La Cocora Valley, or Cocora Valley, is located in the Andean mountains, is part of the Los Nevados National Park and is home to the national tree and symbol of Colombia, the wax palm.
It goes without saying that the best way to enjoy the Valle de Cocora is to hike.
This post explains everything you should know before doing trekking in the Cocora Valley, with many practical tips to better organize it.
The Cocora Valley is one of the most enchanting places I have ever seen and one of the things not to be missed in Colombia. This rainforest is easily accessible from Salento, a small town in the heart of Colombia's coffee region, theEje Cafetero. Many people combine their visit to Salento with that of this splendid valley.
What makes the Cocora Valley so famous is its own wax palms, which here can reach 60 and even 70 meters. These trees, known as the national trees of Colombia, are actually endangered.
The views along the trek to the Cocora Valley are exceptional. The landscape in this part of Colombia is simply lush, with emerald green meadows dotted with horses lazily grazing the grass. In a way, it will remind you of Switzerland with the "slight" difference that instead of seeing fir trees, you will see wax palms.
While the views are certainly better on a sunny day, the typical cloudy weather and rain of this part of Colombia give the valley a special, almost mysterious glow. You are in the rainforest so expect to find fog.
- When to trek to the Cocora Valley
- How to get to Salento and the Cocora Valley
- 1 - How to get from Medellin to Salento
- 2 - How to get to the Cocora Valley from Salento
- Trekking in the Cocora Valley
- 1 - Short Trekking
- 2 - Long trekking
- Useful Information
- 1 - Excursion fees
- 2 - Can it be done by yourself?
- 3 - Guided excursions
- 4 – Trekking a cavallo si o no?
- 5 - Food and drinks
- What to bring
When to trek to the Cocora Valley
I better months are from December to March and July to August, the driest period ever, but keep in mind that Salento and the Cocora Valley are famous for theirs unpredictable weather.
I went there in a not very recommended season, October, and in the past 3 days I got sun during the day and terrible showers (never seen so much water come down all together) in the evening.
In the evening it was also cold, adjust accordingly (I had a light duvet)
How to get to Salento and the Cocora Valley
How to get to Salento
The fastest and cheapest way to reach Salento and finally the Cocora Valley and from Medellin. Medellin is approximately 6,5 hours by bus: the buses are new and spacious.
To reach Salento from Medellin, it is possible to take the direct bus operated by Flota Occidental which leaves 4 times a day from Terminal Del Sur Shopping Center.
The cost should be around 45.000 - 50.000 COL depending on the season and times. The trip should "theoretically" last 6.5 hours.
We took almost 10 of them, due to road works and alternating traffic that sometimes forced us to stand still and wait for almost an hour.
There is only one road, it climbs in the middle of the mountains of Quindìo (never made so many curves!) And being the only one it is very busy. But the mountain sceneries along the way are breathtaking for their beauty.
Buy tickets a couple of days in advance as they sell out quickly. You can do it comfortably on the web from site of the Flota Occidental.
How to get to Valle Del Cocora
To reach the Cocora Valley from Salento, you have to take the local jeep (Willies) from Bolivar plaza. Jeeps depart every hour from 6am to 10pm. The same goes for going back. The jeep should cost around 17 - 00 COP each way.
Although they advised me to leave as soon as possible for the Cocora Valley, I admit I didn't take the first jeep. Indeed at 9 in the morning I was still in Bolivar Square waiting for me to get on board.
The jeep will leave you in the large parking lot of the Cocora Valley. At the parking lot you will find people offering horseback riding, a number of small shops, and a place where you can rent or buy rubber boots, hats and other things you might need for the trek.
Trekking in the Cocora Valley
Essentially there are two trekking routes in the Valley.
One shorter (recommended if you are not feeling quite fit) which will lead you into the main valley full of the iconic Wax Palms. the journey takes about an hour, an hour and a half (round trip).
Il second trekking it is a trek of about 5 or 6 hours, which takes you into the forest, up the hills, and then descends into the Valley.
Below you will find the map of the Valley with the two different treks:
If you continue straight along the road from the parking lot, you will take the short path that takes you directly into the Valley. If you turn right to where the blue iron gate is, you will choose the longer trek.
If you are not interested in seeing hummingbirds or if you are only interested in seeing the palm trees, taking some photos and returning to Salento, then this is the route for you.
Once you get off the jeep, you can walk straight along the paved road and continue until the road turns into a dirt path. This path is incredibly easy and after about 30 minutes you will arrive at the valley with lots of wax palms surrounding you!
I have chosen to do, counterclockwise, the 5/6 hour ring trekking.
Although it is the most difficult route, in my opinion, this is the best way to hike in the Cocora Valley.
The highest point of this route is at 2.860m. Salento is located at 1.900 m, which means that you will climb about 1.000 m of altitude.
The clockwise version is slightly simpler, with fewer uphill stretches, but you immediately arrive at the highlight of the day, the Valley.
The counter-clockwise hike is certainly tougher, but you will enjoy the incredible feeling of finally arriving in the beautiful and surreal valley as a reward at the end of the hike.
For this reason, I advise you to do it like me counterclockwise.
To take this route, from the parking lot you have to continue for a few meters on the paved road to the blue gate on the right which indicates the start of the path. I couldn't find him, then I followed other guys smarter than me.
To find your way around, however, the road is the one that goes down to the right near the trout farm.
Once you have taken the right path, it will be impossible to get lost because it is well signposted.
In the first part the trail winds along the river slightly uphill through meadows and farmland (bring boots, it can get incredibly muddy after rain) to arrive at the forest entrance after about 45 minutes.
From here you will continue in the forest for about an hour crossing suspension bridges (and to be honest a little precarious and shaky) over the river until you reach a T-junction. The path to the right leads to Acaime, the hummingbird house (first stop, well worth getting there) while the one on the left takes you to the Montana, the second stage.
Remember this intersection because, if like me you decide to go to the Casa dei Colibrì, to continue your trek you will have to go back here.
To get to the Casa dei Colibrì from the intersection is about 15/20 minutes of merciless climb, but it's worth it. In the House you can relax, enjoy the sight of the magical hummingbirds that quickly flap their wings and enjoy a good Colombian coffee (or a chocolate) served with a piece of cheese (delicious!)
Entrance to the Casa dei Colibrì costs 5.000 COP (about € 1.50) but there is a drink included.
After resting at the Casa del Colibri, go back to the intersection I mentioned earlier. Don't make the mistake I made of taking the road to Glacier!
Back at the crossroads continue towards the second stage: Montana. To get there you will have to "climb" uphill along the forest and then up the hill. It took me 2 hours even though everyone says they did it in just one (you can see I wasn't very fit).
Montana is a beautiful resting spot with a sweeping panorama of the surrounding landscape.
Here, you can relax, enjoy the view and have a snack before continuing to the last part which is the part you came here for, the area of the wax palms!
From La Montana the road is open to vehicles and all downhill, so you can finally walk enjoying the exceptional views it offers. Along the way, as the trees open, you will begin to see the iconic wax palms sprouting from the thick bushes.
Along the way there are some palm viewing points where you can stop and take beautiful photographs.
From La Montana, it will take about 2-3 hours to walk back to the entrance where you can have lunch at a restaurant near the gate or take the jeep back to Salento.
The cost to travel both routes is 4000 COP, which is just over a US dollar.
The fee to enter Cocora Valley is another 4000 COP.
Can it be done by yourself?
The trails in the Cocora Valley are easy enough to follow, then excursions can also be done alone.
The only thing be careful not to go into the forest off the path. You might get lost and cell phones don't take!
Also be careful not to slip: the path is muddy. Bring reliable hiking shoes.
Some companies in Salento offer guided excursions in the Cocora Valley.
Having done it myself I don't know which local agency to recommend.
But I found here on TRIPADVISOR of tours organized with the guide which have a great price. some are private tours, others group tours and include everything (even transportation) besides the guide.
Another alternative is to ask your hotel / hostel in Salento. Hostels often organize these tours for their guests.
Trekking a cavallo si o no?
Anyone who follows and reads this blog knows as far as I'm interested in animals and the tourist tours related to them (and in general also what I think about it).
In this case, however, I have to make an exception.
I love horses to death (I have two of my own) and every time I see some tours I always go and check a few things.
Of course it happened again this time and I was pleased to notice that the horses were well kept, well fed and with new, clean and not rusted harnesses. If you decide to opt for a horseback tour, always pay attention to these things!
Food and beverages
There are no places to get food and water along the trails, so it's best to bring some snacks and water with you. If it's a nice day, bring lots of water, at least 2 liters.
You can buy these things in the little shops in the parking lot or in restaurants, but they cost you much more than bringing them from Salento.
What to bring
When planning a hike in the Cocora Valley, make sure you pack smart: bring good quality walking boots, a raincoat, several layers of clothing (the weather can change dramatically, as can the temperature) and plenty of water and snacks.
Waterproof and warm jackets: the weather in Valle del Cocora is really unpredictable and changes at the speed of light (the sun is first and the rain comes in a flash), so make sure you bring warm jackets for when you go above 2000m, as well as a rain jacket or k-way.
Hat and sunglasses: the sun is beating hard, cover your head!
Repellent: bugs in the forest can become torture, remember to bring a spray with you.
Food, snacks and waterThere is a restaurant at the entrance and a cafe in Acaime but it is not cheap, so if you want to save some money, bring with you some trekking snacks and a bottle of water or, better still, your lunch.
Good sturdy shoes: the track can get very muddy when it rains, so take good sturdy shoes, preferably waterproof.
Maps.Me: Maps.me it is the best app you can have on your phone, especially when hiking. The app is available on both Android and iOS and with their offline features and their full list of hiking trails available, you can't miss it.
Do trekking in the Cocora Valley it is an essential part of any trip to Colombia, so I hope I have helped you organize your excursion in a way that is memorable!