When we set out from Bogotá on our journey to Salento, we were all looking forward to getting out of the big city and into a smaller town – and we were certainly not disappointed by what we saw when we arrived.
Salento is a beautiful, colourful little Andean town that is located to the west of Bogotá. The main square and surrounding streets are ablaze with brightly painted buildings, and the whole town is bustling with locals and tourists alike. Street food stalls line the main square in the evenings, one of which we tried on our first night and were treated to some delicious trucha (fried trout, a local delicacy) and bandeja paisa (a traditional Colombian dish).
We stayed in a wonderful hostel called La Floresta, where we were able to get cheap private rooms and enjoy the use of two kitchens and a great little hammock area – perfect for relaxing in after a day of hiking. The free coffee every morning was also greatly appreciated!
Unfortunately both Dan and I came down with horrible colds as soon as we arrived in Salento, so we had a couple of days of lazing around feeling a bit sorry for ourselves. What made us feel a little better was the discovery of El Rincon De Lucy, a fantastic menu del dia restaurant just off the town square that not only served one of the cheapest – yet most abundant and tasty – menu del dias we have come across, but it also had the spiciest salsa, which was perfect for clearing out our stuffy noses!
When we were feeling a bit better we set out to hike Cocora Valley. This iconic valley is about half an hour outside of Salento by jeep – you can pick up rides from the main town square that leave fairly regularly from about 7.30 in the morning – and is home to the famous giant palm trees. These trees can grow up to 60m, and the craziest thing about them is that they are just surrounded by grasslands, meaning that they have not grown to such dizzy heights because of competition from other plants and trees. In fact, no one really knows why they are so tall! The hike through the valley to get there takes a good few hours and has some interesting river crossings – mostly over rickety hanging bridges and at one point just a fallen log – as well as some lengthy uphill stretches, but the final part of the hike when you come across the trees makes it all totally worth it.
On another day in town we ventured up to the Salento mirador, a stunning look out point that is at the top of quite a heft set of stairs just at the edge of town. Dan and Michelle took the walk a step further by traipsing from the mirador down to the river below, but as I was still not feeling 100% I sat that one out.
While in Salento we also got to try the famous Colombian game of Tejo. Tejo is very similar to the game of corn hole, which involves throwing a bag of corn into a hole on a wooden board – except in Tejo, instead of throwing a bag of corn into a hole, you’re throwing a metal disc onto a patch of gunpowder. Basically, you win points if you make the gunpowder explode. Needless to say health and safety isn’t the hugest concern when playing this game – but it is definitely a lot of fun!
On our last day in Salento we discovered an absolute gem right next door to our hostel: a tiny, two table cafe that serves “Super Breakfast”. After trying the super breakfast, we were pretty devastated that we hadn’t discovered it sooner! For just $9,000 pesos (around £2.34) we got a fresh fruit juice, coffee, a plate of fruit, an omelette and a ham and cheese sandwich! Everything was delicious, and we were almost tempted to stay in Salento for one more night just so we could go there again.
However, we decided to stick with our original plan and head from Salento over to the next Andean town on our list: Jardin.