Salamina – a nice place in Colombia’s Coffee Region
We decided to visit the coffee region in Colombia, but not to follow the most popular route (including Salento and the Cocora Valley). Following some advice from locals and some internet research (see links below) we decided to go to Aguades, Salamina and Manizales. We didn’t follow a predefined routed but developed our way on day by day basis. It is very easy to find hostels in most places and prebookings are usually not necessary (especially if you travel in off-season as we did). In general, it is easy to travel in this region, buses are cheap and go on a regular basis. However, the roads in the Andes region are narrow and winding. We also experienced that a lot of construction was going on. This means that it really might take a while to get from one place to another. It took us about 5 hours to get from Medellin to Aguades and another 3 hours from Aguades to Salamina. Our conclusion: Don’t plan too much and long distances, but enjoy the amazing views over the mountains that you can get on many of the routes!
We don’t want to reiterate all the information you can find on other websites about travelling in Colombia. You’ll find a lot of information about Cartagena, Medellin (including Comuna 13 and Poblado), but there are also some interesting places about which is just limited information available. Even in the towns itself, it was difficult for us to get proper information about it, but it was great to visit these places and we’ve enjoyed them a lot! That’s why we’ve decided to share it here on our blog. These places are in particular the coffee farm “Finca La Silencia” and the Bosque De Palma De Cera “La Samaria”.
Finca La Silencia Coffee Tour
A short hike (about 1 hour or so) away from Salamina you can find nicely located in the hills the “Finca La Silencia” a traditional coffee farm. It is a nice place and its already a little adventure to get up there because there is on the last few kilometers no road but only a small path through amazing nature. We learned a lot from Gladys. She welcomed us on her farm and guided us through all the process and answered all our questions (and more). The finca was recommended by Felipe, a local guide. He also translated the tour because Gladys doesn’t speak English or German and our Spanish is not sufficient to understand everything.
We learned about all the process from the planting, growth, harvest to ready coffee. About 600kg coffee berries/fruit end up in 125kg roasted coffee (which is “una carga”). In Colombia, the usual process is the wet process which means that the coffee fruit is mechanically separated from the bean (contrary to the “natural processing” in most other places of the world where the bean is usually dried in the fruit. The finca “La Silencia” is a rather small and traditional coffee farm. It had only about 3ha coffee plantation. Still, there are some even smaller farms, but also much bigger ones. We also participated at a coffee tour at Hacienda Venecia in Manizales. This is a farm with 130 ha coffee plantation (overall 200ha farmland including cacao and other). That tour was also interesting and gave us insight to the coffee business on a different scale (and is also a nice location), but if we would have to opt for only one tour we would choose the Finca La Silencia, because we really go an individual tour and could follow all steps of the process on our own. The tour was a very special day for us.
Some pictures from Hacienda Venecia in Manizales (also a coffee plantation):
While the Colombian coffee beans are probably among the world’s best, the coffee you get on the streets or in most cafes is not. It was strange for us to learn the Colombians usually drink coffee of subpar quality (the good quality is manly for export), but also the preparation of the coffee is – let say – questionable. Usually, you get “Americano” style coffee, which is a very light coffee mixed with water. If you want to have a proper coffee, you have to order “tinto oscuro” or just “un oscuro”.
If you want some milk in your coffee don’t ask for “cafe con leche” (you will get a cup milk with very little coffee), but “un oscuro con un poco leche”. If you are lucky you will get something that comes close to what we think is proper coffee. The only place where we found really good and tasty coffee in Salamina was the “Finca La Silencia” (we’ve never had a fresher coffee experience) and the La Exclusiva Café (directly on the main square “Parque Bolivar De Salamina”).
San Felix and Bosque De Palma De Cera “La Samaria”
We’ve also visited the Bosque De Palma De Cera “La Samaria” 🌴. It is one of the few places where you can find the rare “Palma de Cera” (wax palm). It can grow more than 45 meters high! In the Bosque De Palma De Cera you can find more than 3000 of these trees (which is way more than in the famous Cocora Valley) and the views are just amazing! It is a bit tough to get there, but we think it was worth the effort.
From Salamina it takes about 1 hour to get to San Felix. There is a bus at 6 o’clock in the morning or you take a taxi (or hire a private driver). There are busses back about 1.30pm, 2.30pm and at 5pm (Jeep), but this might change from time to time and it was difficult to get proper information in Salamina (even at the bus station!). It seemed that even in Salamina is San Felix a bit of a secret place. However, they are building a better road at the moment and it is possible that it might be easier to get there in the near future.
It is about 3 km from San Felix to the Bosque De Palma De Cera “La Samaria” and another 2 km to the mirador “Valle de la Samaria” (viewpoint) @miradorvsamaria where you have a good overview of the area. It is a nice hike and we enjoyed it quite a lot. At the mirador, you will find a nice family who started 3 years ago a project to reforest the wax palms and to make it accessible for eco-tourism. You can rest there, get some food and learn about the Palma de Cera. They are very hospital there. It might be a good idea to contact them in advance and ask about the current bus connections from Salamina or Manizales. You can also make a reservation for the small restaurant at the mirador (not because it is very crowded, but because they need to prepare the food). They told us that they also plan to open a Glamping place. We think that it can be a great place for a few relaxed days in nature.
The mirador is more than 2900m above sea-level (which is roughly the same as the top of Zugspitze – Germanys highest mountain, but in the Andes region, not particular high). Take warm closes it can be quite fresh there in the morning. It is close to the village of San Félix which is also a nice place to visit, but also a little sleepy. We enjoyed again the tours outdoors in the fantastic nature of Colombia!
Finca La Silencia (Tel. +57 313 38 00 603)
Felipe Toro – Local Guide in Salamina (Tel. +57 315 83 46262)
Mirador “Valle de la Samaria” (Tel. +57 314 611 58 99, @miradorvsamaria, email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hacienda Venecia (http://www.haciendavenecia.com/)
https://theculturetrip.com/south-america/colombia/articles/11-stunning-alternatives-to-salento-in-the-zona-cafetera-of-colombia/ (we don’t agree to everything written here, but in general is was helpful for us)