There is so much to explore in Colombia’s coffee country but after some research we started our tour of the area by spending a couple of days at the fantastic Hacienda Guaybal. This family run farm is located just outside of Chinchina and you can either visit for a tour of the plantation and a coffee tasting session or stay for a couple of days like we did.
The house has a number of comfortable rooms each with access to the balcony which wraps around the property and offers stunning views over the plantation. During our stay we took the full coffee tour and learnt so much about the process as well as the influence of the environment on the flavour of the final product.
Given that we were pretty buzzing from all the delicious caffeine a full walking tour of the plantation (including the stunning bamboo groves) was the perfect way to burn off our energy. The views from the high point of the plantation were fantastic…
And once we had burned off our excess energy the swimming pool was a really inviting way to cool off from the humidity. Our hosts provided simple yet delicious food throughout our stay, the highlight being the local freshwater trout, as well as unlimited coffee. We ended up taking bags of the coffee home as presents and to this day I regret not taking more…somehow the coffee shop chain versions of Colombian coffee just doesn’t taste the same.
On the owner’s recommendation, we took an afternoon trip from Hacienda Guaybal to the local hot springs Thermales Santa Rosa
Once you make it to the top of the rather winding path you come across a spectacular waterfall at the bottom of which are the thermal baths. There are a number of pools of differing temperatures (although some are only open to the hotel guests), a spa and a bar/cafeteria. We went on a week day (I understand it gets pretty busy at the weekend and so is probably less pleasant) and it was the perfect way to while away an afternoon and come down from the caffeine high!
From Hacienda Guaybal we jumped in a bus and headed to the quintessential coffee-country town of Salento. This quaint little town is all about coffee and the beautiful Cocora Valley which is just a short ride away in what appeared to be an obligatory form of transport…the Jeep. Not that we were unhappy to oblige! Hanging out the back of these and taking in the stunning scenery with the wind whipping through your hair is hardly too shabby
We stayed in a lovely little B&B called Hostel Ciudad de Segorbe which is just a hop skip and a jump from Salento’s main square (but far enough that it is quiet and sheltered from the bangs created by the local game of Tejo which incorporates bags of gunpowder into the mix and so can get pretty noisy!) The owners of the B&B went beyond when helping us with planning our activities during our stay as well as our onward trip (even calling ahead to the next hotel to check how much a taxi from the bus station should cost so we didn’t get ripped off…Colombian hospitality at its best).
Salento itself has loads of little craft shops, restaurants (Alegra Cocina was our favourite) and, surprise, surprise, coffee shops…we managed to while a whole afternoon at the famous Cafe Jesus Martin over a cup or two (how could you stop at one when there is coffee art like the below on offer?!) and many a game of cards.
As we then had a couple of full days we made sure to use the time to see as much of the surrounding countryside as possible. First with a trek to the Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary and through Valley de Cocora (which all in all takes about 5-6 hours).
We decided to go without a guide so we could take it at our own pace…this was easy enough (although the path wasn’t totally clear at times especially when you hit the jungle) but there were enough fellow walkers along the way so you didn’t stray too far!
Although the views were some of the best I think I have seen the Hummingbird Sanctuary was the highlight of the day for me. There are 6-8 species of hummingbird within the sanctuary’s boundaries and you see or hear them all over. They are totally mesmerising – their zippy movements mean you have to keep your eyes peeled but when you catch a glimpse these colourful birds are so stunning (albeit incredibly difficult to capture on camera!)
Having sat and watched the hummingbirds for a good while over a cup of coffee (and cheese…has anyone figured out what that is about?!) we continued our walk through to the Valley de Cocora. The next part of the trek is a really steep ascent to Finca de la Montana where you can relax among the beautiul flowers and try to spot more humming birds. The rest of the walk through the Valley de Cocora offered the most stunning views of this part of the Los Nevados National Natural Park.And the final part of the hike through a forest of Quindio Wax Palms (the National Tree) was amazing…the palm are just so tall, I’ve never seen anything like it!
The following day we decided to continue the outside activities with a morning’s horse riding. Horse riding isn’t an activity I will engage in abroad unless I am sure that the horses are healthy, well treated and loved and I had no doubt about that when we took off for a morning’s riding around the hills surrounding Salento with Alvaro Gomez. If you enjoy taking in the countryside from the top of a horse then I’d really recommend this way of checking out the area around Salento.
Given the stunning coastline in Colombia it would be so easy to get stuck in the Caribbean rhythm and fail to head inland but honestly it is so worth dragging yourself away from that turquoise sea to take in the other side of Colombia.