How to Travel Salamina in 24 Hours
When you’re visiting the Eje Cafetero (Coffee Region) there is no question you’ve added Salento to your list. But of all the amazing and historic pueblos in the Caldas region of Colombia, the quaint, virtually “untouched” mountain town of Salamina may just be the most enchanting.
Salamina is a two-hour drive from Manizales along a windy road with spectacular views. The road is in great condition but, depending on your driver, there will undoubtedly be a few white-knuckle moments—all part of the experience!
Surrounded on all sides by green mountain scenery, Salamina was declared a National Monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even if it’s just one day in this little town, prepare to be transported back in time, feel like a local and connect with the old charm of Colombia
7:30 a.m. – Wake Up and Have a Colombian Breakfast
Stay at the gorgeous La Casa de Lola Garcia Hotel Boutique, named after a powerful woman whose picture is hanging on the wall above the courtyard. The host family is incredibly hospitable. Here you’ll be served breakfast of eggs, fruit and apreo with a glass Lulo juice.
9:00 a.m. – Head to the Main Square and Grab a Salamina Coffee
Head out to the main square. It’s only two blocks away. The square is lined with little shops, hotels and cafes. Look for Cafe La Cigarra. Here the local coffee farmers, wearing their aguadeño hats, come to relax, sip their coffee and talk. All the chairs face out to the Central Plaza and Parque Bolivar.
If you’re feeling bold, order a “cappuccino”—which just means they add rum or aguardiente (the local anise-flavoured spirit) to your drink.
10:00 a.m. – Time for More Sight Seeing
Walk out to Parque Bolivar to check out the fountain. The Symbol of Splendor was made in Paris and shipped to Salamina in 1900. The Church of Immaculate Conception will be right in front of you. The Church is loaded history and rumours … including one that says Freemasons once lived there and used secret tunnels to meet underneath the church. Although touring the church won’t reveal any tunnels, you can take the spiral staircase to the church bell if you’re lucky. This will give you a great view of the town and views of the coffee plantations on the adjacent hills.
11:00 a.m. – Continue to Stroll Through the Streets
Stroll through the streets and admire the flower-filled balconies protruding from the colourful adobe homes. Many of these houses have beautiful, and often large, inner courtyards with gardens and fountains. The eloquent doors, and eaves are the legacy of an influential cabinetmaker and carver named Tangarife Elisha. Looking is as good as going to any museum of architecture of this period. If you’re fortunate to go inside some of the homes, you’ll be treated to even more stunning architecture.
12:30 p.m. – Time for an Interesting Lunch at Cafe El Polo
If the steep hills and dizzying elevation of Salamina haven’t helped you work up an appetite, I don’t know what will. So, head to Cafe El Polo for an interesting lunch of Huevos al Vapor (steamed eggs prepared with cut salchichones—let’s just call it what it is: a hotdog—served in a cup) and la Macana (a hot drink made with milk, egg yolks, crushed crackers, cinnamon, sugar and butter). This isn’t your normal meal, but if you’re trying to feel like local then do as the locals do.
And if that hasn’t satisfied you, then head next door to Ricuras Quice for some Colombian-style empanadas. Take these to go.
1:30 p.m. – Take a Siesta
Because … why not?!
3:00 p.m. – Go for Another Stroll and Explore Salamina at Bit More
Head to the Cementario de Salmina and peruse the local artisan shops. Much like the pace of the town, Salamina reveals itself slowly; so, take your time. Due to the number of poets, musicians and artists that have lived here throughout history, Salamina has acquired the nickname: “City of Light.” Be inspired, accordingly: Journal, take photos, draw, play an instrument, or just sit and ponder.
6:00 p.m. – Time to Eat Dinner at El Paraiso
Brace yourself for a rather steep, but worthwhile, climb, and head up the hill to a restaurant called El Paraiso. They’re known for their delicious trout!
7:30 p.m. – Check out Salamina’s Night Life
With only 15,000 residents or so, Salamina can seem sleepy. You won’t hear much more than faint whispers drifting through the streets, but for a little raucous late-night action, head to Bar Juanes. Located on edge of a steep cliff, the sunsets are stunning as is the local atmosphere. Order a beer and a small bottle of aguardiente. Although it tastes like sambuca, in my experience it doesn’t deliver anywhere near the hangover. So, you can indulge a little. And, if you’re offered any, just know that it’s impolite to say no!
Then, with a mild buzz, full belly and inspired frame of mind, enjoy one last leisurely stroll back to your hotel. Once you leave this town for your next destination—whether nearby Haciendas or the Wax Palm Tree Forests—Salamina will stay in your soul: Mi Salamina del alma.