Category Archives: Salento

Posts that relate to travel to Salento Colombia

Zona Cafetera & Almuerzo – The South America Sensation

Yesterday was sadly my last day in the Salento area of Colombia and although I had drunk many cups of delicious java, I had yet to make it to one of the many working coffee farms or fincas in the area.

I was resolved to immediately fix this error in my ways so after a much-needed sleep-in after such an intense hike in the Cocora Valley, another good breakfast at La Serrana with several cups of kick starter coffee, I set off solo down the gravel road, letting my imagination play wild as I dreamed of Colombian guerrillas jumping out from the underbrush kidnapping me away for an unknown some of ransom. 

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A nice downhill stroll to the coffee plantations

The Zona Cafetera also known as the coffee axis or the coffee belt, just may be my version of heaven.  Nice cool temps due to the elevation, slightly damp air and stunning vistas.. it actually reminded me of home in the Columbia River Gorge in late spring… and it is in a stable or safe area of Colombia as well with no guerrillas around these parts anymore.

It was a nice downhill walk with the same lush green views that my eyes have feasted on since I had arrived in Salento.

My planned destination for the day was Don Elias Coffee Farm which is a family run organic plantation 4km or about 40 minutes past La Serrana down into the Zona Cafetera Valley.  They offered tours for 6000 COP which included a cup of coffee and a fresh banana.

I had apparently arrived just after a tour began so sat on one of the old couches outside the farm-house to wait for the next one…. and waited… and waited… and waited… for an hour…just me staring at banana trees, surrounded by five fighting dogs, and  Don Elias’ wife who really enjoyed yelling at the dogs and then beating them with a shoe when they wouldn’t stop barking at each other.

Then, it began to rain.  I’m not just talking a light drizzle… I was wearing a rain jacket and flip-flops so was prepared… I’m talking full-out rainforest monsoon.  By this time the previous tour had just come back and were drinking their cup-o-joe’s and I was still sitting there waiting for the next tour to start still surrounded by the dog beater with too many pets.

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At least the goat is happy

After one hour and 30 minutes still watching the downpour, I was hungry, tired of the woman yelling,  the dogs barking and lets just say I lost patience with the entire situation so trudged the hour back ALL up-hill in the pouring rain and into Salento, screw you coffee tour.  My Balinese cat poop coffee tour will have to hold me over for now...

Back in Salento I appeared at El Rincon de Lucy looking like a drowned rat, but was kindly greeted by the restaurants proprietor and offered a chair anyway.  The plan, was to eat the best value lunch in Salento, Lucy’s Almuerzo.

Almuerzo is a South America dining sensation…but I guess we can just dumb it down to what would be a US restaurant’s, “blue plate special”.

In the case of almuerzo from El Rincon de Lucy, $2 USD grabs you chicken soup, a choice of either a fillet of fried fresh trout or chorizo sausage, beans/lentils or green beans, fried plantains, buñuelos (similar to hushpuppies), rice, salad, ice tea… and a banana!

This was then followed by another great cup of coffee and cake at my go-to coffee place in Salento, Cafe Jesus Martin.

So there you have it, when life fails you… eat copious amounts of local food and several cups of tasty java and life is instantly better… and instead of looking like the drowned rat, I now look more like the happy fatted goat.

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Today I departed Salento for my next destination via three buses… and experienced a full day of travel through some more amazing Colombian countryside.

I had a three hour break in between buses in the very busy town of Rio Sucio…

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Church in Rio Sucio

While not thrilled with a three hour break carrying all my luggage, this gave me the opportunity for another almuerzo lunch.

This time the almuerzo consisted of a fish soup which I could tell was made from a home-made fish stock, more fried fish (trout is this region’s specialtiy), some pasta, white rice, an arepa, a fried banana, cole slaw and ice tea… again for $2

Have I said yet that the great thing about eating almuerzo for lunch is I pretty much don’t have to eat again the rest of the day?  Amazing.

Oh yes, I also spotted my first CHIVAS in Rio Sucio!  There are statues of these buses in every trinket shop in Colombia but I had yet to see one in person, but in Rio Sucio there were several…

Chivas are rustic artisan colorfully painted buses used in rural areas of Ecuador and Colombia and I’m in love with them.  I want one.  Don’t ask me what I’d do with it as I’m homeless but they’re pretty rad.

I’m hopping to see one in the coming days filled with agricultural products, moustached gauchos and poncho wearing people on the roof as well…. then my travel life might just be complete.

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This is not my photo…

Just kidding.  We’re only just getting started 😉

//The I.A.

Valle del Cocora & Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary

One of the main attractions in the Salento region of Colombia is the Valle del Cocora hike in the Los Nevados National Natural Park.  If you plan on doing this hike while in Salento, be forewarned, no one seems to know how far the actual hike is, nor is it posted anywhere but according to my pedometer… it’s about 6 miles from Cocora to Acaime, follwed by a .75 mile steep ascent to Finca la Montaña and then another 3-4 miles back to Cocora.  This loop generally takes between 5-6 hours.

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Map of Valley de Cocora

The Valle del Cocora is located 11km out of Salento and you can catch a jeep from the Plaza del Bolivar for 3400 COP, or you can be crazy like me and walk from Salento to the start of the trek through the valley which is about six miles, is all up-hill and takes about 2.5 hours.

At one point, I had a show-down on the road with a group of cows led by a huge bull… let’s just say I let the bull win.

Cocora means “star of water” and was named after a local native princess.  The Valle del Cocora hike starts just to the right of all the cafes/shops in Cocora….

The first part of the Valle del Cocora loop is walking on a rough stone horse trail through the Valle del Cocora itself, while enjoying views of the surrounding lush green walls of palms before entering a jungle area with waterfalls and bridges.

After crossing 7 bridges in the jungle area, I made my way to Acaime hummingbird sanctuary, which was a nice little break after already hiking 12 miles .  It cost 5000 COP to get in, but with your entrance fee you got a free beverage and some strange cheese.  It’s a nice area to rest and enjoy all the different types of hummingbirds deep within the Colombian cloud forest.

After my little break at Acaime, I was off for my steep ascent to the Finca la Montaña where there were a few more hummingbirds and flowers to enjoy as I started to make my descent back to Cocora while overlooking the Valle del Cocora.  It was a cloudy day, but I’m sure the view on a clear day would be incredible from Finca la Montaña!

I was absolutely beaten by the time I made it back to Cocora and jumped on one of the jeeps that depart every 1/2 hour back to Salento… and then stumbled another 2 km back to my hotel for a shower.

Epic day spent out hiking the Valle del Cocora… Colombia continues to seduce me 😉

//The I.A.

Straight To Solace In Salento Colombia

Apparently I made it out of La Paz just in time as there was a blockade starting this morning at 0500 and all traffic in/out and around the country was going to come to a halt.  Luckily I was already at the airport by 0200, off to my next destination in my crazy South American tour, Salento Colombia.

After arrival to the airport in Armenia (via Bogota), I hopped a cab to the bus terminal and then… got stuck.  Apparently there was a landslide on the road to Salento and so I waited with a group of Colombians for the bus to leave three hours later.

Finally…After the road crews cleared the road, I arrived to Salento and then walked about a mile and a half out-of-town to the La Serrana eco-farm where I am staying for the next few days…

Salento Colombia is located in the Zona Cafetra region of Colombia and is a very small VILLAGE with only 3000 people surrounded by lush mountains, Cera palms and clean air.  Which is definitely a welcome relief after urine infested La Paz.  Don’t get me wrong, Bolivia had its highlights, such as the Death Road and Salar de Uyuni, but you definitely don’t go to Bolivia to spend any time in its cities (except possibly Sucre).

This afternoon I walked back into Salento Colombia from the eco-farm to buy some fruit and greek yogurt from the grocery store (have I said yet that I am loving being back in Colombia?).  I had traveled since 2am and didn’t go to sleep last night, but when I eyed the main street of town, I knew I had to explore…

In the main town square, Plaza de Bolivar, there was a vendor selling fresh fruit… no McDonalds or anything like it in sight, but for an amazing $0.75 USD you could have this amazing fresh fruit cup :)

I was now ready for… dadadadada…. my first cup of Colombian coffee straight from the coffee fields into my mouth.  Have I said yet how much I love coffee?  I could drink 20 cups a day, that’s how much I love it and I haven’t been to a coffee farm since Bali where I drank the famous Kopi Lewak.

But today was not the day to explore another coffee farm, that will be in a day or two, today I wanted to check out Jesus Martin’s coffee shop in Salento.

The coffee was amazing, as it was already past 5pm, I had to force myself to walk out before indulging in more, but then I WOULD NEVER SLEEP AGAIN.  So I walked back to the eco-farm just as the sun was setting and they lit the campfire and icicle lights intermingled with wine bottles hanging from the ceiling to set a relaxing mood.

Have I said yet that I already love Colombia?  I just might not ever leave.

//The I.A.