Despite its relatively small size, Salento is one of the most popular places to visit in Colombia.
From its colourful streets and coffee tours to the magnificent Valle de Cocora, Salento is somewhere that people don’t want to miss!
The coffee farms and delicious coffee sound great, but they’re not even the star of the show. Most people visit Salento for the Valle de Cocora — home to the tallest palm trees in the world.
If by this point you haven’t completely fallen in love with Salento, the people will make sure you do. We’re not exaggerating when we say that the people in Salento are some of the friendliest in Colombia.
Get your bucket list ready. In this guide, we’ll show you the best things to do in Salento and how to experience them, including how to visitthe Valle de Cocora.
Need help planning your trip? Check out our tips for visiting Salento — you’ll find the best restaurants, where to stay, how to get around and more!
#1 Visit the Valle de Cocora and see the tallest palm trees in the world
If you’ve watched the popular Disney movie, Encanto, you may recognise the Valle de Cocora. The dynamic landscape is so magnificent that it inspired the setting for the film.
The Valle de Cocora is home to the tallest palm trees in the world, with some of them reaching up to 60m. These incredible masterpieces of nature, alongside the rolling mountains and slow-moving clouds, are beyond picturesque.
As you hike around the Valle de Cocora, you can’t help but stop every 100m or so just to admire the incredible view!
When to visit the Valle de Cocora
Our first tip when visiting the Valle de Cocora is to leave as early as possible. The weather is pretty unpredictable in Salento, with clouds and often rain coming in the afternoon.
The Valle de Cocora opens at 8am and closes at 6pm every day.
Going earlier hopefully means you won’t need to rush to finish the hike before closing time.
Which route should you take?
There are a few different hiking routes that you can take in the Valle de Cocora.
The shortest one is the out-and-back. This hike takes around 2 hours and is purely to see the palm trees. You walk to the viewpoint and back the same way.
However, we’d recommend doing the full loop as the Valle de Cocora is so much more than just the palm trees.
There are rickety bridges, waterfalls, rivers and panoramic views!
The 4-6 hour loop
The full loop takes around 4-6 hours depending on your pace. You can do this loop clockwise or anticlockwise.
Some other blogs recommend anticlockwise so that you leave the palm trees till last.
Although it does mean more hiking uphill, we’d recommend seeing the palm trees first as the weather tends to be better in the morning. By the time you get to the palm trees at the end, it could be too cloudy.
Either way, you’re still going to have an amazing time!
Entrance to the Valle de Cocora costs 8,000 COP ($1.70) at the start. If you hike the full loop, you’ll be asked to pay an additional 5,000 COP ($1.05) later on, as you pass through private property.
Top Tip: Apart from the Hummingbird Sanctuary, which costs 5,000 COP ($1.05) to enter, there’s nowhere to get food or drinks so come prepared. We’d recommend bringing your own lunch. Brunch de Salento sells a packed lunch for your hike in the Valle de Cocora. For a very reasonable price, you get a sandwich, granola, fruit, a drink, a brownie and a few other treats.
How to get to the Valle de Cocora from Salento
Getting to the Valle de Cocora couldn’t be any easier. On Salento’s main square, you’ll find a number of colourful jeeps lined up, ready to take you there.
There are meant to be set departure times, but the jeeps tend to leave when they’re full. Each jeep can fit around eight people inside, with three people hanging off the back. Something definitely worth trying!
You can buy your ticket from the little booth by the jeeps. A return ticket costs 8,000 COP ($1.70). Make sure to keep your ticket safe for the way back.
The journey to the Valley de Cocora takes around 30 minutes and is a scenic experience in itself.
To return back to Salento, wait for the jeep where it dropped you off.
#2 Discover why Colombia’s coffee is world famous
Salento is at the heart of Colombia’s coffee region. It’s one of the country’s most popular places to take a coffee tour.
The elevation and climate in Salento and the entire Quindio region are perfect for growing Arabica beans, the main type of coffee grown here. With 60% rain and 40% sunshine, it might not be great weather for visitors, but it’s ideal for coffee.
Which coffee farm should you visit?
There are a number of coffee farms to choose from in Salento, but we would recommend Finca El Ocaso.
It’s a beautiful farm with an excellent, comprehensive coffee tour. There are two tours that you can pick from: the traditional coffee tour for 30,000 COP ($6) or the premium coffee tour for 80,000 COP ($17).
We’d recommend booking the premium coffee tour, but here are the differences between the two:
Traditional Coffee Tour
Premium Coffee Tour
Max. 12 people
Max. 8 people
-Tour of the coffee plantation and a chance to pick your own coffee beans -Explanation of the production process -Interactive coffee brewing
-Tour of the coffee plantation and a chance to pick your own coffee beans -Explanation of the production process -Interactive coffee brewing -Sensory workshop: tasting different qualities of coffee -Brewing coffee using alternative methods
30,000 COP ($6)
80,000 COP ($17)
Both are an amazing experience. One that you’ll walk away from never being able to drink a Starbucks coffee again!
This one might seem a bit random at first, but trout is one of the most popular dishes in the area.
There’s a large population of trout farmers and local trout in the rivers surrounding Salento. It’s a must-try and can be found on pretty much every menu.
The trout is prepared in many ways: fried, grilled and, the most popular way, accompanied with a creamy garlic and mushroom sauce.
One of the best places to try it is El Rincon de Lucy. You can try trout (trucha) as part of the menu del dia for just 13,000 COP ($2.75). This also includes soup and a drink!
#7 Take a day trip to Finlandia
Ask a local what you should do in Salento and they’ll probably recommend a trip to Finlandia.
Finlandia is Salento but without the crowds. It still has the colourful buildings, stunning architecture and a friendly feel. Only a 30-minute drive from Salento, it’s well worth the visit.
You can play Tejo here as well, enjoy some incredible views and taste some delicious food. Helena Adentro is an all-round favourite for a fusion meal in a cool spot.
#8 Hike to Santa Rita waterfall
If you have an extra day in Salento and you’re looking for something to do, you can visit Santa Rita waterfall.
The waterfall is located just outside of Salento, so you can either walk there or take a taxi. The walk takes around 1 hour before you reach Finca Santa Rita where the trail to the waterfall begins. The owners at the Finca will charge you 2,000 COP ($0.40) to visit the waterfall.
From this point, it’s about a 2km walk to the waterfall. You will have to cross a pretty sketchy bridge to get there, but it’s worth it!
Once you reach the waterfall, it’s a nice place to go for a swim and just soak up nature. Also not that many people visit it, so you might have it all to yourself.
Rounding it up
Now you’ve picked the best things to do in Salento, it’s time to start ticking off that bucket list. Not sure how to plan your trip? Our guide is here to help! You’ll find out how long to stay in Salento, where to eat, how to get around and more. Happy planning!
Our favourite places to stay in Salento
Salento takes accommodation expectations to a whole new level. Here you’ll find some incredible properties that are surrounded by nature and pure tranquillity.
The majority of accommodations offer great value for money and a place that you won’t want to leave.
These accommodations are just incredible:
Hotel Kawa Mountain Retreat – Treating Yourself
You can’t help but say wow when you see this place! The treehouse-style rooms are a magical combination of rustic and modern. The star of the show are the incredible views from your own private balcony.
Enjoy lounging on your hammock or opt for a room with a jacuzzi on your balcony. This place really feels like a retreat. You don’t even have to leave because there’s an on-site restaurant serving up the most incredible food.
Hotel Terasu is another great example of the extraordinary accommodation that you can find in Salento. The staff here help to take your stay to another level. They are incredibly friendly and helpful. Nothing is too much.
Here you’ll find lots of beautiful and secluded places to just relax and take in nature. One being your private balcony with a hammock. There’s also an onsite bar, if that’s your form of relaxation.
La Cabaña Ecohotel feels like you’re staying in your very own ranch, nestled within the lush mountains. You can spend your time relaxing in the vast hotel grounds or taking part in the activities offered by the accommodation – horse riding, cycling and fishing.
The homely rooms open up onto terraces adorned with hammocks and rocking chairs. The perfect place to relax. Friendly staff are also one of the best things about this place!
Ecohotel Piedemonte is an absolute steal! For the facilities and views that they offer, you’d expect to pay at least double. Every room has its own terrace that overlooks the lush nature surrounding the complex.
Just sit back and listen to the sound of the river nearby!
They have their own restaurant and bar onsite, so you literally never have to leave the tranquillity of the hotel. Please do so though! Salento is amazing.
Kate is a writer, (ex)Management Consultant and avid traveller. She recently returned from a 2-year career break exploring the world and decided corporate life wasn’t for her. She’ll soon be testing life as a digital nomad. She’s visited over 40 countries and fell in love with Latin America in particular. Her travelling has inspired a passion for yoga, salsa, hiking and Spanish.
Aleksandra is a writer and editor who recently moved from Hong Kong to London. She’s worked and studied in four countries (and counting) and picked up a new hobby in each of them. She’s a big fan of long train journeys so you can count on her to take the scenic route, finding a few hidden gems along the way.