37km (23 miles) SE from Pereira
Larded with otherworldly charms, Salento is one of those towns that feels like walking on to a 19th-century stage set—especially if you have just stepped off the bus from Medellín. With lush foothills that fold into the Andes Mountains, cast in those intoxicating shades of green that only balmy year-round temperatures and consistent rains can yield, the journey here is one heart-stopping pleasure after another. Beyond Pereira’s urban sprawl, serpentine mountain roads rise above a tapestry of coffee estates interspersed with eucalyptus forests, fields of avocado and guava, banana plantations, and lemon and orange orchards.
Avid hikers planning to explore the Valle de Cocora should consider basing themselves in Salento to have multi-day access the park’s trails; most tours from Pereira leave only an hour (two at the most) for hiking or horseback riding in the valley.