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Salento is perhaps the most popular small town for backpackers to visit in Colombia: the pretty little spot in the Coffee Region is famous for its proximity to the stunning Cocora Valley, as well as for coffee tours, nice restaurants and pretty scenery. There’s so much to see and do in Salento that you could easily spend a week there, but the good news is you can pack a lot into just 48 hours in Salento.
When you arrive around lunchtime on your first day, the first thing you’ll want to do is check into your hotel or hostel. There are so many places to choose from in Salento, but with just 48 hours you’ll want to pick a place in town to avoid wasting time getting in and out to more isolated rural accommodation. The best hostels in the town are El Viajero and Hostel Tralala, while top options for those with a higher budget would be Hotel Salento Real or Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel. Once you’re settled in, it’s time to explore Salento.
The best way to start is to take a walk up to the mirador – or viewpoint – overlooking the town on one side and the gorgeous rivers and mountains of the Andes on the other. It’s a short, intense uphill climb to the north-east of the town, but well-worth the slightly strenuous uphill for the breathtaking views. Take some time to enjoy the view before heading back down to the square for a late lunch of fresh trout and patacones.
Once you’ve had lunch, it’s coffee time! Walk half a block off the main square to Cafe Jesus Martin for the most delicious espresso in town (and maybe a slice of cake if you’re not full from the trout). Then it’s time to play some tejo! What’s tejo you ask?! It’s Colombia’s national sport, a raucous game involving drinking and gunpowder, and Salento has one of the best tejo courts in Colombia. You can enjoy the rest of your evening having some beers and blowing things up, before stopping off for dinner on your way home at the excellent MERAKI restaurant.
On your only full day, you’ll have to get up nice and early to spend the day hiking the Cocora Valley. Check out this Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Cocora Valley for the skinny on exactly how to make the most of this stunning trek, but the long and short of it is that you’ll want to be at the main square to catch a jeep to the valley at around 7:30 am. The main hiking route takes around five hours, so it’s worth taking a packed lunch if you plan on taking your time and really absorbing the sights.
Along the trail, you’ll be able to stop off and enjoy seeing hummingbirds feeding at the pretty Acaime Reserve, before hiking down into the main Cocora Valley to enjoy the breathtaking sights of hundreds of giant Wax Palms, the tallest palm trees on earth at up to 60 meters tall! Once you’ve finished the trek and taken a jeep back to Salento, it will already be between 2 pm and 3 pm, and you will most likely be completely exhausted from all that trekking, so chill out on the square with a coffee, before taking the remainder of the afternoon to check out the local artisan craft shops dotted throughout the town. Grab an early dinner (preferably at the excellent Café Bernabé Gourmet), perhaps a drink, and hit the sack: you’ve earned it!
On your final morning, it’s time for a coffee tour. The best coffee tours in Salento are either at Finca El Ocaso or Finca Don Eduardo: both offer an introductory coffee tour of an hour or so and cost almost the same. Your call! Either way, grab a jeep out to your chosen farm and sign up for a tour. You’ll spend the next hour or so exploring the fascinating process of coffee production, before sampling a delicious cup or two.
Linger around the farm once you’ve finished to enjoy the ambience and the countryside, before heading back to town for a quick lunch and to pack your bags. You’ll be sad to leave Salento – everyone who visits wants to stay longer – but you can leave safe in the knowledge that you really made the most of your stay with this 48-hour Salento itinerary.