Zona Cafetera (Manizales & Salento), Colombia

Zona Cafetera (Manizales & Salento), Colombia.

Leaving Guatapé, we had to come back on ourselves and head again to Medellín to to catch a bus south to Colombia’s coffee region. Our target destination was Salento but given it was about a 9 hour bus journey from Medellín, we decided to break up the trip and spend a couple nights in nearby city Manziales en route. However, what should have been a 4 hour journey ended up being about 8 hours because of terrible traffic on the mountain roads south of Medellín. We arrived in Manizales and had a further mission as I’d stupidly booked a hostel about 8km out of town! So after a taxi, then a pick-up from the hostel owner, we finally made it to our hostel Mauro Hilton much later than expected that night.
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The view from Hostel Mauro Hilton

In fairness, I booked the place because it had a nice big pool and a jacuzzi but as it rained the whole next day we were there we didn’t even used the pool! We spent the day chilling and reading in hammocks and we also paid for an hour in the jacuzzi in the evening. The view from our place over the mountains and surrounding coffee farms was amazing.

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The next day we travelled by bus to Salento via Pereira. We spent the first few nights at Posada Aguanile Finca La Diana which was 3km out of town. The owner was really friendly but it proved to be  too much of a mission getting in and out of town to pop to the shops as you had to get a jeep and they stopped running after 9pm.
A local man we met on a walk in Salento!
We decided to move after our second night having found a nicer and cheaper room in town at La Casa de Lili – the cleanest hostel ever with the floors constantly being mopped. This place was on the main shopping road in Salento and also ideally located for us as it was a 5 minute walk to our Spanish classes. We did 2 hrs a day for 5 days with experienced teacher Rosana. She charges 30,000 pesos an hour and you can find info here.
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Teacher’s pet and teacher
Salento is a popular holiday spot for Colombians and we spent our first full day there exploring the Cocora Valley (about a 25min jeep ride out of town) which made for a beautiful hike location where you can see the famously tall palm trees.

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We did the day hike loop around the cloud forest and up to the finca at the top of the mountain where they serve hot chocolate with a side of salty cheese (sounds weird but it was actually really nice).

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Up at the top of the hill, whilst talking a break from our hike, we started chatting to a Colombian family who were from Cali and kindly offered us a night in a luxury hotel in that they had shares in, for when we arrived in Cali! They also had a dog who loved watching iPhone videos so we sat with the little spaniel for about 15mins playing him all the videos on my phone whilst he watched intently!
In Salento, we tried local delicacies including trucha (trout) and patacnones – pizza sixed flat plantain, deep fried and topped with cheese. It was a national holiday so there were dozens of stalls in the main square serving local delicacies. We also enjoyed pancakes and a salad at Brunch and a dinner at Makao where the lasagna was great.
Aside from spending a week doing private Spanish lessons every morning we also did a coffee tour on a local organic farm which was really insightful as we learnt how they processed three tons of coffee each year – by hand.

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The Tour de la Fincs Cafetera Las Brisas, Don Elias was led by Don Elias’ grandsons who perfected their English listening to Blink 182 and watching Netflix.We had the pleasure of meeting old Don Elias himself, who despite speaking no English, was easy to get along with.
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Salento is definitely worth 3 nights of your time and we were happy to spend longer there, learning Spanish and kicking back for a week!
-Ashleigh + Andy.
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