How to get from Medellin to Salento by Bus
Total Trip time: 7-9 hours
Total Cost: 40,000 pesos
Terrain: Mountainous with many twists and turns. Spectacular views of green valleys and snow-capped mountains.
Salento is one of Colombia’s most popular tourist destinations and for good reason. It is a charming little city of about 7000 inhabitants set in the heart of Colombia’s Zona Cafetera (Coffee Zone) where over 50% of the country’s coffee is produced. Other than sipping on a warm cup of Colombian coffee while taking in the picture perfect landscapes, there are tons of great outdoor activities like hiking, horseback riding, and trout fishing to be done. More on Salento coming soon.
There are no direct buses from Medellin to the little town of Salento, so you will have to go through one of the bigger cities like Armenia or Manizales, then take a connecting bus onwards to Salento. The first leg of the trip from Medellin to Armenia is supposed to take about 6.5 hours door to door. Notice that I said – supposed to!
Bus from Medellin to Armenia
The buses to Armenia and the rest of Colombia’s coffee region leave from the Terminal del Sur near the Poblado metro station in Medellin. Two major bus lines operate between Medellin and Armenia – Flota Occidental and Flota Arauca. I chose Flota Occidental since they appeared to have nicer buses and more frequent departures than Flota Arauca.
Flota Occidental: The first bus leaves Medellin for Armenia at 4:30am and all subsequent buses leave every hour on the half-hour until 11:30pm. So that’s 04:30am, 05:30, 06:30, 07:30…..11:30pm
Flora Arauca: There are only three departure daily. The first bus leaves at 8:45am, the next at 11:15am, and a final bus at 3pm (Cost 32,000 pesos)
I would go as far as saying that the Flota Occidental bus that I took to Armenia was easily the most comfortable bus that I have taken to date in Colombia. Right when the bus was pulling out of the station, the conductor walked down the isle offering passengers plastic bags for motion sickness emergencies and fleece blankets for added warmth against the notoriously frigid air-conditioning.
Warning: If you haven’t taken a long distance bus in Colombia before, be sure to take adequate warm clothing (layers) since the drivers crank the air-conditioning to winter-esqe temperatures. I usually take a sweater, a light jacket and a scarf – I am not kidding – be forewarned!
Although they say that the bus is express/direct to Armenia, this isn’t reallly true since it makes a 25-minute food stop about half-way though the journey and another short stop to drop-off and pickup passengers in Pereria, a town about 40 minutes from Armenia.
Earlier I mentioned that this leg of the trip is supposed to take about 6.5 hours, but that 6.5 hours can easily increase to eight or nine hours when there is an accident on the highway. About two hours into the journey, our bus came to a complete stop behind a long trail of trucks and cars which snaked its way along the winding road. The police took an hour and a half to show up to the scene of the accident, so we tacked on an extra 2 hours of travel time. Moral of the story – expect delays when planning a bus trip.
Armenia to Salento
From the bus terminal in Armenia, take a local bus to the main plaza in Salento (3000 pesos). This leg of the trip should take just under an hour. The highway is very well maintained since coffee, one of Colombia’s most important exports, is produced in and transported out of this region. If you have a bit extra money to spend, you can negotiate with a taxi driver to take you directly to your hostel in Salento for about 50,000 pesos.
We arrived in Armenia around 11:30 pm and at that time there were no more buses running to Salento so to avoid staying a night in Armenia, we took a taxi to our hostel – La Serrana – in Salento.
From the plaza to La Serrana Hostel is about 2km. Take a local taxi called “Willys” for 6000 pesos to the hostel.