Friday, January 20, 2017


Visiting the charming colonial Colombian town of Salento in the northwest Andean region of the country feels like a visit to the past and another way of life. Salento has retained much of its old world charm and we found it lovely.  This small town survives on coffee production, trout farming, and increasingly, tourists, who are drawn by its quaint streets, typical Paisa architecture, and its proximity to the spectacular Valle de Cocora.

The colorful architecture of Salento is definitely eye-popping and makes for a happy town.

Fear of using bright colors is an unknown concept as is evident on the streets of Salento.

This guest house in Salento is known for good grilled steaks and cold beers.

Salento was founded in 1850 and is one of the oldest towns in the Quindío district. Salento’s colorful local architecture mixes with a distinctly laid-back approach to life that only a small town can evoke.

A view of the church in Salento which I find particularly attractive.

The shops and inns are colorfully painted and local dogs love basking in the sun.

Located approximately seven to nine hours by bus from Bogota and six to seven hours from Medellin, Salento is the perfect location in which to base yourself while exploring Colombia`s coffee zone. The main route from Popayán and Cali to Bogotá used to pass through Salento, but when the route was diverted the town became isolated and did not develop as rapidly as the rest of the region. For this reason it has retained more of its traditional colonial architecture than almost any other town in the Colombian coffee region.  

My husband often said of the stunning scenery of Colombia that it hurt his eyes because it was so green!   

At the end of the street are stairs leading up to Alto de la Cruz, a hill topped with a cross. From here you'll see the verdant Valle de Cocora and the mountains that surround it. If the skies are clear (usually only in the morning), you can spot the snowcapped tops of the volcanoes on the horizon.

Another view of the colorful green which surrounds the town of Salento.

Salento is located in the Colombian coffee region (Spanish: Eje Cafetero) and is a part of the Colombian Paisa region in the rural area of Colombia. This region is known for the growing and production of a majority of the country's coffee which is considered by many as the best coffee in the world. Tourism is the now the dominant economy of the Salento, but farming and agriculture are still important with dairy farming and the production of flowers and other crops being significant.

I never found out where this cow was going, but hopefully it was a nice destination!  

Local musicians playing traditional rancho music on the streets of Salento.

A movable fruit cart on Salento's plaza selling fresh local produce.

Salento almost has an old "American West" feel to it with its local population of cowboys in their straw hats and ponchos which compliment the timber-built houses and colorful painted trims. Salento is wonderfully colorful and unique. The small town has long been a popular destination for vacationing Colombians, and its popularity with international tourists is definitely on the radar (or should I say internet). Despite the increasing amounts of tourists, Salento still manages to feel genuine.

Locals taking their produce to market through the colorful streets of Salento.

The lottery is a popular way to raise money not only in Salento, but much of Colombia.

A quiet sunny morning on the streets before the nationals and visitors are up and about.

Just a short walk away from Salento's plaza you can find yourself on a winding dirt road with lush grassy pastures, cows, horses, and dogs going about life as though time had stood still. What a lovely change from the hustle and bustle of modern city life!

Taking a break and enjoying more beautiful "almost too green" scenery in Salento.

A great part of the charm of Salento is just taking in its charming ambiance and slowing yourself down.  This is especially wonderful if you have been exploring the many different areas and cities of Colombia and need a much-needed rest. Here are a few of my recommendations while visiting Salento which will still give you time to chill.

Take in the View from El Mirador (the lookout) of the surrounding countryside.

More of the stunning scenery surrounding the charming town of Salento.

If you were a cow wouldn't you find this a beautiful place to spend your grazing time?

Take a Coffee Plantation Tour Outside of Salento and drink the coffee!

Rich dark Colombia must be experienced even if you are not a coffee connoisseur!

The red of a coffee berry is stunning and reminds me of Christmas!

People watch at the main plaza in Salento.

The pretty church on Plaza Bolivar in Salento is named Nuestra Señora del Carmen (Our Lady of Carmen).

These young ladies of Salento have dishes of typical Colombia fare for hungry visitors during the annual parade celebrating its cultural diversity.

Cultural diversity, including its indigenous roots, is celebrated in Salento during the annual November parade.

Representing the "cowboy/rancher" tradition in the colorful annual parade with the tight-fitting Levi's the Colombia senoritas adore! 

And "colonials" are also represented in the annual parade in Salento. 

Another view of Nuestra Señora del Carmen (Our Lady of Carmen) on Plaza Bolivar in Salento.

Explore the Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley) which is a definite must!

The nearby Cocora Valley is absolutely beautiful and should be experienced while visiting Salento.

In a country full of beautiful landscapes, Cocora Valley is one of the most striking. It stretches east of Salento into the lower reaches of Los Nevados National Natural Park with a broad green valley framed by sharp peaks. In the rolling green foothills of the Colombian Andes the Cocora Valley is known for being one of the only places in the world to see wax palms in their natural habitatEverywhere you will see wax palms, the largest palm in the world which can grow to 196 feet! The wax palm is Colombia's national tree and they are spectacular.

Here is another fantastic landscape which might have been "too green and too blue" for my husband's tired eyes. You can be sure that I will never let him live down this comment!

The wax palms in the Cocora Valley almost looking "other worldly" don't you think?

The wax palms look to me to be giant "palm stalks" rising to the heavens. 

How would YOU describe this landscape in the Cocora Valley?

I found this description of the Cocora Valley especially lovely and would like to thank the source for it's use:

"Images of Colombia’s Cocora Valley are plastered on postcards all over the country, where peculiarly skinny, incredibly tall palm trees are set against a backdrop of glaring sun, enigmatic mist or broad Andean foothills. Wax palms – Colombia’s national tree and the world’s tallest palms – are a source of pride among locals, and reason alone to venture to this peaceful hikers’ playground. But the more time you spend in the Cocora Valley, nestled in the central Colombian coffee growing region (la zona cafetera), the more the scenery unfolds. Beyond the postcard-perfect images is an ever-changing landscape that unfolds a host of little surprises.

One of the only places on Earth to see them in their natural habitat, the wax palms in Cocora Valley can grow to 196 feet tall, and hundreds of them randomly dot the cleared grassland like floral pinwheels, towering above fields of grazing livestock. Even at the bottom, the trunks of the spindly, shag-topped trees are thin enough to wrap a good hug around, yet hard as concrete. Viewed up close or from across the valley floor, the effect is transporting; you are somewhere uncommon and arresting."       BBC.COM/TRAVEL/STORY

When it's time to get off-road the colorful trucks are as delightful as the colorful town of Salento!  

Salento and the Cocora Valley were a total delight. With hindsight I wish we had spent more time in this charming town absorbing it's magic, the friendliness of the people, and the beautiful surrounding countryside. Salento found a special place in our hearts and we thank you for the lovely memories.


 I have created the following photograph album in order to share Salento and the Cocora Valley in Colombia. Check it out by clicking on the following link:


Please don't be shy!  Us bloggers love receiving questions, comments, and suggestions.  And sharing the blog with your family and friends is very much appreciated!  Until next time, safe trails and travel well. Laura


Thursday, December 22, 2016


Welcome to this holiday posting which is my "Holiday Greeting Card" to each and every one of you who read and follow this blog. In the spirit of the holidays, I have decided to share and update some of our favorite Christmas photographs which we have accumulated during our nomadic journey throughout Mexico and Latin America. After the following brief introduction and a sample of some of our photo memories, you will find my large and colorful holiday photograph album at the end of this "greeting card." Thank you for joining me this year and wishing you Feliz Navidad (Merry Christmas) and Feliz Ano Nuevo (Happy New Year) in 2017.

A lovely tribute to the Virgin of Guadalupe (Mother Mary) who is celebrated on December 12th in Latin America as seen in San Miguel de Allende.

Christmas is one of the most important and popular celebration and holiday in the countries of Latin America. There are many wonderful and uniquely Hispanic Christmas customs and traditions and they can vary from country to country. The following traditions are widely celebrated not only in Mexico, but other Hispanic countries as well:

POSADAS:  Posadas are a Catholic tradition that first emerged in Spain, but is now most commonly celebrated in Mexico and Guatemala. Beginning on the 16th of December and continuing until the 24th of December, Posadas involve a re-enactment of Joseph and Mary's search for a shelter where the Virgin Mary could safely give birth to Jesus.  Occurring as either a street procession or at a party, holiday celebrants will split into two groups. One group goes house to house and knocks on the door asking for shelter or 'posada' while the other group act as the "inn keepers."

Both sides of the re-enactment hold candles and sing a traditional song asking for shelter/posada.   "En nombre del cielo, nos pido posada, pues no puede andar mi esposa amada" (In the name of heaven, I ask you for shelter for my beloved wife who can't go on) begin the Joseph and Mary group with the inn keepers denying them entry. This is repeated several times until Joseph and Mary are finally allowed entrance at which time both groups sing together. In some elaborate cases, the Posada procession can take over a street or even a whole town with elaborate costumes.

PASTORELAS:  These traditional re-enactment plays happen across Latin America but particularly in Mexico and Brazil. The plays depict the birth of Christ including the shepherds, the three kings and the search for the manger. Often performed by children, the plays are performed in full costume and are often very elaborate.

MISAS:  Religion plays a very significant part in Latin America during Christmas which is hardly surprising considering that the region makes up the world's largest percentage of Catholics,  In countries such as Bolivia, Chile and Mexico, people attend the Midnight Mass, called the 'Misa del Gallo.'  In Venezuela, worshipers attend mass every day in the mornings beginning December 16th which is called "Misa de Aguinaldo."

NACIMIENTOS:  Nacimientos, or Nativity Scenes, are one of the most unifying traditions across Latin America. In countries from Mexico to Peru, Chile, Paraguay, and Guatemala people set up elaborate Nativity Scenes inside their homes, in their churches, and in public places. Figures range from life-size to miniatures.

PINATAS:  One of the most fun and recognized Mexican traditions is the piñata. Made out of paper mache or clay, these brightly colored and decorated objects are filled with candy and suspended from a rope. Children are blindfolded and take turns trying to break the piñata open with a stick in order to get to the candy inside. Parents and friends sing a traditional song as the children attempt to break open the piñata.


The following are a few of my favorite holiday photographs as a prelude to my MEXICO AND BEYOND: CHRISTMAS 2016 album which you will find at the end of this posting.  

A wonderful poinsettia Christmas tree at the beach 

The Epiphany parade (Three Kings celebration) in Cuenca, Ecuador is lovely with the children dressed in traditional wear and riding horseback.

 Oaxaca's Radish and Corn Husk Festival held during the Navidad holidays is certainly unique.  

A young Christmas angel "in training" as seen in Cuenca, Ecuador 

Oaxaca City's Christmas tree is constructed from living poinsettia plants which are native to Mexico.

 There's more than one way to get to a rooftop.  Good job Santa Claus!

   Stuffed Christmas stockings on the beach work for me. 

A completely made-by-hand model we saw in the creator's garage in San Miguel de Allende. Wow!

I remember hearing many, many years ago that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I am a believer so following is the link to my WEB ALBUM which has additional photos for this posting:


Don't be shy! Us bloggers love receiving questions, comments, and suggestions. I may be contacted directly by email or by posting a comment on this blog page. Until next time, safe trails, travel well, and happy holidays! Laura

This holiday painting was created by Daniel, a ten year old student in San Miguel de Allende, and I think it especially wonderful.   

 Wishing all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Mexico and Beyond!  Laura