Going to the coffee region in Colombia was one of the most memorable parts of my travels in that country. I went there when my mother came to visit me in July 2012. I can't believe it has almost been a year!
|Exploring the main square|
We did just a tad bit of shopping. I knew I would need a pair of sneakers, so I bought one pair of those along with a pair of sunglasses. They sold all of the typical stuff that you'd find in touristy shops in South America, including the clothes, souvenirs, etc.
We didn't interact with many locals, but they were certainly warmer than the people in Bogota.
The weather in this spot was beautiful with mostly clear skies and comfortable temperatures. I couldn't imagine having weather like that year-round! I'm no fan of winter, so I would trade any day.
|A man selling drinks in Salento|
|Mom under the sign|
|Posing together in front|
The trip took about 20-25 minutes and the jeep picked up some women from Argentina on the way. The next thing we knew, we were at the Valley.
The views were breathtaking to say the least. Along the dirt road, you could see out to the valley. The valley was full of bright green vegetation with hills and mountains in the background. Scattered along the valley were the wax palm trees, which are protected in Colombia. I think the scenery was more impressive in person than in pictures.
|After finishing on horseback|
We got off the horses and went on a little walk. There's a full hiking trail for anyone interested, but we aren't hikers really. We were able to relax and take in the scenery. After that, we went back toward the entrance, chatted with some other tourists, and then went to a small restaurant for lunch. We tried their famous trucha, or trout. We ran into the man who was traveling alone and had a coversation with him. We determined that he was pretty brave.
|Trucha with shrimp and mushrooms|
ATMs and (No) Money?
I thought we would have been okay because I knew that there were ATMs in Salento and that I could always go to Armenia if I needed to. In Bogota, I knew that some ATMs worked and some didn't. But I always had access to my money without an issue.
|The little branch of Banco Agrario|
Basically, the ATM wouldn't work with either of our cards, so we ended up in a pickle. We had to swallow our pride and ask the owner of the hostel to loan us some money to get to Armenia. When we got to Armenia, none of the ATMs at the terminal worked there, either. I knew a bank that always worked for me -- Banco de Bogota -- but no one around could help me pinpoint a location. We had to give up and go back to Salento.
To solve the problem, we had to use Western Union. We frantically called relatives and they loaned us some money. There was no location in Salento, so we had to go all the way back to Armenia and use a Western Union location at the terminal. We finally got some money, and were able to continue with our trip. Unfortunately, we lost time due to all of this. I wanted for us to tour a coffee finca while we were there, but we didn't get a chance to do that.
As a safeguard, I recommend carrying enough cash with you to last you throughout the coffee region, since there's no guarantee that the ATMs will work with a foreign card.
Santa Rosa Hot Springs
There are basically two places where you can enjoy the Hot Springs (Termales de Santa Rosa de Cabal in Spanish). There's one place, called Balneario, which is more of a park with a waterfall, a few thermal pools, and a river where you walk barefoot. There's also another place, which is located at a hotel. They're supposed to be natural, but it's more expensive, especially if you're not staying at that particular hotel.
|In front of the main waterfall|
We went to the springs at Balneario and it cost us about 30,000 colombian pesos each (about $17-18). It was very much man-made, but it was very beautiful and natural looking. It was also well kept and not dirty unlike other places in Colombia. We changed our clothes in the bathroom and enjoyed the water. The pools were all of a good, warm temperature, except for the waterfall, which had much cooler water. It was an enjoyable experience. There weren't too many other people there either, but we went on a weekday.
Unfortunately, we couldn't stay there too long if we had any hope of getting back. Soon enough, we started to head back to Salento. We took a bus to the terminal, stopping to pick up my mom's money on the way. As a result, when we arrived to Armenia, we had just missed the very last bus to Salento by a hair. To recover, we had to take a bus to the next town over, Circasia, and then take a taxi to Salento. If you're counting all of the steps just to get back, you can imagine how frustrated my mother was, since she wasn't used to this sort of thing. She certainly let me know on the taxi ride back!