Salento Itinerary: 3 Perfect Days in Salento, Colombia

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When it comes to travel in Colombia, one of the top places to visit is Colombia’s coffee region also known as the coffee triangle. While I don’t drink coffee, I was more than happy to head up to the mountains for a few days after hot and humid Cartagena. Part of me was sad to leave the coastline but those feelings quickly disappeared when I woke up my first morning to see a lush jungle sprawled in front of me and the adorable town of Salento, one of the best places to visit in the coffee triangle. Visiting Salento was a highlight of my time in Colombia so if you are looking for a Salento travel guide then here’s my take on a 3-day Salento itinerary. 

White Houses with red, green, and yellow trim

How to Get to Salento

Salento can be accessed by bus from many cities or by flight via Pereira which is the closest airport. Since I only had 10 days in Colombia, I chose to fly to Pereira from Cartagena. There are local buses that will take you to Salento but since we travelled as a group, we chose to arrange a private transfer to save on time. You can book a private transfer from the airport to Salento here.

Flights, including checked luggage, were pretty reasonably priced when booked in advance. Of course, travelling by bus is still much cheaper if you are coming from somewhere closer such as Bogota or Medellin.

From Medellin, the bus will also likely stop in Pereira where you need to transfer to another bus to Salento. Note that Pereira is an industrial city, not really a touristic one. As I mentioned we travelled as a group of four women and were warned by local Colombians not to be out in Pereira after dark. So, plan your travels accordingly if you have a transfer.

Getting Around Salento

Salento town itself is small enough to explore on foot. For any day trips in the area, it’s common to hop in a jeep or ‘Willy’ that will take you where you need to go. These can be found in the main square, you’ll find a small ticket office where you can purchase your tickets to coffee farms in the area or Cocora Valley then join the line for the next jeep headed in that direction. Make sure to note the schedule for the return before you leave!

One thing to be aware of is that they do fill up the Jeeps as much as they can, which means there will be people standing on the back. This can be fun if you are up for an adventure but if standing on the back of a moving vehicle does not sound appealing to you, come early to ensure you get an inside seat.

Where to Stay in Salento

Wooden deck with yellow chairs and umbrella overlooking lush green jungle

If you are travelling to Salento make sure when you book your accommodation that you stay in Salento town. There are a few cool-looking camps or hotels more in the jungle, but unless you are renting a vehicle staying in these places will make it tricky to explore.

I stayed at Viajero Hostel in Salento. I was with three other friends so we got a private room and had the added benefits of a large outdoor area and common space with daily activities like salsa dancing classes. The rooms are basic but clean and the property itself is beautiful with amazing views. I definitely recommend it for budget or solo travellers.

If you would prefer a hotel, take a look at Hotel el Mirador de Cocora or Hotel el Jardin, both of which are in the heart of the town.

Things to do in Salento, Colombia: a 3 Day Salento Itinerary

When it comes to deciding how many days to spend in Salento I suggest a minimum of three days. Salento is very laid back and relaxing, especially in comparison to the bigger cities so it’s a nice place to have a break. You might even want to spend longer. However, since three days is how long I spent in Salento, I’m basing my suggested Salento itinerary based on that.

Day 1 in Salento 

Visit a Coffee Farm 

Hannah wearing a farming hat and bright pink jumpsuit holding a handful of coffee beans

Assuming you arrive in Salento by midday, you’ll still have lots of time to visit one of the nearby coffee farms. There are several different ones to visit in the area and each has a different type of experience. Some are very hands-on and allow you to participate in the coffee experience from picking the beans. Others are more of a quick guided tour with a tasting at the end, so consider what works best for you. Even if you don’t drink coffee, the coffee tours in Salento are a lot of fun.

As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of Jeeps (Willys) in the main square that will take you out to these coffee farms. At the ticket booth let them know which one you want to go to. You will pay for your ticket and transportation there and get a bracelet for the farm of your choice. The ticket also includes pickup when finished. Just be mindful of the schedule. I visited Coffee Luger when I was in Salento and highly recommend it.

Take in the views at the Mirador

On the edge of Salento town, you will find a set of stairs leading up the hill to the mirador, or lookout. The views here, if you have a nice clear day, offer views of Salento on one side and views of the valley on the other. Word of caution: we were warned that sunset is not the best time to go as this is when there are most likely to be pickpockets. Decide accordingly but be mindful of your things!

Explore Calle Real

Hannah smiling in front of a blue and yellow door

Calle Real is the main tourist street in Salento. If you want photographs, it is best to come early in the morning. However, for the atmosphere it is best in the evening. There are plenty of shops and restaurants as well as street food vendors who come out in the evening.

Fun fact: The colourful houses of Salento and nearby nature are said to be the inspiration for the town and scenery in Disney’s Encanto.

Day 2 in Salento

Cocora Valley

Wax Palms against blue sky and green valley of Cocora Valley

Cocora Valley is a huge part of why so many people choose to visit Salento and yes, it is a must on your itinerary even if you aren’t a huge hiker.

Cocora Valley is home to the tallest palm trees in the world which tower 60 meters above the farmlands in this beautiful valley. It’s most popular for the big hiking trail which is nearly 11km long. The route takes about 5 hours across rivers and up the hill so if you are adventurous and love to hike then yes, this big loop is for you. Since it’s a loop you can go two directions. Clockwise is said to be a little easier since it’s less uphill. However, most people prefer to go counterclockwise because it ends in the wax palm valley which, for most, is the highlight. You can do the hike on your own but if you would prefer, you can also do it with a guide. Check out a guided option here.

 If you are not into the idea of a 5-hour hike, that’s ok! You can still visit the beautiful wax palm valley. Parts of the area are very done up with photo ops for instagrammers, but you can do a little bit of a hike up the hill to the mirador to get the viewpoint which is very much worth it.

Cocora Valley, on top of being a hiking destination, is also known for horseback riding and bird watching. If either of those are of interest, take a look at these tours.

Like with the coffee farms, the best way to get to Cocora Valley is by jeep. You pay for the ride in the main square of Salento and will get a ticket for the journey there and another for the way back (so don’t lose it!). The ride each way is about thirty minutes. You will also need to pay on arrival to enter the wax palm valley, so bring cash.

A couple of things to keep in mind: the hike is very uneven and can be wet, so dress appropriately. You are also high in the hills here so the altitude may affect you. Bring plenty of water (and maybe a Gatorade/Powerade) and take it easy if you need to.

Play Tejo

Tejo rock and a cold beer

After a busy day exploring Cocora Valley, you no doubt are ready to have a cold beer. Well, you can get a beer pretty much anywhere in Salento but I suggest a beer and a game of Tejo.

What is tejo? It’s a local game that consists of throwing a metal disk (your tejo) into a clay-lined ring. The goal? Get the gunpowder packets to explode. Does it sound a little sketchy? Maybe. But it’s so much fun and one of the best things to do in Salento.

There are a couple of places to play Tejo but I recommend going to Los Amigos. You can play a game for the price of a beer and they will set it all up and explain it to you. It’s a fun way to spend an evening in Salento.

 Day 3 in Salento

Visit a Waterfall or Hot Spring

Lush jungle greenery and orange flowers framing a waterfall

By your third day in Salento, you’ve probably explored most of town. If you follow this Salento itinerary you will have also had a coffee farm experience and visited the famous Cocora Valley which means it’s time to chase some waterfalls.

There are a few options depending on how far you want to go, what you want to spend, and what kind of waterfall day you are looking for.

If you want to stay close and save money, head to Santa Rita Waterfall. You can take a bus (or walk) to nearby Boquia and then walk about 30 minutes to this waterfall. It is located on private property so there is a small entry fee. There is a small pool here where you can swim so bring a bathing suit!

If you want a relaxing day after your Cocora Valley hike, then consider a day trip to Santa Rosa de Cabal Thermal Hot Springs. These springs are about 90 minutes away from Salento so you will need to book a tour. It’s a nature spa-type establishment so there is an entry fee and facilities like changing rooms and restaurants on site. There are some beautiful waterfalls with small pools below that are fun for photos, then several hot spring baths. It’s a fun way to spend a day relaxing. Book a trip to Santa Rosa de Cabal here.

Final Tips for Salento Travel

 

Salento is much more laid back and relaxed than the bigger cities in Colombia. As such, it feels a lot safer. Of course, you still need to be cautious and use common sense. However, you don’t need to be as mindful about some things like carrying your cell phone in your hand etc. the same way as you do in, say, Medellin.

One thing to note is that Salento is incredibly popular with locals as well which makes it a popular weekend getaway. To avoid crowds, it’s best to plan your visit during the week and skip the weekends.

I hope this Salento itinerary comes in handy and that you enjoy it as much as I did!

Ready to Book Your Trip?

Don’t forget travel insurance!

Please do not travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to use it multiple times throughout my travels and it has saved me thousands of dollars. You can learn more about travel insurance here. If you are looking for a provider I love and recommend SafetyWing. For Canadian readers, take a look at SoNomad.

Book your accommodation

I love and recommend booking.com for accommodation. They have a range of hostels, guesthouses, hotels, and resorts. Plus, the platform has a great loyalty program that means the more you book, the more you can save. 

Book your tours

My go-to tour provider that I love to recommend is GetYourGuide. They have options all over the world and partner with local companies for everything from day trips to food experiences and even airport transfers. 

Get connected

If you want to have data while travelling for online maps or any other needs, an esim is one of the easiest solutions. I’m a big fan of Airalo and have used their sim cards around the world from Brazil to Uzbekistan, Greece to the USA. It’s really easy- you download the app, pick what country you want an esim for, and after you purchase it follow the installation instructions. You can use promo code HANNAH3326 to save $3USD on your next esim purchase. 

Not sure what to pack?

I have destination-specific guides for some countries but you can also check my travel essentials and camera gear if you are looking for some ideas. 

Looking for a travel buddy?

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