8th November – Salento is in the heart of coffee country and is one of the region’s earliest settlements. The adobe buildings surrounding the main square are amazingly well preserved, with brightly painted roof trims, windows, doors and balconies. There is almost a wild-west feel here, with guys in their straw hats and ponchos (ruanas), a slow pace of life and plenty of coffee drinking! The main street (Carrera 6) is full of restaurants and handicraft stalls, many of which have some really lovely artisan crafts from different parts of Colombia.
Jeeps and the ex-US military 4×4 Jeep Willys are lined up in the square, all lovingly restored by their owners. These vehicles can be hired to explore the surrounding area or to take you into the nearby Valle de Cocora.
Salento is situated above the Valle de Cocora and a steep drive up from the main square, takes us to Alto de la Cruz, a hilltop mirador that provides spectacular views of this beautiful valley with many hiking trails.
We drive back down and take the small road that winds through the valley floor, to the small hamlet of Cocora. From here we are able to leave our Land Rover in a guarded parking area and take a trail that climbs up into the forest. Many plant species thrive in the mist and damp and rickety bridges cross many streams.
Most people however, make a visit to the Valle de Cocora to see the towering wax palms that grow here. This palm tree is Colombia’s national plant and it can grow between 60-80m in height.