The Valle de Cocora, Hiking, Mountain Biking and Great Coffee
Colombia’s Coffee Region is one filled with riches and adventure and Salento is no exception to the rule making it a key tourist destination.
It is as if the very air that buffets through the rolling countryside in the Colombian coffee department of Quindio is laced with the aroma of coffee. It may just be that here one cam sample a perfect brew whether it be in one of the bohemian cafes along the Calle Real or at an authentic coffee finca found nestled on hillsides and in valleys all about the region.
History of Salento
Located almost equidistant between the cities of Armenia and Pereira in the north-eastern corner of Quindio, Salento holds the honour of being the first contemporary settlement in the region established in 1851. Salento was a key stopping point on the route from Bogota to Popayan in the south and indeed Simon Bolivar, on one of his campaigns in 1830, travelled via Salento over the Quindio Pass.
Modern Day Salento
Salento, with its carefully restored low slung wooden buildings, represents a town seemingly from straight out of a spaghetti western except bathed in coffee and haunts set up for tourism. Down the Calle Real – the town’s main drag – the visitor to Salento can find a few boho-style cafes, numerous stores peddling trinkets and ethnic jewellery in addition to locations frequented by locals such as the billiards halls and tavernas that ring the main plaza. If you are here for a weekend try your hand at the local sport of tejo.
Attractions around Salento
Located approximately an hour and a half’s walk from the Salento town centre you can visit a small finca owned by Don Elias. It could be said that most inhabitants of Salento and indeed this region of the Eje Cafetero (Coffee Region) were you to throw a poncho over their shoulders and pull a sombrero down on their head, would resemble closely the famous Juan Valdez. Don Elias is no exception to this generalisation and you feel as if escorted by Colombian Coffee’s very own Ambassador through his plantations and then on to sample his
organic grounds at the end of the tour. If Don Elias’ plantation is too distant head to Don Eduardo’s finca by way of the recommended Plantation House Hostel.
The Valle de Cocora
This eye catching and spectacular valley – which makes up part of the Nevados National Park – has been declared a National Reservation by the Colombian Government and it is not hard to see why. As home to a variety of flora and fauna, including resplendent birdlife, butterflies, as well as the national symbol of the Wax Palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense). These towering trees measure up to 60m in height and are scattered throughout the reserve, itself a haven for walkers, hikers, mountain bikers and people visiting on horseback.
One rudimentary gaze over any menu in Salento tells you everything you need to know – trout and patacones (flattened fried plantains) – are the order of the day. Do not be surprised to see up to ten different dishes for trout on offer, but the average is seven! In addition to trout you can also fatten up on Quindio’s desserts. Strawberries and cream are a clear favourite, the emphasis is on the cream rather than the fruit, as well as crisp wafer obleas filled with butterscotch.