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Taking a Bus from Medellin to Salento in the Zona Cafetera

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

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.

The Wax Palm – Colombia’s National Tree (in Salento)

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

Flota Occidental at the Terminal del Sur

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)

Flota Arauca Counter

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.

Accident on the highway

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.

Colourful Salento Streets

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.

Just a section of La Serrana Hostel in Salento

From the plaza to La Serrana Hostel is about 2km. Take a local taxi called “Willys” for 6000 pesos to the hostel.

27 Comments

  1. I’m about to do this journey and this information was very helpful. Thank you!!

  2. Did you enjoy La Serrana? I’m probably heading there this weekend.

    • Britany I really liked La Serrana. I will probably go back there soon just to relax and take in the scenery. Chances are that you probably won’t want to leave.

  3. Thanks for this info. I’m chillin in Medellin right now and it answered all my questions about getting to Salento and saved me some time! Muchos Gracias!

    • No problem Sean – Happy I could help

      • Hi Joel. I was wondering, is there anything you would say I should definitey see or do while in Salento for a couple days? Thanks!

  4. Super helpful post, Joel. I visited Salento six years ago, but traveling the opposite direction. This was a great refresher for our upcoming visit.

    Did you get out and catch any of those beautiful pink trout? If so, any fishing spot recommendations?

    • No unfortunately I didn’t get to do any fishing while I was there. I recommend writing Jon the owner of la Serrana in Salento. He is a great guy from New York and he can probably recommend a great spot or two. Where are you planning on staying?

  5. I am going to make this journey soon. Can you recommend any places to stop between Medellin and Salento? I am trying to break up the bus ride and take a slower route down. I am guessing from your post that Armenia is not a nice place to stay?

    Thanks!

    • Lacy – I only made a short stopover in Armenia because from there Salento is very close. I guess that after taking 10+ hour bus rides this one didn’t seem that bad. To be honest because of the scenery, the trip didn’t seem that long. If you really want to break the tip up you should check out Manizales (the university town). I haven’t been there as yet but people speak highly of it. I think that the total travel time will increase by about 2 hours but at least you will see another cool place. Consider Medellin to Manizales then to Salento. Either way let me know how the trip goes. ~Jo

  6. thanks, very helpfull. im heading to salento on wednesday am.

  7. You can save yourself some time by asking the bus driver to drop you off at the bypass to Salento on your way to Armenia. Should cut out about an hour of travel time.

    • Thanks for the tip Will. I never knew that.

  8. Thanks for this, about to do the exact route tomorrow morning.

    • Just a follow-up, I literally just completed this route and can definitely vouch that the bus will drop you off at the junction point to Salento saving around an hour of travel time.

      • Sy, can you tell me how you then got to Salento? Did you just catch a local bus headed that way from the junction? Thanks!

        • Hi, yeah I just waited at the junction for about 15 mins and another local bus came past and stopped for me.

  9. Useful post! We leave for Salento tomorrow, looking forward to it. Do love Medellin mind you!

  10. There is a direct bus from Flota Occidental to Salento nowadays. Departures:9AM and 12AM.

    • This is true. I just did this but from Salento to Medellin. There is actually a later bus on some days depending on the season. I think I took a bus at about 2 in the afternoon.

  11. interesting to read we could be dropped of at the bypass to Salento thereby saving time but what do you do then? How would we get from the bypass into town.
    We are planning to work our way up from Quito to Cartengena by bus lots of stops required as we are nearly 60 and hate long journeys – if anyone can offer help for our trip – places to stay etc we would be go grateful – thank you

    • Tina: thanks for the comment. I actually visited Salento a few weeks ago and I took a bus from Medellin to Pereira and then a bus directly into Salento. Another thing is that there is now a bus directly from Salento to Medellin. In Salento I would really recommend La Serrana Hostel.

  12. Further update. Flota Occidental now run 3 daily direct services to and from Salento. I’m not 100% sure on the times from Medellin to Salento, however Salento to Medellin goes 10am, midday and 4pm. Make sure you book a day before as they fill up.

  13. I recently took a trip to Bogota and this excerpt was spot on, especially the part about the extended travel time. I choose the Bolivariano (to lazy to look up the correct spelling)for my travel and they told me that it was a direct route thereby only taking only 5.5 hours. Well needless to say, it made several stops, including a 30 minute lunch break thus making the actual trip a total of 8 hours instead of the 5.5 that they promised. At the end of it, I had never been so happy to get back to Armenia!

  14. From Medellin to Salento the first direct bus leaves at 9am, and reserving one day in advance is recommended. The bus only had one short 20 minute stop halfway and arrived in Salento around 16.30

    • Hey Mariska, Do you know if there’s also a night bus that directly runs from Medellin to Salento?! I was hoping that saves me a day of traveling since I only have 2 weeks in Columbia. How much is the bus ride?
      Thanks for all your help.

  15. Flota Occidental has 3 direct buses from Terminal del Sur in Medellin to Salento. 9am – 11am – 1pm. It takes 7-8 hours and costs 45000 pesos.

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