Cocora Valley, located in the Central Cordillera of the Andean mountains, is the valley of the department of Quindio, in Colombia. Just a few miles away from the city of Salento, the valley is famous for its wax palms, that grow up to 197 feet in heights. A unique landscape together with a mystic atmosphere, the view of the valley is just breathtaking.
Valle de Cocora
Cocora Valley (or in Spanish “Valle de Cocora”), is named after the Quimbayan princess, Cocora. The name means literally “star of water” (Estrella de Aqua). If you are a nature lover, you cannot leave Colombia without having hiked the Valley. It is an unmissable experience, that can turn to be dirty sometimes (you will read later on).
Based on your physical conditions and your bond with nature, you can opt for both the full loop trail or the easiest 30 minutes walk (the latter will still give you a great view of the wax palms, but not from the top). As soon as you reach the valley, walk straight along the paved road. You will see a signal saying ” Sendero Busque de las palmas“. Enter this path and after roughly 20 minutes walk, you will see the wax palms standing in front of you.
Full Loop hike
The full loop can take up to 4-5 hours (with return): it really depends on your speed, weather conditions, and how many photo-stops you will make. In this hike, you will pass through the deep forest, stoned creeks and hanging bridges. Up and down to the valley, a few spots might be very muddy.
The hike will take you up to “Finca La Montaña” at 2,860 meter. Stop and enjoy the beautiful view, and some snacks. If you have none with you, do not worry, as you will find there a little bar for a quick refreshment.
Keep hiking down from “Finca la Montaña” you will reach Acaime, locally called “La Casa de Los Colibris”. Here lots of colorful hummingbirds will fly by all over. You can sit down, in the middle of the surrounding forest, sipping local hot chocolate with cheese. Mind that there is a COP 5000 entrance fee, and the way to Acaime is probably the most difficult part of the hike. You can opt to avoid this bit, and go back to the Wax palm valley instead.
You will find plenty of people doing the trail the other way round or taking different secondary ways, part of the trail itself. Just follow the signals, and you won’t get lost.
How to get to Cocora Valley from Salento
Reach the main Square in town early in the morning to get on a Willys/Jeep. The ride cost is around COP 4000 (per way) and it takes around 15 minutes. The journey is not going to be a comfortable one, due some bumps on the off road way. Also, the drivers tend to squeeze around 10-12 people on the Jeep rather than the standard capacity of 6-7. If this might somehow bother you, you have also the possibility to hire a private ride.
The firsts Jeeps leave at 6 am with a frequency of 4-5 leaving every 40 minutes until early afternoon. Be careful, on your way back from the Valley to Salento. The last jeep leaves around 5 pm. If you miss this one, you might find yourself hitchhiking!
Note that times can vary by season, so always ask to your hostel/hotel or guide for latest updates.
Tips on your hike
Here a few tips to better enjoy your hike to Cocora Valley:
As mentioned above, the valley can get muddy, so easy to slip. Wear wellies with comfortable socks. I did not do that..and I slipped twice 🙂
Take some energetic snacks with you and a re-filled bottle of water, to give you some boost over the hike.
The highest point of the valley is 2,860 meters reaching Finca la Montaña. If you intend to reach here, make sure you can handle the altitude.
Be very well aware of time: the last jeep leaves around 5 pm. You do not want to miss this one.
There are several paths in the valley, do not venture into paths that are not within the trail, it can turn to be dangerous.
The valley can be foggy and wet. Do not get too upset if you pics won’t be too perfect. As the view is still amazing.
There are cows and horses grazing: be respectful.
The hike can also be part of 3 hike days, through surrounding mountains. Ask local guides for more info. You can find trusted guides always in the main square walking around.
Relax and enjoy the hike. Stop if you feel so, and make nice pictures. But, do not forget to enjoy the special moment of being in one of the most iconic natural place in the world. Hence, feel the energy.
If you like what you’ve read, share the article on your social media or with like-minded friends. And stay tuned for my next article 🙂