mirador is completely free to visit, and it’s open dawn to dusk. It would be a great place to watch the sunset. You can even buy a drink or an ice cream from the vendors who set up at the top. Just pay attention to your surroundings, especially if you hike down the trail — there have been a few reports of robberies in isolated areas at the top. Stick in the main area and you’ll be totally fine due to the crowds.

 

Play Tejo

 

Gunpowder. Lead weights. Throwing stuff. Beer. Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it?

 

In Colombia, not only is it a good idea — it’s the national sport!

 

Tejo involves throwing lead weights at targets embedded in a clay board, and identified by their little triangles of gunpowder. It’s a drinking game, and buying beer is the price of admission to most courts.

 

Tejo is popular throughout the mountainous regions of Colombia, such as BogotaSan Giland Salento (less so on the Caribbean coast). But Salento is one of the most foreigner-friendly places to try it. The court at Amigos specifically aims to attract and welcome foreigners to the game, but you’ll have no trouble finding a local to teach you the rules.

 

Beers cost 3,500 COP and you have to pay an additional 1,000 COP court fee per person. Due to the alcohol-fueled nature of the game, it’s generally an evening activity. Choose one of their shorter courts to get started — it’s harder than it looks to hit the targets!

 

Wander around Calle Real

 

The shops and houses on Calle Real are incredibly colorful
Salento is one of the most charming small towns in Colombia, with lots of cute houses and shops.

 

Yes, it’s touristy, but Calle Real is still the most charming street in town. One of the best things to do in Salento in between more active pursuits is walking around and checking out all the little shops.

 

Calle Real is the best place to snap photos of the colorful buildings. It’s also ground zero for picking up the Wayyu bags for sale in every shop. Quality varies widely — look for one that doesn’t collapse into itself when standing up. Expect to pay around 80,000 COP for a good one.

 

You can find plenty of other souvenirs here as well, or just chat with the shopkeepers about life in Salento. Stop off for a coffee at any of the cafes you pass, and be sure to spend some time exploring the pleasant central plaza at the end of the street.

 

Things to do in Salento for active travelers

 

Want to work up a sweat on your holiday? More of an extreme sports enthusiast? These activities are for you!

 

Go mountain biking through the wax palms

 

Mountain biking through PNN Los Nevados is a great way to see the wax palms.
Imagine being surrounded by way more wax palms than this — that’s what you get on the mountain biking tours.

 

Yeah, hiking the Cocora Valley is great. But even better is driving out to an even more isolated part of the forest and going on a mountain bike ride down past even bigger clusters of wax palms.

 

That’s what Salento Cycling Tours offers. Their wildly popular, beginner-friendly half-day trips first involve a drive to over 3,000 meters. You have an included picnic amidst the largest wax palm grove in the world, and then pedal 2-3 hours downhill to get back to Salento.

 

The trail is well-maintained and safe for people with no mountain biking experience (although you’d want to be comfortable on a bike in general). The bikes are well-maintained and you’ll get a helmet to use for the day.

 

If you’re a more experienced mountain biker, ask about their Black Diamond runs. You must be a fairly advanced cyclist to take on these routes though.

 

The cost for a half-day trip is 140,000 COP. Trips leave first thing in the morning and around 2 pm.

 

Take a day, overnight, or longer trip to PNN Los Nevados

 

The paramo ecosystem is totally unique to South America. PNN Los Nevados is one of the best places to see it.
Classic Paramo landscape — the highlight of PNN Los Nevados.

 

Los Nevados National Park contains one of the highest mountain ranges in Colombia — up to 4,000 meters. Most of the ecosystem is the unique paramo landscape — basically high-altitude grassland. It’s only found in a small number of places in the South American Andes.

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Technically, the Cocora Valley is in PNN Los Nevados. But you can climb or drive much higher into the park, including tackling some snow-covered peaks if you’re so inclined. Options range from one to four day treks and driving tours. All hiking tours include the Cocora Valley.

 

You could probably get away with trekking in the lower parts of PNN Los Nevados — a two-day out and back — without a guide. But officially a guide is required, and for safety reasons it’s probably a good idea to take one if you’re going higher than the Cocora Valley. Book through Paramo Trek in Salento. Prices start around $75 USD per day all-inclusive.

 

Things to do in Salento for foodies and coffee addicts

 

Is food an important part of your travels? Good news! Salento has lots of great places to try local delicacies and to indulge in backpacker comfort food. And don’t forget the coffee!

 

Try the local specialty at Rincon de Lucy

 

Colombians are serious about their grilled trout. Rincon de Lucy is the best place to try it.
Don’t leave Salento without trying the trout at Rincon de Lucy.

 

This is the one place you absolutely must eat. In fact, I’d argue that a meal here is one of the most essential things to do in Salento to get a feel for the local culture.

 

Rincon de Lucy offers one thing, and one thing only — a menu del dia. Granted, you’ll have a couple options, but you’re here to order the trout (trucha). It comes with a soup, a carb-y side of your choice, rice, plantains, and a token salad. And it costs 8,000 COP for more food than you’ll be able to finish.

 

Trout is a huge deal in Salento, and in the Eje Cafetero in general. It’s usually served grilled (a la plancha). You’ll see local workers rushing to restaurants like Rincon de Lucy every day around 12:30 pm to fill up on the fish.

 

Rincon de Lucy isn’t really vegetarian-friendly at all, but if you don’t eat fish, you could probably just order side dishes. The place gets unbelievably busy but even if you have to wait, it won’t be more than 10 minutes or so. The line moves fast.

 

Sample patacones

 

Patacones are kind of like Colombian nachos. You'll find them all throughout Quindio.
Patacones — fried plantains topped with cheese — are delicious.

 

Patacones are kind of like Colombia’s take on nachos. They’re made from fried plantain chips, topped with cheese and often meat, and served with spicy and green salsas.

 

Patacones are a typical snack in the Eje Cafetero, and you can find them at street stalls everywhere. Head to the central plaza in Salento around 6 pm and you’ll find food trucks serving them up for about 5,000 COP.

 

If you’re looking for more of a restaurant experience, Restaurante Aqui me Quedo has great patacones starting at 6,000 COP. You could easily split a plate with two or three other people.

 

Fill up on comfort food at Brunch de Salento

 

When you get sick of Colombian food, Brunch offers a great reprieve
Veggie burgers at Brunch are one of the highlights of Salento.

 

Ahhh, Brunch. One of my favorite traveler cafes anywhere in the world. The kind of place with a 14-page menu of everything you’ve been missing from home, where everything is actually good, the staff are friendly, and you sit at big communal tables where you’ll make friends with half the other people in the restaurant.

 

Brunch is the first place to go in Salento if you just really need a good burger, burrito, nachos, salad, or granola-and-yogurt bowl. They have all the traveler favorites. Their vegetarian menu is extensive, and they’re one of the only restaurants I found in Colombia that extensively caters to vegan and gluten-free diets.

 

If you’re going out of town for the day, you can even order a boxed lunch from Brunch to take with you. This is great for the Cocora Valley hike or a long bus trip. For 14,000 COP, you get a sandwich, crackers, granola, homemade peanut butter, fruit, a brownie, and juice or water. I highly recommend both the PB&J (the peanut butter is homemade and sooooo good) and the vegetarian sandwich.

 

Meals at Brunch start around 14,000 COP. It gets really crowded, so avoid the peak dinner hours if you don’t want to wait.

 

Indulge in third-wave coffee at Cafe Jesus Martin

 

Cafe Jesus Martin has the best coffee in Salento Colombia
Don’t miss a visit to Cafe Jesus Martin to try the best coffee in Salento.

 

The countryside surrounding Salento has lots of good coffee farms and cafes. But the town center itself is disappointingly short on really good coffee.

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The exception to the rule is the incredible Cafe Jesus Martin. This third-wave coffee shop has about a ten-page coffee menu. Choose your brewing method or just go with a cappuccino. Everything is good.

 

The interior is also a wonderful place to chill out for an afternoon. The main building has a bunch of super-comfy couches. If you’d rather be outside, you can head to their courtyard. It has free WiFi throughout.

 

You can also do a coffee tasting here and learn more about how the beans are processed. This costs 50,000 COP.

 

Where to stay in Salento

 

La Serrana is one of the best hostels in Colombia, largely thanks to the views
View from my room at La Serrana. Where else in the world can you get this for under $30 a night?

 

If you’re reading this list of things to do in Salento and thinking it sounds amazing, you’re right!

 

But it gets better. Not only does Salento have some of the best activities in Colombia at its doorstep, it also has one of Colombia’s best hostels.

 

La Serrana Hostel and Eco-Farm is a 20-minute walk outside central Salento, on a small dairy farm. It’s blissfully quiet in the evenings, surrounded by nature. Plus the views from the rooms are amazing.

 

La Serrana is very budget-friendly. It has dorms, permanent tents, private rooms with and without bathrooms, and more luxurious suites. I paid 95,000 COP for a private room with a shared bathroom, and it was one of the nicest rooms I had in Colombia. All rooms include a fantastic breakfast of eggs, homemade bread rolls, fruit, and coffee.

 

Even better, La Serrana’s common areas are hella cozy and charming. You can spend the evenings chilling in the main farmhouse, which has couches and wooden coffee tables — just like national park lodges in the U.S., but for a fraction of the price. The vibe is very social and friendly.

 

The walk to and from La Serrana isn’t a big deal — it’s safe day and night (just bring a torch). If you really don’t want to walk it — or if you’re like me and keep getting caught in torrential downpours — you can usually hitch a free lift or pay a couple thousand COP for a Jeep ride.

 

How to get to Salento

 

If you come from Jardin, you may have to take a chiva bus to reach other towns in the coffee axis
Don’t worry, most buses to Salento aren’t chivas — you’ll only need to take one of these if you’re coming from Jardin.

 

Salento is a really small town, between the much bigger cities of Armenia and Pereira. So most people will have to pass through one of those bigger cities to reach Salento.

 

Flights run from all major Colombian cities to both Armenia and Pereira every day. Pereira is the bigger and more reliable hub. You can also fly directly from Armenia to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Flying is really your only option coming from the Caribbean coast, and it’s also the easiest option coming from Bogota. Flights are as cheap as $30 USD.

 

Alternatively, catch a bus from the likes of Bogota, Manizales, Medellin or Cali. Manizales, Cali and Medellin are all doable in a day — about four, five and six hours respectively. Bogota is a brutal overnight bus trip. And of course, in classic Colombian style, all of these trips have the potential to be twice as long due to traffic and mountain roads.

 

From either Armenia or Pereira, you can hop on a bus or minibus for the final leg to Salento. This costs 8,000 COP and takes 90 minutes from Pereira or an hour from Armenia.

 

Want to explore coffee country more thoroughly? Head to Jardin before or after you visit Salento! (I recommend visiting after — as great as Salento is, Jardin is even better, and Salento can be kind of a let-down after you visit.) Getting between Jardin and Salento isn’t as straightforward as it looks on a map. So I wrote an entire guide about the Jardin-Salento trip here.

 

No matter how you get there, Salento is sure to be one of the highlights of your travels in Colombia. It packs a big punch for such a small town — everything from hiking to coffee tours to adrenaline sports to great food. I hope this list of things to do in Salento has inspired you to plan a trip!

 

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Discover the best things to do in Salento Colombia -- from the Cocora Valley to coffee tours to national parks and the best food in Salento. #travel #colombia

 

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Kay
Kay
3 years ago

I’m not a fan of coffee, but I have seen pictures of Cocora Valley and it’s ENCHANTING!! That is where I want to go!!

Alli
3 years ago

Those patacones look AMAZING! It combines everything I love! Salsa, fried plantains, and salsa! Now I HAVE to go!!

Two Find a Way
3 years ago

What a stunning place! Unfortunately we have no plans to go to Colombia soon, but we have some friends there now, and will definitely be sharing this post with them!

Michelle
3 years ago

Salento was the highlight of my trip to Colombia, brings back so many beautiful memories to read through your post. Your images of the Cocora Valley are stunning!

Wheatley Posey
Wheatley Posey
1 year ago

I just happened upon your blog because my husband and I are going to Colombia in December, and then saw your from Asheville — Hi, neighbor! Asheville native, born and bred 🙂 Great to see another mountain queen traveling the world. Appreciated your advice:)

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