To get from Manizales to Salento, you will most probably have to take two buses, from Manizales to Pereira (around 11500 peso pp) or Armenia and then from Pereira to Salento (around 8000 peso pp). As usual, I would strongly recommend you to check the timelines at least the day before and plan your trip accordingly.
Salento is a fairly touristy town and offers some decent restaurants (we would recommend La Gran Trucha Restaurante and El Rincon De Lucy) and observation points with a beautiful view: Mirador Alto De La Cruz and Mirador De Salento.
Salento is situated in Eje Cafetero, the Colombian coffee region, also known as the Coffee Triangle (Spanish: Triángulo del Café). Visiting a finca growing and producing coffee could be one of the attractions luring people in this area.
However, in my opinion, the main reason most people come to Salento is to visit the famous wax palms (palmas de cera) growing in abundance in the Cocora Valley. To get there, you will have to take one of the Willy jeeps (around 8000 peso pp for the round trip). They depart daily every hour starting from 7:30 until 17:30 from the main square or close to it (just ask for the Willy jeeps to Cocora).
The Cocora Valley hiking trail
You will get off at the beginning of the trail. There you have several options for your trip:
- a short one involving only walking 500 meters to the opening of the wax palms valley for an Instagram photo shoot (by the way, many tourists restrict their Cocora Valley experience to this activity only)
- you can take a horse and ride into the forest (not sure, how far and how much does it cost as we preferred the third option)
- you can hike into the Cocora Valley by taking a hiking trail on the right from the entrance.
The environmental tax collected during the first 5-10 minutes of the trail is 2000 peso. The treats of this moderately difficult trail are that you can also visit the Reserva Natural Acaime and watch numerous hummingbirds from 20-30 cm distance: where else you can experience that! For 5000 peso you will also get a hot drink (tea, coffee or cacao).
On the way back, drop by Finca La Montana for a short break and then take the Camino de Palmas (3000 peso) all the way down. We hiked about 4,5 hours in total and have covered 6-7 kilometers. When thinking of visiting the Cocora Valley, try to take one of the early Willy jeeps in order to have enough time to explore the area which is beautiful!
The local game “tejo”
In the evening, we met our friends with whom we spent New Years Eve for a round of a local game called “tejo” at Cancha De Tejo Los Amigos. This local game involves throwing a small metal disc/stone (called “tejo”) across an about 10-15 m long valley aiming to hit small parcels of gunpowder which are placed on a round metal ring on a 1×1 meter sized board covered in clay. When tejo hits the powder parcel, the gunpowder loudly explodes giving all the spectacular enjoyable goose bumps. This game is usually played in two competing teams and drinking beer is a mandatory condition whilst playing the game.