SALENTO – THE BEST PLACE TO CAMP IN COLOMBIA
The beauty of Salento
Ahhh… Colombia. One of the most beautiful countries in South America. The landscapes and especially the people are awesome! But let’s face it. It is also not the cheapest country. When we traveled through Colombia we wanted to visit the coffee region of Quindio. Colombia is well known for excellent and delicious coffee and although we are are not big coffee drinkers we definitively had to visit a coffee plantage and try some freshly brewed coffee.
We were looking for a place to camp in Colombia as we wanted to safe some money again (big surprise) and started our research.
There are quiet a few camping spots in the Quindio region but we couldn’t decide where to go. So we took a bus from Cartagena, Colombia’s northern coast, to the south. After 26 hours we arrived in Armenia where we stayed for a few nights. There we met a cool guy, Levi from the US, who recommended a very nice hostel in Salento. We wanted to go to this small village in the mountains anyway and told him about our plans of camping. Luckily the recommended hostel also had a campsite. Hmmm, that sounded interesting.
Camping at La Serrana Hostel
Our tent with a great view of the green fields and hills
You can camp but have all the amenities of a hostel. Why not? Okay this might not be the super adventures camp feeling, but for our first camp experience it sounded nice and we wanted to give it a try. The next day we travelled together with Levi to Salento. The 40 min bus ride costed US$2.30 per person. When we arrived we had to take a taxi to our new home, as it is located a bit outside of the city center of Salento. After a short ten minutes ride we finally reached La Serrana Hostel.
From the first moment we felt “home” in this amazing spot. It’s a beautiful place in the mountains of Salento. The view from the hostel was just unbelievable. We entered the reception to ask for a rate and where positivley surprised. We had to pay 15,000 pesos (US$7) per person to camp with our own tent. They also rent tents, if you don’t have one. The rate includes breakfast, free Wi-Fi, hot showers and the public kitchen. Wow, so all that for US$15 per night for both of us? Cool!
Of course the decicion didn’t take long and we booked the camping spot for three nights. But guess what happened!? We actually ended up staying there for 17 nights! Why? Because it is the perfect place to calm down after six months traveling. The staff is super friendly and helpful, the hostel is clean and the kitchen well equipped… and, the best of all, we had a hot shower and Wi-Fi during camping, how cool is that 🙂 !
Valle de Cocora
We had never seen soooo high palm trees before. Absolutely impressive!
There are a lot of things you can do around Salento. The main reason to come here is the Cocora valley with it’s famous giant palm trees. The wax palm is Colombia’s national symbol and it is the HIGHEST palm tree in the world! They can reach a hight of 70 meters.
A taxi (it’s actually a 4×4) will take you to the valley from the main plaza in Salento for 3,200 pesos per person. When you arrive in the Valley you have two options. Walk directly to the main spot with it’s high palm trees or hike a loop. If the waether is nice, we highly recommend the loop. Just walk along the road up north until you reach a blue gate on your right. From there you will see a path that guides you all the way up to the top. The way is sometimes a bit scary because you have to cross bridges that don’t look super safe but don’t worry you will survive :).
The last part up the mountain is the hardest part but definitively doable. As a reward you will have a stunning view of the peak of the neighbouring mountain. The track itself is inspiring and relaxing. At the top a small café awaits you and we could observe some beautiful hummingbirds flying from flower to flower. At that point of the loop you have all inclines behind you. On the way down you walk along an unpaved road. From here you will have some first great views of the incredibly high palm trees. Take some pictures but also sit down and just enjoy this great view and moment.
The whole hike will take around three hours and at the end you will reach the beautiful Valle de Cocora with its super high palm trees. To hike the loop is not too hard and always remember: If we can do it, YOU can do it!
Another thing we wanted to do was a coffee tour. There are many tours around Salento, starting from US$5 for 20 minutes. We thought that might be a bit too short and decided to book a longer tour with Plantation House for US$15 per person.
I have to admit that BoB, Liane and I are no coffee junkies, but when you are in Colombia you have to visit a farm and we were very curious about the different steps of processing coffee. The tour was in English as the owner of the farm is an Aussi. He’s a super friendly guy and showed us a lot and answered every single questions with a lot of patiens.
He showed us the farmland and explained the whole proccess from planting the coffee beans until roasting and milling them. It was super informative and even if I knew a bit about coffee before (because of my hotel background) it was still impressive because I could finally see the process. Of course we tried the original Colombian coffee afterwards and it was superb! Really!
Great view of a valley from Salento’s view point
And Salento itself? It is a cute small town with a lot of charm. Although it’s kind of touristy we enjoyed a walk to the town center every day. It takes 20 minutes from the hostel and we felt safe all the time (but we don’t recommend to walk this way alone at night). We can highly recommend the beautiful view point to overlook Salento. From the main plaza with the church you just head north through the main schopping street until you reach the stairs who will lead to the first view point. From here you have a nice view of Salento. But there is another great spot (we think it’s even more beautiful). At the view point where you can see Salento you see another way (it passes the playground) guiding somewhere else. This path brings you directly to a wooden hut. The view from there is amazing! You see a beautiful valley with a river, a few houses and animals on the meadows. It’s so peaceful. You shouldn’t miss it!
You will find good local restaurants and bars in Salento. We loved the authentic atmosphere in the bars at night as the locals love to dance Merenge and Salsa and they usually have life music… super cool! Please remember to take a taxi back at night, it is still Colombia and even if we felt safe all the time, we still heard some scary stories. So don’t risk anything.
I hope you will have the chance to visit Salento and the La Serrana Hostal. It is so relaxing and has such a good vibe. We had great BBQs, beautiful sunsets… just an awesome time. Usually travellers pass Cali during a trip through Colombia. Salento is not too far away, so check it out.
So tell me, what was your best campsite? I am sure you were much more adventurous than us 🙂 Send me a picture and leave a comment please.
Thanks for reading and safe travels!