After three bustling days in Medellín, we traveled by bus to Salento, a sleepy town nestled in lush green mountains and coffee estates.
I had read about the bus journey before we set out and knew that we would have to take a bus towards Armenia in order to catch the bus to Salento. In total, the trip was estimated to take between 7-9 hours. Armenia is actually past the road to Salento, so many suggest that you ask the driver to drop you off on the side of the road that leads to Salento so you are not traveling unnecessarily to Armenia. We did this in Belize so we have some practice waiting along the side of the road, hoping that the next bus will stop and pick you up. It worked then, so we were prepared to give it a go in Colombia.
But, much to our surprise, Flota Occidental has three direct routes to Salento each day. We arrived at the bus station at 8 a.m., which gave us plenty of time to grab a quick bite to eat after we purchased our tickets for the 9 a.m. bus.
Breakfast proved to be more challenging than navigating the bus system. Emma tried to find something to eat while I stayed with the bags, but she came back empty-handed.
“I don’t know what to eat.” She sounded defeated.
I walked around the station and struggled, too. It seemed that they were only selling things I would consider to be lunch food. I’m more of a toast and black coffee morning person, so I ended up going to an ice cream stand where they had mangoes, pineapples, papayas, and apples for toppings. I asked the attendant, “solo fruitas?” She looked at me like I was nuts. She asked a question, and I understood “sin,” so I knew she was asking “without ice cream?”
“Sí,” I said, and she began filling my ice cream bowl with fruit.
Emma eventually ended up with a pastry, which she said was pretty good.
We made our way to the busses and found that our ‘bus’ was a 17-person Mercedes passenger van. Leather seats, plenty of leg room, air conditioning, working outlets, and one seat per person. So different from our experiences in Central America last summer.
The switchback roads for the first few hours were intense. Left then right, all the bodies swaying in the opposite direction of each turn. Our driver sped past slower vehicles on hairpin turns, and I felt myself getting sick. I became clammy and got that ‘oh-shit-I’m-going-to-get-sick’ feeling in my throat. I’ve never suffered from motion sickness before, so I don’t know if it was that or the fruit that I had for breakfast.
Towards the middle of the drive, the roads straightened out, and thankfully, I started feeling better. After a diet coke at our 15-minute stop, I was good as new.
We arrived in Salento just as the rain stopped, so we were able to walk the three blocks to our hostel without getting wet. Our hostess greeted us at the door, made each of us a cup of coffee, and spent the next 30 minutes giving us detailed recommendations for the area. She’s so warm, one of those people you instantly like.
Emma understands more Spanish than I do, but it’s surprising how much I’m able to pick up through non-verbals and the few words that I know.
We spent the rest of the evening getting a feel of the town and finding dinner. It’s definitely a slower pace than all of our previous stops in Colombia, and for that, we’re grateful.
Tips: When you arrive at the Medellín bus station, look for the Flota Occidental ticket counter. They have three direct routes to Salento each day, the first one leaving at 9 a.m. There is no bathroom on board, but there is one stop halfway through the trip. The bus station in Salento, isn’t much of a station–it’s more just a stop on the side of the road. The town is small and walkable, so you’ll be able to walk to your hotel if it’s in the city center.
If you do not take the direct route, you have two options. 1. Take a bus to Aremenia, and then buy a ticket to Salento at the Aremenia bus station. 2. The more adventurous option is to take a bus towards Armenia, but let the driver know that you want to be dropped off at the road leading to Salento. Then just wait till a bus to Salento comes by and picks you up.