Friday, January 20, 2017

COLOMBIA: LUSH AND LOVELY SALENTO AND THE COCORA VALLEY


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.


                          REMEMBER MY MOTTO:  MEMORIES ARE ONLY A CLICK AWAY!  

 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:

SALENTO AND COCORA VALLEY ALBUM

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