We crossed up into Quindío by motorcycle, and had our doubts because there were dark angry clouds on the horizon ready to spill their tears out into the tropical woodlands. Another mile and we had to put on our rain ponchos. We almost gave up but then we came out the other side and into a beautiful valley. A short “subida” or uphill drive and we had arrived in the quaint little village of Salento, Quindío Colombia.
The rain had stopped, it wasn’t too hot or cold and we were ready for an adventure. Together my Colombian boyfriend and I, made the 45 minute trip from Pereira to Salento and met up with our friends Christine (Canada) and Astrid (Colombia) to explore the antique streets of Salento. To travel by bus from Pereira will set you back about 6,000 pesos. Be sure to buy your return ticket as soon as you arrive as seats tend to sell out quickly due to demand.
From the main plaza to the Calle Real, or Royal Road, visitors can wander through shops, eat typical Colombian food, or soak up the Colonial scenery.
According to an article in Wikipedia, Salento was originally founded in 1845 as a penal colony for prisoners of war who were constructing a route from Popayan to Bogota. Eventually the families moved there, it was given its name after a region in southern Italy and became a sleepy farm town. Today it is a bustling tourist mecca which brings people from around the world to drink fresh coffee and visit the Cocora Valley, a popular hiking/camping/horseback riding spot about 15 minutes from the pueblo.
Today you can visit Salento to buy or window shop for the artisan crafts which are sold along the Calle Real. Some of the most beautiful handcrafts I have seen in all of Colombia are found here in Salento. As you wander the Calle Real there are vendors selling everything from jewelry to homemade clothing, ponchos and furniture. I purchased a bracelet, a wooden ring that was hand painted and a fedora style hat that is very typical of the Eje Cafetero region.
Be sure to stop in and visit one of the many coffee shops and restaurants along Calle Real which offer both local and international favorites. Don’t forget the fresh coffee!
Once you have wandered through the booths, stores, vendors and drank coffee at all the small cafes you can hike up to the lookout, or mirador, where you can see spectacular views of the Cocora Valley. Green, fresh and beautiful it is not a view you will easily forget. Hire a jeep at the main plaza to take you there for an afternoon hike or camping trip.
Salento is replete with hostels, hotels and even short or long term rentals. This village has become a popular spot for foreigners to live or open businesses. You will hear many languages spoken on a daily basis just by walking the streets here. This pueblo is a bit chilly so be sure to bring a sweatshirt and umbrella. During the weekends, both day and night, you can catch live music and street performers. Enjoy!