Tourists from all over Colombia and the world flock to traditional coffee towns like Salento and Filandia due to their proximity to major cities like Pereira and Armenia. Those towns are great to visit, but Salento especially has been overrun by tourists and has lost a bit of authenticity.
Enter Salamina. Unknown and seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it takes a little more time to get to but it’s well worth the effort. This small peaceful town, part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia, is devoid of tourists and is one of the most colorful and beautiful towns I have encountered in the entire coffee region. It’s known in Colombia as the “city of light” due to its high concentration of artists and poets, and as a prestigious Pueblo de Patrimonio, is a very important cultural town in Colombia.
A good place to start is the main plaza, Parque Bolívar. The plaza is full of tall trees with benches. A gorgeous iron fountain made in Europe sits in the center.
The church, Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción, sits on the north side of the plaza. It’s got a beautiful interior with a very detailed wooden ceiling.
A few blocks uphill from the plaza is the cemetery. This peaceful and beautiful burial ground has a nice entrance with a skull and crossbones and the words “Lux Perpetualuceateis” (Perpetual Light) inscribed over the door. There are also great views of the surrounding mountains from the cemetery.
The best thing to do in Salamina is wander the streets, admire the architecture, and pay attention to the gorgeous details and colors. Most of the beautiful streets are within a few blocks of Parque Bolívar. Try to notice the flowered balconies, finely detailed doors, and interesting door knockers as you walk through the streets.
The main street through town, Calle Real, is full of shops, restaurants, and other businesses. It’s just as colorful as the rest of the streets but with more people.
At the opposite end of Calle Real from Parque Bolívar is the town’s market. It’s a bit more hectic, louder, and more crowded than the rest of town, but it’s interesting to see the locals buying meats, fruits and vegetables, and other goods. This is also where buses and taxis to Manizales can be found.
Outside of town is the small village of San Félix, where you can find the Bosque de Palma de Cera, a wax palm forest. We were misinformed by a local and told to take a bus labeled La Palma or La Quiebra for a chance to see the trees and eat at one of the several supposed restaurants serving trout. When we arrived at a recommend spot called La Choza, we found a restaurant with phenomenal views but no palms. The waitress told us many years ago there use to be wax palms here, but to find them we needed to go all the way to San Félix.
Anyway, we enjoyed the meal and the views and paid just COP$22,000 for the two of us. The bus to La Choza was COP$1,500 per person. As far as the trees, I’m sure Valle de Cocora near Salento is much better.