Salento, Colombia

Medellin was a comfortable place to spend Christmas break in but I was ready to see more of Colombia. Looking at a map I wanted to get to either Guatape or Salento. I heard both were beautiful but the Valle de Cocora peaked my interest more. So off I road to the small town of Salento.

I knew from the ride to Salento that I would like it. It’s in the Zona Cafetera (coffee zone) which even has it’s own highway named Autopista del Cafe. Zipping along the road the scenery was lush, green, and mountainous.

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I got to Salento in 4 hours which was perfect timing as by the time I got my tent set up the sun was starting to set. I stayed at La Serrana which is a hostel/farm outside of town. They have a camping area which includes wifi, kitchen use, and a made to order breakfast. It’s a beautiful place.

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In the morning I rode down to the Valle de Cocora to see the famous trees and breathtaking views I saw in photos. The short ride from Salento was just amazing. I kept taking photos and I hadn’t even arrived yet.

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At Valle de Cocora there were parking people flagging me down to stop and park at their lot. By now I know the trick. I’ll just ride till I can’t ride any further. That strategy usually gets you to some good spots. I kept riding up the dirt road and then it became a narrow rocky road. Perfect. Around corners and down hills I came to a small river crossing. I got to the other side where I realized that was as far as I could get. I had a map that said there’s a trail with great views within a few minutes hike so I parked the bike and started hiking. There was a guide on the trail so I asked him and he said there wasn’t any views for a while. I didn’t feel like trekking further up the trail through donkey crap so I turned around. Good thing I did as I later found out that I had actually rode my motorcycle passed the area with the best views. It was nice but I wasn’t awed like I thought I would. A few Colombians wanted their picture taken on my bike so I hung out for a bit talking to them.

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The lady working at La Serrana told me about a dirt road that she thought had the best views in the area. After visiting Valle de Cocora I rode off to find it. It’s easy to find as there are only three roads leading out of town and I had already been on two of the them. The dirt road makes it’s way up the side of the mountain giving travelers a fantastic view of the valley and the tiny city of Salento.

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The road was mostly dirt with a few sections of rocks and ruts that I had to slow down for but otherwise I was having a blast zipping up the mountain. I didn’t have any plan or destination in mind for the day ride so when I saw a farmer on the side of the road I stopped and chatted with him. He said there was a town about 2hrs further. Sounded like a good spot to have lunch and turn around at. I rode on up the mountain finally reaching the top 2 or so hours after I started.

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The valley on the other side was gorgeous I rode slowly as I kept stopping to take photos. Coming around a corner I came to another stop when two SUVs were parked in the road. The people were all outside taking photos as well. I rode up to slowly pass them when they approached me and said hello. After asking about where I was from and going they said they had a farm just up the road and that I should stop by for coffee. Invitation accepted.

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The group was led by Beatrice, a Colombian woman who grew up on this farm as a kid. She was bringing friends out to see the area for the day. The group were all so friendly. They invited me to have lunch with them as well. It was an eclectic group of friends. Documentary Filmmakers, hotel owners, photographers, travel guides, etc. Beatrice showed me the humming birds and the fruit that grows there. From the balcony of the house I could see the vast valley covered in the tall narrow wax palms.

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The caretakers three boys were running around playing while we ate lunch. They of course wanted to know about my motorcycle.

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Beatrice now lives in Salento and is a private tour guide in the region. Having grown up there she knows so much and with perfect English she’d be a great guide for any visiting travelers. Contact me for her info. After an afternoon at Beatrice’s farm it was time for me to ride back to Salento. One of the couples offered me a night at their luxury hotel in a city an hour north and Beatrice invited me to have dinner with them that night back in Salento. I wasn’t sure if I would make it so we exchanged info and said goodbye.

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The ride back was even more fun as I knew the road and didn’t stop so often for photos. Coming down I saw Ian on the road. Small area so of course we’d find the same road.

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Back at La Serrana I jumped in a hammock and relaxed as the setting sun filled the sky and painted the mountains with brilliant colors. Another night camping in a Colombian paradise.

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A few shots from the center of Salento.

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Comments

  1. says

    Love your photos & journey so much! I am riding a bicycle through Colombia from California now, it is spectacular. Enjoy the ride, road brother :)

    • Dan Ford says

      Hey Leah,
      Did you make it to Salento yet? It’d be worth the detour off the PanAm. I think things only get more amazing the further south we go. Except the Peru coastline (all desert). Buen Viaje!

      • says

        I camped near the river in Valle Cocora, after seeing your photos I just had to go. Look at us now, I’m still riding all over Colombia and you, Al Fin Del Mundo! So inspiring, incredible site.
        Saludos, Leah

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