- Jump into a scene from Jurassic Park as you hike the Cocora Valley (Valle de Cocora).
- Go horseback riding or dirt biking along the mountain trails.
- Explore the quiet colourful town of Salento.
- Walk up to the mirador to have a breathtaking view of the area.
- Visit the nearby coffee plantations.
- Hike the Cocora Valley backwards. I repeat, do not do it backwards. It is a 5-6 hour hike and doing it backwards will result in a 4hr+ uphill battle.
Now before I start raving about this part of Colombia, there's not heaps to do here so don't focus your whole trip on this one place, but definitely make it a stop on your itinerary if you have some time in Colombia. I would recommend blocking out 4 days for a trip to Salento (2 for travel and 2 for exploring).
From Medellín it's a 6hr bus ride to Armenia, however, make sure to tell the bus driver you want to stop at Salento to avoid backtracking. You'll be getting dropped off seemingly in the middle of nowhere at the Salento bus station and from there you'll wait for another bus that will take you to the main town. Once in town, you can walk to whichever hostel you'll be staying at. Leave Medellín relatively early because buses don't pass the Salento bus stop at night. Of course my friends and I arrived at night and somehow managed to pile into a jeep that took us into town.
From the main square we walked about 20 minutes up to the hostel, Yambolombia. This hostel is situated on the top of a hill overlooking an amazingly lush valley and at night you can see every star in the sky. It's really quiet and the staff are incredibly sweet. They will give you the best tips on exploring the area.
On our first day in Salento, my friends decided to go on a hard core mountain bike adventure while I decided to lay low and walk around. The surrounding nature is so vibrant, that wandering around is the perfect thing to do in order to take it in properly. So we had another walk the following day.
TIP: If you go for a walk, bring a rain jacket with you as monsoon rain can roll in unexpectedly. Maybe even take down the number from your hostel so they can fetch you with a jeep in case the rain gets too bad.
What seemed like a nice day for a stroll down to the river turned into a Jumanji rain storm where we were forced to take shelter with some local fisherman under a roof made of metal. Looking back, taking shelter under a tin roof probably wasn't the best idea during a lightning storm, but hey at least we were semi-dry and the locals had a good laugh.
On our last day, we headed out early to the main attraction of Salento, Valle de Cocora. Here are the infamous 60 meter wax palms and misty valleys that will make you feel like you're in a scene from Jurassic Park. It's extraordinary and extremely peaceful. Apparently there are a number of hikes to go on but we all wanted to do the 'loop' or the 5-6hr hike that takes you around the whole valley.
If you're not into hiking, you can hire a horse to take you around a circuit with a guide, or you can just go to the second entrance where the most popular part of the valley is.
Personally, I would recommend the hike even though you'll never want to walk anywhere again (you'll get over it). It's filled with muddy paths, sketchy bridges, and lots of uphill walking, but once you're at the top it's incredibly rewarding. And if you don't do it backwards like us, it's probably not half as bad. Another tip: BRING SNACKS/WATER WITH YOU.
There's not much signage as you go along, so make sure to ask a local guide before you get started. Even if you do get lost, the amazing scenery will keep you going.
If the top isn't as rewarding as you'd like, just wait until you get to the bottom.
Needless to say, we had a big BBQ and a few beers once we returned to Salento. What a day!