The little town of Salento, located in the southern Coffee Region in Quindio department, is a real magnet for travellers these days, with visitors from all over the world flocking to the town, drawn by its beguiling mix of traditional architecture, lovely boutique hotels and hostels and stunning Andean nature. Just 24 hours isn’t much time to spend in Salento, but if time is tight, it’s definitely enough to experience some of the best that the town has to offer.
The best time to arrive in Salento to follow this itinerary is early evening. Once you arrive, preferably at around 6 pm, check into whichever hotel or hostel y0u have opted to stay in, before heading into the town to make the most of your evening. Have a wander around the main square and enjoy the craft shops along the main street before picking a spot for dinner. There are many excellent food options in Salento, but the best is perhaps Cafe Bernabe Gourmet, which serves delicious steaks and great red wine.
Once you’ve had your dinner, it’s time to play some tejo! The Colombian national sport involves hurling huge metal disks at gunpowder while drinking copious amounts of local lager. It’s great fun, and at Los Amigos Tejo Court in Salento, you can go and play most nights, with a fun crowd of Colombians and foreigners who are playing for the first time. It’s a sociable and laid-back atmosphere, and a quintessentially Colombian experience, unmissable in Salento.
Don’t enjoy too much of the local beer, because the next morning you’ll be getting up early and catching one of the 7 am jeeps from the main square to the Cocora Valley. This is the location of one of Colombia’s most iconic and popular hikes: the five-hour trek through cloud forest to reach the giant palm trees of the valley, the tallest in the world. The hike itself is strenuous but easily doable for anyone with decent fitness, and you should be finished in time to grab a jeep back to town for a late lunch.
For lunch, you can’t do anything other than grab a chair at one of the restaurants on the main plaza and order a big plate of fresh trout, one of the speciality dishes of the Coffee Region. No trip to Salento would be complete without a trout lunch, and it’s the ideal way to tick off a must-do activity and get a great meal at the same time.
By now you have only a few more hours before you need to head out, but there’s still time for a coffee tour if you’ve got the energy (if not, then check out Café Jesus Martin just off the main square for some great coffee and comfy seating). Grab a taxi and head to Finca El Ocaso for their 4 pm English Coffee Tour. The tour lasts an hour and a half and takes in all of the growing and production processes of Colombian coffee, before finishing with a cupping and sampling experience. It’s a perfect introduction to Colombian coffee, and enough to get the basics, unless you’re a real coffee snob!
Ask your taxi driver to stick around, then head back to Salento after the tour, just in time to jump on your transfer or bus out of town, completing your (busy) 24-hour trip. You’ll be tired after your day there, but no one will be able to accuse you of not making the most of your short time in one of Colombia’s loveliest little towns.
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