Salento is a small, 7.000 inhabitants, lovely little town amidst the coffee valley’s green mountains, 25km from the Quindio department capital, Armenia. With Barichara, Salento might be among Colombia’s most charming towns. With its cobbled streets colorful houses, rainbow-like doors, Salento has preserved its colonial architecture and the traditional coffee-grower housing style.
During the darkest years of Colombia’s recent history, this region suffered seirous attacks from illegal armed groups. In March 2000, Salento was taken over by armed men from the FARC, frightening locals, burning down houses and attacking police headquarters. All of that is now in the past and it’s completely safe to travel the region.
In the past decade, Salento has grown to shine as one of Colombia’s main touristic sites with its nearby Valle del Cocora, welcoming visitor while preserving its colonial nature.
If spending a few hours, the whole day or the week, don’t miss to explore the city’s main Plaza, Plaza Bolivar – honoring the National hero who spent a couple of days in Salento on his route to the liberation of the country – and the local and folkloric festivities going on all year-long. You will also find in the main saqure the “Willy’s” or “Jippaos” traditional coffee-growers jeeps now also used to transport tourists in the Valley (READ: “Things to do near Salento“).
Walk up the Calle Real (4th Street), filled with lovely handcrafts stores where you can buy authentic ponchos, Panama hats (which actually come from Colombia and Ecuador and not Panama, but that’s another story), fine leather goods and of course… sit down to taste Colombian coffee and all kind of foods and pastries made out of Colombian coffee.
At the end of Calle 4th you’ll get to the Mirador: hold your breath and climb the stairs all the way up for breathtaking views of the valley, if you happen to be there by sunset, you’ll feel blissed by the stunning light.
Salento offers great accommodation options (READ: “Sleep at the very heart of the Cocora Valley“) and great dining options (like my top favorite Café Bernabé). Enjoy !
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