I am a sucker for small towns. I am especially fond of colonial ones dressed in vibrant colors. Salento, Colombia was a small town dream come true. There are so many reasons you need to visit Salento. So. many.
It’s easy to get to. Fly into Armenia and then it is just a 40 minute ride to Salento. Heck even Spirit flies direct from Fort Lauderdale into Salento.
The people are hands down the nicest locals I have ever met. They smile. They greet you. They want to know where you are from.
The hotels are cute and cheap. We stayed at the Hotel Salento Real. It was simple and basic, but perfect. Even the hostel we dined at, was absolutely breathtaking if hostels can be called breathtaking, which in Salento they can be.
The main form of transportation is the WWII inspired Jeep Willy. For $1 you can ride along with 10 of your closest friends. Don’t worry if you don’t have a seat they find room for you to stand on the back bumper-seriously.
There are cowboys (real ones) trotting down the cobblestone streets, slinging back the local liquor, aguardiente.
The coffee is fabulous. Of course it is, it’s Colombia and the coffee region at that. Whether it is from the adorable Quindío Café off the main square or right from the source at the most picturesque coffee finca ever, Ocaso, the coffee is divine.
Even the coffee tour at Ocaso is walkable. Granted it is 90 minute walk, but when you are surrounded by verdant coffee lands teaming with colorful birds, the time flies by.
Tejo! This game, which originated 500 years ago is apparently the national game of Colombia, but we only found it in Salento. Amigos bar has rows of tejo alleys. Picture a bowling alley with dusty floors and one kind of beer, aptly named Poker. Not sure beer and gun powder powder are a good mix, but laughing over a game of tejo is not a bad way to spend an evening.
You will adore the food in Salento from the touristy, but delicious and savvy Brunch de Saleto, to the ultra local trout lunch at Rincon del Lucy, to the giant steak (for an embarrassingly low price) that you can find at La Parrilla. And everywhere you go you will find (and must order) the giant patacones with hogao. These are savory, flattened and fried salty plantains. Hogao is a red sauce, like a sofrito. Delish!
Strolling along the hilly roads will not only give you a nice workout, but you can get lost in all the little shops that line them. Don’t miss visiting Galeria Puro Arte for gorgeous and affordable bowls, trays, and other hand-painted artesania.
Be sure to pick yourself up a poncho as the Salento folk love themselves some panchos. How can you not fall in love with a town with pancho forward fashion?!
The draw to this region is hands down the giant wax palms, and they did not disappoint. To see them yourself, make your way in a Jeep Willy to the entrance of the Valle de Cocora.
You can opt for the 4-5 hour loop through the woods or take an immediate right and pay a small fee to enter the most beautiful farm you have seen in your life. From there follow the path, stopping for pictures of course, to the clearing at the top of the mountain.
Do a handstand. Take a selfie. Marvel at this wonder of the world.
It’s worth coming to Salento for the wax palms alone. Seriously.
After you are sweaty and tired and just sick and tired of the majestic beauty of the Cocora Valle, make your way back into Salento to marvel at the bahareque architecture. How can you not fall in love with the white, wooden buildings framed in bright colors? Heck even CNN named Salento one of the top 10 cities in the world for architecture.
-And can I tell you how strange it is to see beautiful, calm STREET dogs? Yep. Only in Salento.
And if you can scrape together the pesos, going on a hot air balloon ride in one of the most majestic regions on the planet should reaffirm Salento’s spot at the top of your bucket list. Adriana and Amancio from Globos Colombia and their sheer enthusiasm make this surreal flight near Salento even more special.
Have I sold you yet? Because I’ve sold myself. I want to go back –pronto.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, go somewhere that takes your breath away….