There are no flights or trains from Medellin to Salento, so you will need to travel by bus.
There are two options: a mini-van style direct service that departs 6 times a day or a more luxury indirect bus via Armenia.
We took an indirect sleeper bus from Salento to Medellin via Armenia which is simple and really the best way to travel. It’s the much better Medellin – Salento option but we cover all your options here.
We’ll also give you some tips about what attractions not to miss in Salento. Make sure you check out this post about the most interesting Salento hotels for every budget.
Medellin to Salento | Salento to Medellin: Should you take the Direct or Indirect Bus?
3 Reasons Why you should take the Direct Bus
Aside from the obvious benefit of the direct bus – that you don’t need to change buses anywhere and can basically go to sleep and wake up once you arrive in Salento or Medellin – there are a few other reasons to catch the direct bus to Salento:
- The fastest way to travel from Medellin to Salento is the direct bus which takes just 6.5 hours.
- The first bus to Salento leaves at 8am and arrives at just after 2pm so you have a full afternoon to enjoy activities like visiting a coffee plantation or even hiking the Cocora Valley.
- The direct bus is the cheapest way to travel from Medellin to Salento, costing just 47,000 COP ($15 USD).
Note that although the direct bus is cheaper, you only save about 4,000 COP for the cost of the transfer to Armenia. So if you’re really trying to save money, the real low cost way to travel from Salento to Medellin or visa versa is to catch the overnight bus as you save a night’s accommodation.
That said, you might prefer to travel during the day so you can spend another night in one of Salento’s romantic hotels.
4 Negatives of the Minivan / Direct Bus to Salento / Medellin
We decided against taking the direct bus from Salento to Medellin, and these were some of the factors in our decision:-
- The road from Medellin to Salento is extremely curvy in parts as you are heading to a mountainous area. This doesn’t matter to your driver who believes he is a Formula 1 driver and will drive accordingly.
- There is very, very little room for big bags. If you are backpacking South America, or are like us you’re travelling around with one or more large suitcases, you’re going to have a hard time fitting your bag in the minivan with everyone else’s. You will need to hope everyone else is backing light, or
- The last minivan / direct bus to Medellin from Salento departs at 4pm. This is before sunset and you might find your time is cut a bit short if you plan to take this option.
- There is no toilet on board. Obviously you ideally don’t want to use a toilet on board a bus if you have to, but this could be a deal breaker for some travelers.
We’ve travelled on more than our fair share of minivans and every single time the driver drives like a maniac.
4 Reasons why you should take the Indirect Bus
We caught the indirect bus from Salento to Medellin, and these were a few of the reasons why:-
- These larger buses have amenities like reclinable seats (look for “Cama seats” which recline like a bed), power plugs, wifi (sometimes), reading lights and lots of room (seats are usually 3 or 4 to a row);
- The last indirect bus from Salento to Medellin departs at 9pm which is much later than the direct bus. If you plan to stay later to make the most of your final day in Salento, maybe to play another game of Tejo, grab another delicious meal or for one final cerveza in a cowboy saloon, then you should catch the indirect bus.
- You can take an overnight bus from Medellin to Salento or Salento to Medellin. If you are comfortable sleeping on a bus, and you should be by now if you’re travelling South America, this is a great option to save time as you can wake up in Medellin | Salento, ready to kick start the day.
- in our opinion, the safest way to travel from Medellin to Salento is the indirect bus. Even if the driver wants to drive like a maniac, he can’t go as fast as the crazy minivan / direct bus drivers. Plus there’s seat belts and fewer people cramped into a confined space.
3 Negatives of the Indirect Bus to Salento / Medellin
Let’s start with the obvious:
- it’s more inconvenient to change buses. Whether you’re travelling from Salento to Medellin or from Medellin to Salento you will need to change buses in Armenia. If you’re worried about making this change: don’t be. It’s as simple as walking a few hundred metres inside the terminal (we’ll give you step by step instructions below – start at Salento to Armenia);
- the indirect bus to Salento or to Medellin is slower, taking a minimum of 8 hours which includes 7 hours for the Medellin – Armenia bus, 45 minutes for the Armenia – Salento bus and 15 minutes waiting around;
- the indirect bus is more expensive than the direct shuttle as you need to factor in an extra bus to or from Armenia and Salento. This only costs a few dollars so the money cost is not a large factor if you care about comfort.
Our verdict: the best way to travel from Medellin to Salento
The best way to travel from Medellin to Salento or Salento to Medellin is by direct bus if you:-
- are just visiting Salento as a daytrip / weekend getaway. You can pack light and you just want to maximise your time. If you need to be back in the office 9am Monday morning, then you might need to shorten your time in Salento on Sunday and catch the earlier bus to ensure you arrive in Medellin on the same day;
- don’t need to sleep on the bus. The seats are much more close to one another and they don’t recline at all. As
- don’t plan to use a laptop on your journey. There are no power plugs in the minivans. In any event, the movement and cramped quarters are likely to make it too difficult to watch a movie anyway, let alone do any work;
- hate, hate, hate any form of bus travel. Unfortunately, there is are no direct flights from Medellin to Salento, so you will need to catch the bus. In this case, you’re better off ripping the band-aid off. The direct bus will get you to Salento fastest.
The best way to travel from Medellin to Salento or Salento to Medellin is indirect bus if you:-
- get motion sickness. The large buses which travel between Armenia and Medellin go slower and are far more steady than the minibuses which zip around like flies.
- a few hours slower journey is a small price for you to pay to travel in style. Bus travel in South America is surprisingly comfortable – it’s almost like flying in business class as you get seats which recline to a bed (almost). BYO alcoholic beverages (I wouldn’t recommend too many) just to put yourself to sleep.
- want to work on a laptop or watch a movie. The large, comfortable seats with electronic plugs in each seat are perfect if you need to get work done or if you want to rest up and watch a movie in comfort.
- are backpacking South America on a time limit. Maximize your time in Salento or Medellin by traveling at night rather than during the day time. It is possible to sleep on the larger buses, so you can wake up rejuvenated ready to tackle the list of things to do in Medellin or Salento, depending on your direction.
- have large suitcases. You might fit your backpack or suitcase into the back of the minivans or you might need to strap them to the roof(!). If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, the larger indirect buses to and from Medellin have plenty of luggage space below to safely store your bags.
This is the option we chose to take from Salento to Medellin as our horse riding tour finished after 4.00pm when the last direct bus had already left. Another factor was spending more time in the magical town of Salento which was our favourite place in Colombia.
There are a few operators for the bus from Medellin to Salento, but we travelled with Flota Occidental who run the direct bus and indirect bus services.
You can book your ticket to Medellin or Salento online on their website www.flotaoccidental.co (no affiliation, opens in a new window).
For more details about transfers, where to find the bus stations in Salento and Medellin, how to buy tickets, and even more bus operators, keep reading below.
Direct bus from Medellin to Salento | Salento to Medellin
The fastest way to travel from Medellin to Salento is the direct bus operated by Flota Occidental which departs at 9am from Terminal de Transportes del Sur. It costs 47,000 pesos and takes 6.5 hours. On the return the bus departs Salento at 8am.
The bus leaves 4 times per day (read on for the bus schedule as of November 2019). If you chose this option you won’t need to change buses in Armenia.
We met an Australian couple who were studying in Medellin and chose this option.
They reported that the bus was relatively comfortable with working wifi. However, there is no toilet.
Also, seats are allocated on a first come first served basis so get there early to avoid being stuck down the back of the bus as it travels the many twists and turns between these two cities.
The Australian couple called Flota Occidental in advance to book their ticket – call Flota Occidental on (57) (6) 3211656. Alternatively, you can book your ticket online on their website www.flotaoccidental.co.
Medellin to Salento Direct Bus Departure times
The direct bus Medellin to Salento timetable as of November 2019 is as follows:
The direct bus from Medellin to Salento costs 47,000 pesos ($15 USD).
Flota Occidental direct buses to Salento depart from Medellin, Terminal de Transportes del Sur. Book at the terminal or using the contact details above.
Salento to Medellin Direct Bus Departure Times
The quickest bus from Salento to Medellin is a direct service which runs 6 times per day. As of November 2019 the schedule is:
- 12 noon
The bus costs 47,000 Colombian pesos ($15 USD). You can buy tickets online at www.flotaoccidental.co.
The journey takes 6.5 hours so it is not appropriate if you want an overnight bus option.
Note the last service is 4pm. If you are enjoying your day and maybe riding horses through rivers in Salento like we were, you should read on for evening or night bus services.
Indirect bus from Medellin to Salento via Armenia
We recommend taking the bus from Medellin to Salento via Armenia if you want a little more comfort or would like an overnight bus option to save money on accommodation or to spend a little more time in the beautiful town of Salento.
This is the option we chose to take from Salento to Medellin as our horse riding tour finished after 4.00pm when the last direct bus had already left.
Medellin to Armenia
The two main bus companies that travel to Armenia are Flota Occidental & Empresa Arauca. Flota Occidental boasts slightly more glamorous buses but is also a little more expensive. Both bus companies take around 7 hours to make the journey.
Empresa Arauca runs from Terminal del Sur in Medellin daily. Schedule:
The bus fare is 45,000 pesos ($14 USD).
However *usually* the buses don’t sell out and sometimes you can even get a slightly better deal from the bus terminal in person. We suggest checking the website for availability ahead of time.
Flota Occidental departs every hour from 4:30am to 12.30am the next morning.
The Medellin to Armenia bus schedule with Flota Occidental is:
- 12:30am (next day)
The bus costs 47,000 pesos ($15USD) or 49,000 pesos ($16 USD) if you are one of the lucky few to get an even more luxurious cama seat. A more luxurious seat is definitely a worthwhile investment but you need to book a long time in advance.
This bus can also be used as an overnight bus between the cities. Like Empresa Arauca, you can purchase tickets in person or via their website www.flotaoccidental.co.
Armenia to Salento
Once you have reached the Armenia bus terminal, proceed inside the Terminal and up two flights of stairs. Then continue straight in the same direction until you reach the end of the terminal.
From there walk outside to where further buses are waiting. If in doubt – say ‘Salento’ & a local will point you in the correct direction. The bus costs 4,000 pesos ($1.30 USD) and takes around 1 hour.
How to get from Salento to Medellin by Bus (Indirect via Armenia)
The best option for a bus from Salento to Medellin is the indirect bus via Armenia.
We took this bus and thought it was a very comfortable ride. We explain the two simple journeys.
Salento to Armenia
A mini-bus service runs frequently from Salento to Armenia until around 9pm at night when the service stops.
To be safe, be at the bus station by 8pm to avoid missing out on a seat on the last service.
The bus station is located on Carrera 2 between Calle 4 & Calle 5 in Salento.
Armenia to Medellin
From Armenia bus station, two main bus companies travel to Medellin: Flota Occidental & Empresa Arauca.
As of November 2019, Empresa Arauca buses from Armenia to Medellin costs 45,000 pesos ($14 USD).
The current bus schedule to Medellin is:
Check their website for availability http://www.empresaarauca.com.co
Tip: The Empresa Arauca Super Estelar VIP bus is supposed to have wifi and power plugs. At the least you should have a comfy reclinable seat.
Flota Occidental buses from Armenia to Medellin leave hourly from 4:00am to 12:30am the next day.
The Flota Occidental bus schedule shows buses depart from Armenia at:
- 12:30am (next day)
The bus costs between 47,000 – 49,000 pesos ($15 – 16 USD). Buses don’t usually sell out in Colombia, but you can check availability here www.flotaoccidental.co.
Both bus services take around 7 hours. We selected to go with Flota Occidental’s ELITE service & were happy with our decision. The bus had working wifi, power plugs to charge your devices and individual tvs.
Where to stay in Salento?
We stayed at Casa La Eliana and would highly recommend it. The hotel was not only affordable but was was very clean & comfortable. See our video below of what you can expect at Casa La Eliana.
Or check out this link to the top rated accommodation providers in Salento, Quindo, Colombia.
Okay, okay. You want a more comprehensive guide, right? Check out this post about where to stay in Salento.
Unmissable things to do in Salento
You might have noticed but we loved Salento. It’s easily one of our favourite places to visit in Colombia.
When we think about where we’d travel back to next time we visit, Salento is top of the list above Medellin, Bogota or Cartagena.
So why do we love this tiny town an overnight bus ride away from Medellin?
Well, I can’t think of another destination in Colombia, South America or even the world where you can spend a day like this:
8am: Wake up, hang on to a Jeep for dear life while you trundle out to hike the Valle de Coroca: – a scene straight out of Jurassic Park sans a herd of Brachiosaurus.
2pm: Arrive in Salento to leave again. This time by horseback because we’re exploring the lush countryside by saddle back. Yeah, you’re gonna take your horse to the old town road, then ride ’til ya can’t no more. Through Salento’s famous coffee fields, seemingly-precarious mountain-top paths, small streams and even some deeper ones.
6pm: Getting to Salento at dusk, it’s time to leave your horses behind and head to a “tejo” bar. What’ Tejo you ask? The object of the game is to make explosions by throwing weights at small packages of gun powder. Your accuracy may improve after a few beers. Or it might get worse. Either way, beers will be consumed.
8pm: Time to visit a Salento Cowboy saloon. Like a real cowboy saloon with gruff looking Colombian men wearing cowboy boots and chaps. Make your way to a bar to order a couple of Cervezas then play snooker at one of the giant tables. Don’t mind the open air urinals…
10pm: We’re on South American time now so the party only really gets started late. Head to one of the many bars or al frasco areas.
For more all the nitty gritty details about where to book a horse riding tour, which reasonably-priced restaurants we recommend eating at, where to take a coffee plantation tour and much more, take a quick look at our Salento Travel Guide.
If time permits, we would also highly recommend doing a coffee tour while in Salento. Salento is famous for being Colombia’s coffee region so if you can fit in a coffee tour it is highly recommended.
We went on the Ocaso Cafe Tour and would highly recommend it. The great thing about Ocasos is that the tours are in English and the premises are stunning!
They have an amazing premises where you can order a coffee, absorb the view & watch the native birds feed out of their bird feeders.
Other worthwhile coffee tours in Salento include:
Bonus: 8 Colombia Travel Blog Posts | Don’t miss a thing!
Are you lucky enough to have at least 2 weeks in Colombia? Wondering what to do? Don’t miss our post about What to do in Colombia in 2 Weeks which contains an overview of all the amazing things to do.
If you don’t know Spanish, here’s 10 super simple Spanish phrases which helped us incredibly when travelling South America.
Salento is the middle destination of most Colombia itineraries. To the north is Medellin and Cartagena. To the south is Popayan and Ipiales (then onto Ecuador of course!)
If Medellin is your next destination and you loved the countryside of Salento then you’re in luck. Medellin has some incredible parks which is just one of the things we cover in our Medellin travel guide.
Whether you live in Medellin or are just visiting, you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the colourful town of Guatape. The town is home to quite possibly the largest boulder you’ll ever see and according to the locals – the best view in the world. The view is seriously impressive – and can be seen in a day trip to Guatape from Medellin.
After Medellin you must visit the fortified city of Cartagena. Of course we show you how to travel from Medellin to Cartagena.
If you are heading south next, there are a few bus options. Use our guide to travel from Salento to Cali or Popayan.
Popayan has an average reputation and is known as a boring transit city. We disagree. Hence our aptly named post about 8 Things in Popayan in 1 day (which don’t suck).
Ecuador next for you? Don’t worry – we show you how to travel from Ipiales to Quito. Ipiales is a border town featuring a magnificent church which you can visit before you cross the border. Stick with us gang and even your transit days won’t be boring!
We hope this helped you plan your trip from Medellin to Salento. We would love to hear from you so please leave a comment below!
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