The world’s best cup of Joe is more likely named Jose, as it most likely comes from a country that is very near and dear to our hearts: Colombia. Coffee runs through the veins of all Adventure Club members, and in large amounts. So if you’re a coffee lover like we are, the idea of visiting Quindio, Colombia, one of the most revered coffee producing regions on earth, is simply a dream. Even if you’re not a coffee lover, Quindio’s lush green mountains, unique flora and fauna, youthful hippie vibe and friendly people make it literally one of the most beautiful and peaceful places to visit in the world.
A little background for you: Colombia is the third largest exporter of coffee in the world, and Quindio is home to 50% of the country’s coffee production. Its climate and variable elevation are its secret weapons to producing some of the most delicious coffee you’ve ever tasted. It is also one of the few countries that grows only Arabica beans which are considered to be of higher quality than Robusta beans (we weren’t lying when we said we’re coffee zealots).
So here are some hot, freshly brewed tips, tricks, and guidelines for exploring Quindio ☕️ a coffee break you’re sure to never forget.
How to get there:
- Fly into Armenia airport (AXM) from within or outside of Colombia- You can hop on an Avianca or Viva Colombia flight relatively cheap from other large cities if you’re already in Colombia. If you’re flying in from outside of Colombia most airlines will stop in Bogota or Medellin then take you to Armenia. If you are flying from the US and can get to Fort Lauderdale (FLL), you can go direct. Once you’ve reached Armenia, Salento is about 45 minutes away. You can take a taxi, hire a private driver, or you can take a bus to the main terminal in Armenia and then catch another to Salento.
- By bus from the south of Colombia- If you’re coming from somewhere south of Salento, such as Cali, you can hop on a bus for about $10. The bus will take you to Armenia and then you’ll need to hop on another bus from Armenia to Salento. Total travel time is between three to four hours, though most Colombians (@cobraescobar included 🙄 ) will tell you it’s “one to two hours”.
- By bus from the north of Colombia- If you’re coming from Medellin or Bogota you can hop on a bus to Armenia, which will take you about six to seven hours, and you’ll have to ask if they will let you hop off in Salento. (We recommend flying into AXM unless sitting on a bus and watching the countryside go by is your thing).
Places to see:
- Salento- Salento is an Andean town west of Bogota known for its coffee estates, verdant scenery, and unmistakeable character. The buildings along the main square are colorfully painted and Calle Real (Salento’s main street) is lined with beautiful shops where you can purchase locally-made Colombian art, jewelry, ponchos, and handicrafts. El Mirador is a lookout just northeast of town at the end of the main street. Climb up the steps for one of the most beautiful mountain valley views you’ll ever see. The town is also a portal to the snow-capped peaks of Los Nevados National Natural Park, which lies northeast.
- Valle de Cocora- Valle de Cocora is a magical valley (seriously magical) where rare parrots sit atop lofty wax palm trees– the national tree of Colombia which also happen to be the tallest variety of palm tree in the world, growing up to 250 feet tall. To get to Valle de Cocora from Salento you can either hike or take a “Willy” Jeep ride for a few dollars, which is an adventure itself.
Things to do:
- Visit Coffee Farms in and around Salento
- Hike or Horseback Ride in Valle del Cocora- From Salento, check with your hostel or at the town square and they can arrange hikes with a guided tour and horseback riding adventures. We went on a three-hour horseback ride to a waterfall which was not an “easy” ride but it was well worth the beauty that surrounded us along the way.
- Adventurous activities- The mountainous region of the “Eje Cafetero” makes it ideal to zipline, paraglide, ride ATVs, or rent mountain bikes. All of these are readily available, just ask around!
- Play Tejo- Tejo is a Colombian traditional sport developed by indigenous warriors more than 450 years ago. It’s for real OGs (you’ll see why once you find a place to play) and involves pucks, the occasional aguardiente shot or cold beer, and… gunpowder (yep, you read that right). It’s a fun, inexpensive, and casual activity that allows you to mingle with the locals.
- Check out the flora and fauna- Colombia has more bird species than any other country on earth and is also home to over 4,000 different species of orchids. You’ll be surrounded by nature innately just by being in Quindio, but if you’d like, you can check out Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary or the Botanical Garden in Calarca (about 40 minutes outside of Salento). The Botanical Garden is shaped like a giant butterfly and hosts over 600 species of plants.
What to eat:
- Patacones con hogao/guiso- Fried green plantains topped with sweet and tangy concoction of tomato, onion and cilantro. Often served as an appetizer; it’s delicious!
- Trucha (aka trout)- Served at least 20 different ways, it’s hard to find a trout dish that won’t tickle your taste buds. The restaurant Camino Real serves many variations of Trucha as well as other typical Colombian dishes such as Sancocho (a traditional Colombian thick soup, served with avocado, white rice and ají picante on the side). It also has live music on weekends. La Fonda de los Arrieros, pictured below, also has tasty trout and you can get a great big meal ranging between $6-12 USD.
- Native Fruits- 💚 You must try all the mouthwatering exotic fruits that are grown in abundance throughout Colombia. This article pretty much sums it up for you. Fruit Heaven exists, and it’s in Colombia 🙌🏼
Where to stay:
- In the heart of Salento- We recommend staying in the town square for the sake of convenience, walkability, and grabbing a Willy for a ride to activities.
- With a view- El Mirador del Cocora
Extras on the side:
- Wifi- You’ll find free wifi at many restaurants and local spots. Surprisingly the connection is actually pretty good considering you’re in the middle of the mountains, so if you want to use your data plan you can do that too. Otherwise, you can go be one with nature and go off the grid. It’s fun. We swear.
- Money- You’ll need to convert your cash to Colombian pesos. Many of the businesses in smaller towns in Colombia only accept cash. So if you want a delicious tinto (black coffee), a salted vinegar mango, an arepa from a street vendor (which we highly recommend), or any Colombian keepsakes you’ll need to start counting your bills. Also, your money will go a long way right now. Currently the exchange rate is roughly $2,900 COP to $1 USD. Beers go for like $3,000 COP in Salento, so basically, GO NOW.
- Climate- It’s fantastic. Averages mid-70s during the day and 60s at night. It can definitely be a little warmer or cooler depending on the time of year so check before going. Avoid May however, it’s the rainiest month of the year.
- TIP- We highly suggest arranging any tours through the hostels or going straight to the town square and negotiating. Do a little research to know where you want to go but avoid booking on sites such a Viator where you’ll pay literally four times the price. This also ensures your money goes straight to the locals. 🇨🇴
Want to have your tour designed for you? @cobraescobar studied abroad in Colombia and met @lulumurcia who’s from Armenia. She is a tour designer based in Quindio and would be happy to help you plan your trip around the area. Feel free to contact her via IG and let her know the Adventure Club sent you! 💛 💙 ❤️