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Can you visit Colombia’s coffee region without going to see the inner workings of a coffee farm? Nooooooo, no you can’t. By far the most-visited place in the Zona Cafetera is Salento, a small pueblo that packs a big, colourful punch in the department of Quindío. The place is famous for three things – it’s incredible traditional small-town architecture, the nearby Valle de Cocora (home to the world’s tallest wax palm trees) and… (drum roll please)… Salento coffee tours around real, working fincas.
Because practically the entirety of Salento’s surrounding area is dedicated to coffee-farming, there are a huge number of fincas offering Colombia coffee tours to choose from, and it can get a bit overwhelming. The good news is that there are few fincas that are not highly rated, but you still want to select the one that is best for your interests and needs.
After this review of 3 of the most-loved Salento coffee tours, check out:
Salento is an easy place to take visitors, so when I was living in Colombia I found myself on different Salento coffee tours no fewer than three times. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they’re not all the same, and I didn’t feel like I was just repeating a class over and over. So to help you out, I’ve reviewed these three Salento coffee tours so you can decide what you want to prioritise in a Colombian finca experience, and which style you would prefer.
At the end of this post, I’ll also answer some FAQs for taking Colombia coffee tours to make sure you are fully prepared for the day!
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Reviewing 3 of the most popular Salento coffee tours:
1. Salento coffee tours at Finca Momota
Finca Momota was newly opened when we took its coffee tour. It’s run by a Spanish couple who spend their lives living out their passion for permaculture. After such adventures as Christmas-tree-farming in New York, this coffee farm in Salento is their latest long-term project.
They bought the finca off a Colombian family that was no longer able to maintain the coffee farm. This is a fairly typical story when younger generations move to the city to find better work and older generations are not able to physically till the land in their absence.
If you’re not sure what permaculture is, it’s the agricultural practice that is designed around the natural ecosystem. For example, certain animals are encouraged to live there to provide natural fertilisation, some weeds are embraced, banana trees are used for the shade that their leaves provide, and bamboo is grown on the farm to be used for building outhouses. Everything Finca Momota does and consumes is carefully thought-out.
It isn’t too far out from town (a 20-25 minute walk from the main plaza in the centre, or 9 minutes from the edge of town), however, it can be a little hard to find, so make sure you get instructions on how to find it from them when you reserve a place. We chose to get a Willy from the main plaza to the end of the drivable roads, then walk the last 300m or so down a dirt track.
The cost of the Momota coffee tour is 35,000 pesos each, and you’ll spend in the impressive region of 2 hours on the finca, learning about how they plant, maintain, harvest and process the coffee beans; the history of the land and Colombia’s coffee co-operatives; how permaculture works, and then a tasting of some of the top-notch coffee that Finca Momota produces.
As we walked around the (dizzyingly steep) farm, it was clear that our guides were impossibly knowledgeable about the nature around them. We even caught glimpse of a tarantula in its burrow after it was pointed out to us.
These Salento coffee tours are available once a day from 9am in English or Spanish, so sign up in advance to let them know which you would prefer. There is also an extended 3-hour version of these Salento coffee tours for 60k COP starting at 2pm every day, again, you need to book in advance. Groups are limited to 14 people.
Of all three Salento coffee tours I’m reviewing here, the coffee tasting at Momota was superior as it was a lot more in-depth and informative about brewing techniques around the world. We covered grinding techniques, Italian press, French press, traditional Latin America style (which looks a bit like pouring it through a condom) and more.
The verdict on the Momota coffee tour, Salento:
This is a really fantastic example of the amazing Colombia coffee tours that are out there for the taking. It’s perfect for someone who’s really into learning all about sustainability and eco-friendly processes in agriculture. However, some of the finer details of permaculture were a little lost on me, and I was quite aware of the fact that my money for this tour wasn’t going directly to a local farming family (though obviously the finca does employ locals).
2. Salento coffee tours at Finca El Ocaso
Probably the most frequently recommended (and therefore also the busiest) Salento coffee tours are at Finca El Ocaso, which we visited on our second visit to Colombia’s coffee region. This is a lot larger and the furthest out of the town of the Salento coffee tours we’ve tried, but comes with excellent reviews.
We had a hire car that took around 20 minutes on the fairly bad mountain roads, but you can arrange a willy from the main square, and El Ocaso will arrange one back to town for you for 27,000 pesos. They run a conveyor belt of tours every day, in English or Spanish, so check here for the best one for you.
The tour is shorter (1 hour in total) and in a larger group than Momota, and the whole thing feels like a really slick operation. The cost per person for the El Ocaso coffee tour and tasting is 20,000 pesos.
The staff at El Ocaso were very friendly and informative, and the finca itself is beautiful. Although you learn less about permaculture and farming, you learn just as much about the specific processes coffee goes through from flower to cup.
By far, the highlight of the tour is getting the chance to go into the trees with a typical basket tied around your waist to see how many ripe coffee cherries you can pick in a given time. You then take those cherries and put them through the traditional skinning machines yourself.
After seeing all the croplands and outhouses through which the agricultural process happens, El Ocaso’s Colombia coffee tours end in a lesson in how to prepare coffee as a drink. You sit on chairs around a small kitchen that feels a bit like a Home Economics class at school. Things are passed round to look at and smell, and then you get a good old cup of José to finish off your tour.
And if you just can’t get enough, there’s a small café on site with views of the whole mountain for customers to chill in before or after their Salento coffee tours.
The verdict on the Finca El Ocaso coffee tour, Salento:
This is the tour to go on if you’re short on time but don’t want to skimp out on learning. It’s a well-oiled machine, so there’s not as much waiting around as in the other Salento coffee tours, and while still very detailed, the tour content is succinct. The guides are obviously hired for their charisma, and they certainly know how to keep people engaged along the tour.
3. Salento coffee tours at Finca Las Acacias
Finca Las Acacias offered sort of a mix between the El Ocaso and Momota Salento coffee tours. The tour touched on permaculture, gave you a chance to pick your own coffee cherries off the trees and went through the whole flower-to-cup process. The coffee tour was an hour long.
Instead of booking ahead you just have to turn up and wait in the little café with a coffee until the next tour starts in your language. This can be a little tedious in the heat, but there is at least shade and some chairs, and it’s a good chance to meet new people if they’re feeling talkative. The group sizes are similar to those of El Ocaso’s Salento coffee tours.
The guide we had, José, was absolutely fantastic, and we feel like we learnt a lot more about the plight of the local coffee pickers as he used to be one himself before teaching himself English. This is another hands-on option of Colombia coffee tours, with a coffee-picking section to see who can find the most ripe coffee beans (without a traditional basket though!). You then get shown how the beans go through the entire harvesting process, as with the other Salento coffee tours I’ve reviewed.
Finca Las Acacias is slightly closer to town than Finca El Ocaso, but only by 800m. You still have to get a few kilometres down a very bumpy road, so most people take a Willy or go as part of a horse tour. If you go with your own car, there are some parking spaces available on the road, but not a huge amount.
At 12,000 pesos, Finca Las Acacias was by far the cheapest of the Salento coffee tours we found, but it didn’t compromise on quality of the farm tour itself. Less fascinating was the coffee tasting, which came with no explanation at all, and was more of a freebie at the end to sit and enjoy with the other people in your group than an educational experience.
The verdict on the Finca Las Acacias coffee tour, Salento:
Though the Las Acacias Salento coffee tours may have lacked in the tasting experience and can sometimes take a bit of wait-time to kick off, it is definitely still worth considering, especially for that affordable price! This is a great tour for people who aren’t necessarily coffee-enthusiasts, but are keen to find out how the local people make their livelihoods in the coffee industry. Its family-owned credentials make it a great choice for supporting the community.
FAQs for Colombia coffee tours
What is a Colombian finca?
Finca essentially just means farm, and is used in the same way we might use ‘estate’ in the UK, or I guess ‘plantation’ in the USA. Traditionally, fincas are centred around old colonial-looking farm houses with grand porches and colourful banisters. You’ll see some many well-reserved fincas in Colombia’s coffee region.
Do you need a guide for Salento coffee tours?
Well, if these are working farms, it’s unlikely you’ll get let onto the finca’s property without someone there with you. Luckily, the vast majority of Salento coffee tours have a guided talk included in the price, which can last up to a couple of hours. Some fincas will allow private tour guides to take you around the coffee farm, too.
You can get ripped off by purchasing tickets to Salento coffee tours online or through a travel agency. They tend to hike the prices up and just expect you not to notice the prices on the doors of the fincas. However, if the guide is providing private door-to-door transport, it can cut out a lot of hassle for you, and is a good option if you’re very tight on time.
Also, if you find a Colombia coffee tour that offers to take you to multiple places in one day, don’t stick your nose up at it straight away. Those with a jam-packed itinerary led by a knowledgable, English-speaking guide can definitely earn their stripes.
Is a certain level of fitness needed to tour a finca?
It’s more about the ability to walk up- and down-hill than it is about fitness. Since so many Colombia coffee farms are built into the foothills of the Andes for its perfect coffee-growing climate, the crops tend to be planted on land that is very, very hilly. Almost vertical, at times. Of the Colombia coffee tours I’m reviewing below, Finca El Ocaso is the least impacting on the knees, but still requires a bit of uphill walking.
What should I bring on a coffee farm tour?
Sun screen: At 1900m, you’re at high altitude in the valleys, so though it may not always feel burning hot sunny, you’re definitely going to be catching those rays. Make sure you’re well protected from sunburn with a sun screen (preferably reef-safe if you’re heading to the coast afterwards!).
Plenty of water: Though lots of the Salento coffee tours of course have facilities for drinking water, whether free or bought, whilst you’re actually on the tour you’ll be right in the depths of a farm, so won’t be able to ask for another cheeky glass of ice-cold. I highly recommend bringing a Chilly’s Bottle on any Colombia coffee tours, as it’ll keep your water at whatever temperature you put it in at all day.
Decent walking shoes: You will not want to be tackling Salento coffee tours in flip-flops! There’s a lot of muddy up and downs on most of these farms, so your shoes need to be comfy, sturdy and well-gripped. You’ll need this if you’re going on to do the Cocora Valley hike later, too.
Cash: Some Salento coffee tours are payable by card, but when heading out into rural Colombia, it’s always wise to bring some cash with you just in case.
Will I have time for other activities after any Salento coffee tours?
Lots of people cram multiple activities a day into their time in Salento, as there is just so much to do here. And that works!
If you arrive at a finca for one of the early-morning slots, yes, most Salento coffee tours will finish in time for you to get back to time for another adventure by lunchtime.
If you want to do the full 5-hour Valle de Cocora loop hike, I would not recommend pairing this with a finca visit on the same day. 1. Your time is going to be very, very squeezed and 2. You’ll be bloody exhausted. The one-hour hike is fine to do in the same day though, if you’re nice and organised!
Y fin! That’s a wrap on my reviews of 3 of the most loved Salento coffee tours. As there are so many great options in the Quindío area, I hope this review has been able to help your decision on which of the Salento coffee tours suit you best. Have an amazing time!
Now you’ve finished this review of 3 of the most-loved Salento coffee tours, check out: