Salento- a small pueblito in the cafetero (coffee growing) region of Colombia is a must visit for anyone traveling through Colombia. It was undeniably and deservedly my favorite place that I visited in Colombia.
There is something magical about a small town, set high in the Cordillera mountain, shrouded each morning and evening in fog, where the rain falls daily, and the cows and street dogs idle just as mucha s the town itself.
It`s small fruterìas and verdurìas sell cheap fruits and veggies, as the vendors happily chat the day away. The small main store carries Silk soymilk and a few other oddities like organic dark accidentally vegan chocolate. A small little cafè serves delicious espresso. It`s relaxing. It`s inviting. It captures your heart and keeps you there a lot longer than expected. (I think I meant to stay there for 2 days or so, but ended up there for six).
I stayed at La Serrana, a wonderful hostel about a mile walk from the main town (it sounds far, but it`s a lovely walk each day and admittedly worth it. The views are stunning, and the tranquility and peace that are at La Serrana are uncomparable). They have a nice kitchen to get your vegan cooking on (I made a few batches of oatmeal milk here, and hummus!) and they have a wonderful breakfast and vegan options for the dinner if you would like to eat there.
I also visited Plantation House (recommended by Lonely Planet as well) and it seemed lovely and in town, so if you are looking to go out more at night or what not and aren`t willing to pay for taxi Jeeps (the taxis are old jeeps), then you might consider staying there.
Besides wandering the town, reading a good book in a hammock at La Serrana, exploring old winding paths that pass waterfalls, and exploring coffee plants with little old Colombian men on coffee farm tours, make sure you head to the national park, Valle de la Cocora, a valley straight out of a Dr. Seuss novel. Sky-brushing wax palms tower above, scraping the ever-present fog creating an unreal scene that is beautiful. A 5 hour round trip hike is well marked and well traveled. Absolutely beautiful.
If there is one place you have to visit in Colombia, whether to relax, drink a lot of coffee, or explore, Salento is your destination.