Hidden Gems & top things to do around Salento, Colombia
The little town of Salento in Quindio, Colombia became famous for the closely located Valle de Cocora and it's many coffee farms. Though the views in cocora are amazing and nothing beats the smell of fresh coffee, I included some things and places to visit that are less known - but really worth it.
Here is my guide to Salento, Colombia (in no specific order)
1. Visit La Carbonera
Located above Salento at 3500 m altitude, la Carbonera will offer you all the wax palm you ever dreamed off ! The area is almost unknown by tourists so you will have it's lushy greens and breathtaking views all for yourself. You can hike or bike there, walking up Calle Real and then turn right on the sand road on the side of the mirador. There is only this road so you can follow it up until la Carbonera, but it a good 18 km up to the top and easily more if you choose to decend down into the valley (which I highly recommend).
You can take a jeep or a tuktuk up there, use a bike, or go with a bike company, having the advantage of getting driven up by jeep and having guides providing you with interesting informations about the area.
2. Ride Bikes
Salento hills and many roads and trails combined with the mild climate and the beautiful nature makes it an ideal place for cycling ! We loved exploring the surroundings by bike and catch some adrenaline on the trails too (if it's not your thing, you can easily stick to the dirt roads).
Mountain Bike Tours Salento - Colombia (salentocycling.com) provides really good bikes, the guide is nice and they will show you awesome trails if you are an advanced rider. Him and his team also take care of the local trails and Salento Bike park and you can really tell they are passionate about what they do. On this trip, we explored La Carbonera per bike but we also did other trails and had a lot of fun.
3. Eat amazing veggie food at Quinua Restaurant & Bar
This little restaurant and bar in Calle Real offers the best veggie food I ever got to enjoy in Colombia. From healthy Salads to hearty burgers and pasta dishes, they got it all. Also, the venue is really beautiful and they are a bar playing music downstairs.
4. Hike Valle de Cocora
Though you will meet more tourists and the palm tree valley is much smaller than in la Carbonera, this hike is totally worth it. It will guide you not only through the valley of palm trees but also through lush jungle and even pine forests - the landscapes changes all the time and the bridges and small trails give you a real sense of adventure.
I recommend doing the hike "the wrong way around" starting with the wax palm tree valley. You will get to see it first thing and the climb up to almost 3000 m is easier to handle from that side. The total hike is about 12 km and doable with a basic fitness level.
at the highest point of the hike, you encounter a completely different landscape!
5. Hike to the Quindio River and on Camino Nacional
Starting from Salento Village, there is a beautiful loop you can do, leading you across some coffee farms and down to Quindio River. It is about 18 km and very peaceful. The climb back on camino nacional requires a bit of fitness but it is doable and really worth it. Nothing beats the peaceful vibe of this sunny valley. You can find it on wikilog or on komoot or just ask at the hostel, it is known as the "coffee farm hike" even if you get to see much more than this.
6. Visit a coffee farm
Staying in Colombias Eje Cafetero -there is almost no way around it ! Besides of learning a lot about coffee and getting to taste it, the farms themselves are often beautifully located so you get to enjoy their surroundings and facilites as well besides of that.
7. Stay a night at Reserva Kasaguadua
Kasaguadua is a natural reserve protecting the unique cloud forest ecosystem located at about 45 min walking from Salento. They offer guided tours where you can learn a lot about not only the cloud forest ecosystem but also about sustainability and sustainable tourism. The charismatic guides, owners and builders of Kasaguadua are very inspiring and have a lot of stories and knowledge to share.
Besides of that, the heart of Kasaguadua is the lodge, a place uniquely designed to operate in complete agreement with the ecosystem here. Staying in one of this dome for the night and feeling the nature around you is a unique experience. Make sure you text them directly to book, since you need to follow certain rules concerning the environment before entering, that's why it is shown as unavailable on booking.com or airbnb.
This was hands down one of my highlights visiting Salento !
The Superdome from outside and inside. It was built by hand using materials from the forest.
At Kasaguadua, wild nature and comfort go hand in hand.