In the heart of coffee country, the adorable village of SALENTO is one of the region’s earliest settlements, and its slow development means the original lifestyle and buildings of the paisa journeymen who settled here in 1842 have barely been altered since. Rural workers clad in cowboy hats and ruanas (Colombian ponchos) are a common sight. The colourful, wonderfully photogenic one-storey homes of thick adobe and clay-tile roofs that surround the plaza are as authentic as it gets.

Salento is a popular destination for weary backpackers who linger here to soak up the town’s unpretentious charms and hike in the spectacular Valle de Cócora or to use the town as a base to explore the rest of the Zona Cafetera. Salento is also the second most popular weekend destination in the country for Colombians, and on Saturdays and Sundays the main plaza hosts a food and handicrafts fair. Salento’s annual fiesta falls in the first week of January, when the town kicks up its heels for a week of horse processions, mock bullfighting and folk dancing.

From the top of Calle Real, steps lead to Alto de la Cruz, a hilltop mirador offering unbeatable vistas of the Valle de Cócora and, on a clear day, the peaks of snow-clad volcanoes in Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados.

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