Colombia travel blog by Mark Berman -
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Salento located 30-40 minutes from Armenia or Pereira is the heart of the coffee region. The countryside along the way is
beautiful and green with rolling hills and lots of trees. Salento is located inside Los Nevados National Park.
The Plantation House
I had read online that The Plantation House
was a good place to stay. Their website offers a lot of information about the Salento area also.
Arriving in Salento
Decending into the Salento valley down a winding road
lined with tall thin trees with great views and passing through the village of Boquia and crossing over Rio Quindio (river) where camping areas are available - one
is called 'Camping Monteroca'. There is art and coffee stalls along the side of the road before the road winds back up to reach the main township of Salento.
Valle de Cocora and Wax Palms
From the Plantation House, we set out on a rough road for about 40 minutes. Along the way seeing the tall Wax Palms on the green hills in the distance. Once here
there are horses on the dusty road for hire and groups of people beginning a ride through the park. People also walk the track but I would definitely recommend
taking a horse. The sight of the Wax Palms up on the hills with the clouds down low among them give the valley a ghostly sense. From the horse area and road which
also has several restaurants selling fresh trout it is 2.4kms to Cocora, 5.7kms to La Montana, 8.4kms to El Bosque, 4.8km to Acaime (to see hummimgbirds) and 9.1kms
to Estrella de Agua. The rocky and gravely path heads down the hill past a trout farm on the right and across a bridge over a small river at the bottom. After
this point if you are walking you will wish you were on horseback because the track is very rough and awkward to walk on. After 12kms of walking crossing several
bridges we arrived at the hummingbird sanctuary. It's a nice place to relax and watch the hummingbirds dart around in nature. I say again take a horse up here!
Afterwards we traveled back to Salento on a beautiful tree lined road which was sealed and smooth - over rivers and past farm houses and animals grazing.
Salento is busy with many people in town during the weekends from surrounding cities enjoying themselves in the plaza and streets - shopping and eating while the
kids play on push around toys and sidewalk games such as target shooting. The plaza itself is nice with mainly white houses with colorfully painted doors and
windows surrounding it. The church and clock tower dominate one side of the square as well as the skyline of the town itself while in the center of the plaza is a
statue of Simon Bolivar and Pedro Vicente Henao. The plaza usually is surrounded by parked Willys Jeeps which is the main means of transport in town. At the end of
one of the streets leading off the plaza is a long blue and yellow staircase leading up a hill to Salento's Mirador lookout.
Coffee Farm Tour
A highlight of visiting Salento is
of course a tour of a coffee farm. The Plantation House has it's own coffee farm 10 minutes walk from the lodgings and costs just a few dollars, it is called
Finca Don Eduardo. The coffee farm also has a bamboo forest, waterfalls and a lookout point to see the great views into the valley. Our group of about 14 plus our
guide / owner Don began the walk through the finca and walked among the coffee plants. A detailed explanation of the various stages of coffee growing is given,
from coffee cherries on the plants themselves, through to the drying process and the dried and roasted beans. Finally ending with a cup of a freshly produced hot
coffee! First part of the tour you see some very young and small plants planted in the soil and shortly afterward some larger plants producing coffee beans. They
are green at first, then turn red and finally rippen to be orange. It is OK to pick some of the ripe beans from the trees and chew on them. They are a sweet flavour
with only a hint of coffee in the middle when picked straight from the tree before they are dried. The coffee plants are not huge but many are covered in green
and red coffee beans growing in the sun while being shaded by banana trees planted specifically for that purpose. Shade is a very important factor. After the beans
are picked they are put into water, the ones that float are not good and removed. The rest are dried in the simple (made from bamboo) outside drying room on the
ground and also on the sliding rack up on the roof. When being dried, the dark colored beans are removed.