Salento is a small town located very close to the beautiful Cocora Valley. The Cocora Valley has wonderful views and the world’s tallest palm trees – reaching heights of 70m/230ft!
Right off the bat I want to share this beautiful scene I captured on video while walking down the street in Salento. It’s not that you can’t find little girls dancing in the street in cities. But this just encapsulates so well the beauty and innocence of childhood, the spirit of small towns, and the character of Colombia.
The town itself is small and touristy. It reminded me a lot of Copan Ruinas, Honduras, but thankfully there is more local ownership and influence in Salento. Still, many of the hostels are owned by foreigners in Salento.
I really feel like this takes away from the flavor and culture of the city. Although it’s perfectly possible for foreign owners to capture the local flavor and culture in their hostel, many don’t. And I think that’s a shame.
Salento is famous for having over 200 artisan shops. Having been on the tourist path for a long time, first with domestic tourists and now a mix of domestic and international, it is a well-established hub of artists and their products. To the left are a couple of artisan shops just off the main street of Calle Real.
Pereira had some, but Jeeps/Willys are the main form of public transport in Salento. I had the pleasure of riding in one a few times. Though smaller, I thought it was more comfortable than riding in the back of a pickup truckas is normal in Central America.
One great thing about these small towns is that they are safe. After being robbed in Manizales, it was a nice and welcome change. I could walk around the town at whatever hour of the day without needing to pay attention or be paranoid. One of the things I did was take a few pictures of the city from the mirador/viewing point, as you can see below, as well as trying to capture the sunset.
Similarly, people in small towns are much more likely to be willing to talk and have a conversation with you. This arepa stand was close to where I was staying and they were a ton of fun. We had a nice conversation and they gave me a fair price from the start – even giving me a discount since I didn’t want cheese. I got a grilled plantain and I liked it much more than fried plantains. Much healthier as well.
After meeting Jasmine in Medellin, I now can stay at hostels for free and write reviews of them in exchange for free accommodation. They have to agree, of course, but in this case Jasmine contacted me to see if I wanted to visit Salento. Perfect!
La Floresta Hostal was really nice because it really does have a family feel to it. There are no Bob Marley posters around. It’s just a very tranquil, family atmosphere – something you normally don’t get in hostels in this part of the world.
In my case, I usually stay with locals or families in my never-ending quest for free accommodations, but for many travelers the opportunity to live with a local family and experience the culture is something extra and special. You can do that at this hostel.
So I thank Ernesto for the opportunity to stay with him and his family in their hostel and wish them the best of luck with their business!