Salento is a small colonial town north of Cali and in the heart of the coffee growing region of Colombia. It is quite a small town, but it is a weekend destination for locals. We also start to hear more and more from foreign travelers about the town. It sounds like Salento is well-established on the Gringo Trail. But everyone says it is a lovely, quiet place surrounded by nature. Perfect after our week of Rumba in Cali. From Cali it takes a few hours to Armenia and then a short 40 min. bus ride to Salento.
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Like other older, traditional towns that we have been to, Salento's streets are lined with bleached white buildings. However, unlike other places, Salento's buildings have very colorfully painted doors, windows, balconies and trim. It gives a happy feeling. Older woman also seem to have their heads out the windows checking out what is happening on the streets, which is probably usually not too much.
Overall, Salento is a great place to visit for people looking for a tranquil place to hang their hat for a couple days, or even a week. I have the feeling that for better or worse it will become a major foreigner destination. New hostels geared towards gringos are already sprouting up. If you are into nightlife there is not much here, but with so many Colombian visitors fun can always be found. Buying and drinking beer outside of a mini-market can make a small party in Colombia.
|Coffee bushes and banana trees|
Because Salento sits squarely in the Zona Cafeteria there are several coffee plantations to visit and accessible with a short hike past rolling green hills and vistas of the Andes mountains. Somehow our hike we miss the nearest plantation and end up walking farther to Finca El Ocaso, an organic coffee grower. There are over 3,000 coffee plantations in the area and about 10% are organic. El Ocaso's coffee gets sent to Armenia (nearest large city) and mixed with other beans from other organic plantations. For COP 5,000 pp we get a quick tour of the plantation with an explanation of the entire coffee production process plus two cups of coffee.
|Drying the beans|
Immediately getting out of the taxis we are greeted by guides trying to rent us horses. Because of all the rain recently the trails are quite muddy. We decide to take horses more for the novelty of riding horses than for avoiding the mud. We pay COP 20,000 (US $10) each for 90 minutes on horseback with a guide who walks along with us.* I have not ridden a horse in over twenty years, while this will be Mika's first time ever. Though it is not actually riding, just sort of sitting. The horses and guide do all of the work.
|Just trout served here|
It is nearly impossible to leave Salento without having trout (trucha). I would say that about 90% of restaurants serve trout and some serve only trout. There are several fish farms in the area to supply all the restaurants. A trout meal costs between COP 10,000 and 22,000 (US $5 - $11)depending on which restaurant and the type of fixin's. The price will include rice, patacon (a flattened and fried plantain) and juice. We go all in and get trucha al ajillo - cooked in garlic sauce - with mushrooms, cheese and shrimp. It arrives to our table still boiling. It is maybe our best meal in Colombia thus far.
|Trout. It's what's for lunch|