In the department of Quindio you will fall in love with one of the most beautiful towns in Colombia: Salento, which historic center was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the “Coffee Cultural Landscape” in 2011.
It is perhaps the most important municipality for tourism in Quindío, due to three fundamental reasons:
- The first, the beautiful and preserved architecture left by the Antioquian colonization;
- the second, the imposing Cocora Valley, which is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Colombia;
- and the third, the contagious atmosphere of peace and well-being that permeates immediately upon arrival.
In this guide you will have the necessary information for your visit to these beautiful town, and also how to get to know the wax palm, the national tree of Colombia.
Located 26 km from Armenia, on the western side of the Central Mountain Range and to the northeast of the department, Salento is like a historical account of the region, since its streets reflect intact the tradition of the initial settlers.
Tradition that even today many still strive to preserve so that the place projects its full charm. This town of colorful houses and balconies adorned with flowers has among its residents some foreigners who one day arrived and decided to remain trapped by the charm of the place.
And speaking of charm, Disney released its new movie, called Encanto, inspired by this place.
Salento was founded on September 16, 1842 but its creation would only take place until 1908. Moreover, Salento is the oldest municipality among the 3 departments that make up the Eje Cafetero (Quindío, Risaralda and Caldas). In addition, it is the gateway to the Cocora Valley and one of the entrances to Los Nevados National Natural Park.
Bear in mind, the average temperature in Salento is between 17 ºC (63ºF) and 23 ºC (73ºF) and it has 2 dry season periods, one from mid-June to early September and from late December to mid-January.
How to get to Salento
Take a 1-hour flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to El Edén International Airport (AXM) at Armenia city. Once in Armenia you take an approximately 45-minutes ride (25 Km) to Salento.
Remember that you can get to Armenia from any of the major cities in the country by air. In addition, if you wish to take the overland route from Bogota, the journey takes 6.2 hours and 305 Km.
Where to stay in Salento
In Salento you will find a great diversity of accommodation options depending on your budget and personal taste. Our recommendations as follows:
- Hotel El Mirador del Cocora
- Montana Glamping
- Hotel Terraza
- La Cabaña Ecohote
- Hotel Kawa Mountain
- Hotel Real
Salento Attractions and activities
Tour the town
We recommend that you start the tour walking through the beautiful streets of Salento, where you will see the predominance of adobe and mud houses with colorful wooden balconies and gates decorated with flowers. On your walk you will be able to appreciate the authentic architecture of the traditional coffee towns from the beginning of the 20th century.
Walk along the Calle Real (Royal Street)
This is the main street of the municipality. On your walk you will be able to appreciate beautiful restaurants, coffee shops, handicraft stores and commercial passageways.
At the end of this street you will find some colorful stairs that take you to one of the viewpoints of Salento, the viewpoint of Alto de la Cruz. From the viewpoint you will be able to see a large part of the town and its church, and if you are lucky you will be able to see part of Armenia and the mountains of Los Nevados National Natural Park.
Visit the Cocora Valley
This beautiful tourist place is something you cannot miss on your visit; it is a world-class tourist attraction for its majestic beauty and it is one of the last cloud forests that are home to the Ceroxylon quindiuense or Quindio wax palm, the tallest in the world.
The Cocora Valley is an important habitat for many animals such as the yellow-eared parakeet, the toucan and the spectacled bear, hence its importance of protection.
That is why we recommend you to have a lot of respect for the flora and fauna, and to walk ONLY along the areas allowed by the park rangers.
To get to the Cocora Valley you must take the road that takes you to the access point, the trip takes 25 minutes by car 11 km from Salento.
Visit Acaime and the hummingbird house
Acaime is a natural reserve full of native flora and fauna, located on the Central Mountain Range 4 Km from the Cocora Valley.
In this reserve you will be able to appreciate a great diversity of hummingbirds, as well as other species of the region and beautiful streams.
The entrance fee is COP 5,000, which is redeemable for a traditional snack (panela water with cheese or a delicious coffee).
Visiting the Los Nevados National Natural Park
It is one of the most beautiful National Parks in the country, where you can visit beautiful landscapes and see the greatness of the most important snow-capped mountains where you will connect with nature and its majesty.
For more information on how you can make the most of this beautiful National Park you can read our blog: Best Things to Know Before Visiting Los Nevados National Natural Park.
Go to Santa Rita Waterfall
This beautiful waterfall of no more than 20 meters high has a natural with a quiet and romantic atmosphere for its visitors.
In the village of Los Andes, 4 km from the center of Salento, at this point there is a walk of 1.5 km, on the way to the waterfall you will see tunnels, suspension bridges, water sources and the old train track.
The entrance fee is COP 5,000.
El Mirador Ecopark
It is an obligatory point of visit because from there you can observe the Cocora valley that is born between the mountains of the Central mountain range and slides parallel to the Quindío river; it is possible to arrive by car and park it in the parking lot of the place, which also has public restroom.
The structure, in the form of a balcony, is built in guadua, thus representing an excellent tribune to admire the landscape, even through some telescopes rented by the locals. From the lookout point, a short trail leads from the lookout point to the Alto de la Cruz.
There they sell delicious sweets, honey, wafers and candies for the cold. The best way to get there is to ask any inhabitant.
Coffee Process and Coffee Tour at Finca Hotel El Ocaso
Finca El Ocaso is located on a hill just 4km from Salento (20 minutes by car or one hour walking), with a unique landscape surrounded by mountains and adorned by the murmur of the Quindio River that passes along the farm 300m downhill.
It has a typical coffee house with more than 100 years of history and tradition where lodging services are provided for a maximum of 10 people. Finca El Ocaso has extensive gardens with a great variety of flowers and native trees and several hectares of coffee.
Enjoy the trails that go to the bamboo forest, to the hill (viewpoint), to the water source and to the Quindio River where you can do bird watching and learn about the flora and fauna of the tropical rainforest.
Alto de la Cruz Viewpoint
Through the more than 200 steps that start where the Fieal de Salento street ends, you can access this site that allows you to get an idea of the magnitude of the Cocora Valley, and at the same time offers a panoramic view of the town.
During the breaks in the tour, the images of the Way of the Cross that Jesus traveled on his way to Mount Calvary appear. The viewpoint, besides being a tourist attraction, is a permanent pilgrimage destination.
This is the stage before Los Nevados Park, which can only be reached on foot from the Cocora Valley and by a difficult road on which all precautions must be taken.
The hill, of unique morphological characteristics, is located at an altitude of 3,450 m, in the midst of a dense Andean forest landscape that makes it one of the favorite natural destinations of the people of Quindio.
The cave represents the mystery of having been a cemetery and ritual center of the Quindos Indians who once lived in the area. It is recommended that the expedition be accompanied by a guide.
La Explanación Bridge
Around 1948 this western railroad crossing was built as part of the road project between Buenaventura and Bogota. Currently, the structure, with arched bases, is a national monument belonging to the Boquía trail. It is also known as the Amparo Bridge.
Quindío National Road
When in other times communication between east and west was required, this road was the most important articulation route. Although since the 18th century Viceroy Pedro Messia de la Cerda was interested in its creation, it was not until 1823 that the work began, while in 1830 it was Simón Bolívar who ordered its opening. The old road extends between the Boquía trail, the river of the same name and the Quindío River.
The upper canyon of the Quindío River is the habitat of endemic and near-endemic species and specimens that captivate with their colors, shapes and behaviors. In the vicinity of the Cocora Valley, near the canyon, you can go on hikes to observe birds such as the torrent duck and the blackbird.
Along the same route, going up on horseback, the Acaime nature reserve is home to birds such as the masked saltator, the Golden-plumed parakeet, and the White-capped tanager. Other special birds can be observed along the Estrella de Agua, La Montaña and La Picota nature reserves, considered one of the best corridors for bird watching.
The Ocellated tapaculo, the Mountain cacique, the Grey-breasted mountain Toucan and the Chestnut-naped antpitta, are special birds that fly through this landscape.
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