Bite Size Travel: Salento, Colombia

29 Oct 2015

Home of world famous coffee and some very charismatic  local farmers

Why should you go:

Salento lies in Colombia’s coffee triangle or the ‘eje cafetero’. As fourth biggest coffee producer in the world, this is little Salento’s big draw card for the hundreds of visitors that flood the town on weekends and holidays. Although to be fair, Salento has plenty of other things on offer. Like trout. That’s right, people come here to eat trout. Fished from the rivers that provide fresh water to the coffee plantations. And there’s the traditional colonial architecture which the town has largely retained. Or the enchanting  ‘Corcora Valley’, famous for it’s 50 m tall native wax palms,  found scattered across the luscious green plains. Salento lies at an altitude of 1900m giving it it’s mild and temperate climate.  Reached via a winding road, those with weak stomachs should keep their motion sickness tablets on standby. Salento is located 250kms south of Medellin or 300km west of Bogota, making this town a little bit of a trek to get to, but it is well worth the trip.

It would be a crime to leave Salento without visiting one of the many family owned ‘fincas’ or coffee plantations. One much loved finca still run by head of the estate, Don Elias, is the Finca Cafetera Las Brisas. It’s a small plantation that has been family run for the last 50 years. With a grin like Colonel Sanders, Don Elias swears by a little flask of “Aguardiente” (a local aniseed flavoured spirit) and a mandatory 3-4 coffees a day to live a happy life.  With any luck, he’ll guide you personally through his boutique plantation complete with waterfalls and a river running by.

The Don: Don Elias

Salento, Colombia - Don Elias at his coffee plantation

For an enchanting experience, the mystic Corcora valley is an absolute feast for the eyes.  Only half hour drive from Salento by 4 wheel drive vehicles that depart the central square, it’s famous for its towering native wax palms. A half day walk leads through various terrains of vast grassy fields, forests with creeks and creepy wooden bridges and finally the valley of the wax palms. Luscious green hills scattered with hundreds of up to 50m tall palms can look quite mystical in moody weather, but either way it’s a unique sight.

Salento, Corcora Valley

One final experience which is most certainly unique to Colombia and played in several of Salento’s bars is ‘Tejo’ (say teh-ho). What could be better than throwing at a metal puck at a ring covered with strategically placed gunpowder filled triangles? Hosted in an angled pit of clay, pucks are thrown from a distance of around 20 metres. Just add beer and you have a long night of banging fun ahead of you.

Café Jesús Martín

Salento coffee and cake, Colombia

Salento’s main street : Calle Real

Salento high street, Colombia

An explosive game of ‘Tejo’

Tejo, Salento, Colombia

Best for:

Visiting a coffee plantation. Drinking coffee. Seeing some traditional Colombian colonial architecture. Drinking beer and playing games that involve gunpowder. 

Best to get to:

Medellin and Bogotá both have international airports. Avianca Airlines flies from either to El Eden in Armenia or Matecana in Pereira, which is also serviced by other national carriers like Viva, LAN, Easily and Copa and a few others.

From Pereira it’s only an hour 15 mins to Salento with buses running every 15 minutes from the central bus terminal. Similarly from Armenia buses take an hour and run in 20 minute intervals.

Taxis from either airports are also readily available to take you directly to Salento.

Enchanting Corcora Valley

Salento, Colombia - Horse in Corcora Wax Palm Valley

Salento’s coffee plantations

Salento coffee plantations clinging to hills

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Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

I’d love to visit Columbia one day. It looks so lush and green in these pictures!