You’ve probably heard of Cartagena, Bogotá, and possibly Medellin, but today I want to show you one of my favourite corners of Colombia: Salento and the Cocora Valley, located within the Zona Cafetera, which produces a sizeable portion of the country’s coffee crop.

Colombia is a beautiful and varied country where tourism is still in its infancy. It is growing though, so if you like your destinations to feel authentic and off the beaten path, plan to visit soon!

When I travelled to Colombia in 2010, the Colombia Lonely Planet guidebook dedicated barely two pages to Salento and the Cocora valley. Given their scenic beauty, I figured a photo essay would be the best way to introduce them to you.

Daily life on Salento’s main street, Calle Real. The population of Salento is just over 4000 people.

View over the town. Salento is located in a gorgeous green mountainous area, at an altitude of 1900 metres. The closest city is Armenia, 24 kilometres to the west.

Another view from the Alto de la Cruz viewpoint, which you can access from stairs at the end of the main street.

A typical fixed-price lunch consisting of fried fish, rice, vegetables, salad, and arepas (cornmeal patties). These meals cost only a few dollars.

For dessert why not get some fruit from a street cart?

The valleys around Salento are home to coffee farms (fincas) and friendly locals. So few tourists walk on these roads that this family came out of their house to take a look at me.

Coffee bushes at a finca during a coffee tour.

Showing off the coffee cherries. Each cherry contains two seeds (the coffee beans).

Back in town, you can have delicious espresso coffee at one of the many coffee shops, such as Café Jesús Martín shown here.

The main square in late afternoon. Food stalls start setting up for dinner.

IMG_3806The town’s church at dusk.

View of a storybook green valley from the outskirts of town.

You can go horseback-riding to waterfalls or even into the Cocora Valley.

Most people ride to the Cocora Valley in these jeeps. It takes about one hour. Get to the pick-up point early if you don’t want to be the ones hanging off the back or sitting on the roof!

A beautiful day of hiking in the Cocora Valley amid misty green hills and wax palms.

Wax palms are the largest palms in the world, growing up to 60 metres tall. They’re also Colombia’s national trees.

Note: These photos have not been edited (except possibly for some light cropping), so no colour adjustment, and no HDR. I wanted to show you exactly what I saw. Of course some of these stunning landscapes need 3D and 360 degrees to do them justice!

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