The Cocora Valley, or Valle del Cocora in Spanish, is one of the top things to do in Salento, Colombia. Cocora Valley hike (or Valle de Cocora hike) allows travelers to see the tallest wax palm trees in the entire world, an experience only available in the Cocora Valley and the surrounding Quindio Department.
Travelers often think that the public transportation (Jeeps) will take them directly to the viewpoints to see these beautiful giants, but they cannot be more wrong.
In this guide to hiking the Cocora Valley, we will tell you the different hiking loops in Cocora valley, how to get the best view of the wax palm trees, and how to get to Cocora Valley from Salento!
Where Is Cocora Valley (Valle De Cocora) In Colombia?
Before you put on your hiking boots and grab your trekking poles, lets talk about where is the Cocora Valley.
Cocora Valley is a valley in the department of Quindio in the Central Cordillera of the Andean Mountain. For that reason, Cocora Valley is situated somewhere between 1,800 meters to 2,400 in altitude, making the weather very temperate (and even chilly at times).
The easiest way to visit the Cocora Valley is via Salento, a small town located 11 kilometers from Cocora Valley.
However, because of Salento’s geographical location, it might be difficult to get to. Salento does not have its own airport so visitors must take a flight and switch to a bus.
The quickest way to get to Salento is to take a flight to Pereira, a city 36.4 km away from Salento, and then switch to a bus. Alternatives including flying to Medellin and then taking a long bus ride to Salento. Visitors can also fly to Bogota, the capital of Colombia, and take a bus from there but it is very long.
Guide to the Cocora Valley Hike (Valle De Cocora Hike)
How to Get to the Cocora Valley from Salento?
The best way to get to Cocora Valley from Salento is to take one of the public Jeeps at Plaza de Bolivar. Jeeps leave once they are full and when I visited Cocora Valley, it was full every 10 minutes or so. Other blogs might say that the Jeeps to Cocora Valley only depart at specific times but that is NOT true!
The Jeeps to Cocora Valley cost 4k Colombian Pesos per way and the journey lasts about 20 minutes! If you have the option to stand in the back of the Jeep, I would highly recommend doing so. The view on the way there is incredible.
There is a ticketing counter at Plaza de Bolivar where you must purchase your tickets. Here you can opt to purchase both the return ticket as well. Otherwise, there is the option to purchase the return ticket from Cocora Valley as well.
The Different Routes for Hiking Cocora Valley
The most asked question about hiking the Cocora Valley is which route or loop should you take. Should I do the loop counter-clockwise or clockwise? Or should I do the “short” loop?
There are a total of 3 ways to hike the Cocora Valley.
1. The 5 to 6 hours long loop, done counterclockwise.
2. The same 5 to 6 hours long loop, done clockwise.
3. The “short” loop, which really isn’t a loop because you go straight to the viewpoint of the palm trees and come back the same way.
If you are short on time, don’t like to hike for 5 hours, or just want to see the palm trees, take the “short” loop. It takes you directly to the best viewpoints for the palm trees. Follow the main dirt road that is on a slight incline; that is the beginning of the short loop.
The short loop is also cheaper as you only pay once. If you hike the long route in Cocora Valley, you will trespass private fincas (farms) twice. Each time you pass through one of the fincas you have to pay a small fee (few thousands Colombian pesos).
If you like hiking or want to visit the Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary, you can take the long loop. The only difference between the counter-clockwise loop and the clockwise loop is when you will see the palm trees.
In the clockwise loop, you will see the palm trees at the beginning of the hike. Whereas in the counter-clockwise loop, you will see the palm trees at the end.
My recommendation? The counter-clockwise trail because seeing the magnificent giants at the end of an arduous hike is as rewarding as it can get.
If you decide to go counter-clockwise, you will go up the main dirt road and see a sign like this.
Follow the trail to the right and you will be on your way! This trail follows along a small stream before making its way up the mountain.
If you take the clockwise loop, just keep following the main dirt road!
Should You Visit the Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary on Your Valle de Cocora Hike?
If you decide to hike the long trail in Cocora Valley, you will have the option to take a 45-minute detour (one way) to the Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary. It is a nice addition to your experience in Cocora Valley but it does add an additional 2 hours to your already long trek.
You can watch hummingbirds fly “freely” as you sip on some of the local coffee and relax. The entrance is 6000 Colombian Pesos.
Things to Bring To Your Cocora Valley Hike
Hiking the Cocora Valley is no joke and you should always be prepared. Because of its long duration, here are some items you should bring with you on your long trek!
1. Sunscreen – If you decided to do the long loop, you will be in the shaded forest for about half the hike. However, once you rise above the canopy, you are at the mercy of the blazing sun. These tall wax palm trees do not provide any shade!
2. Rain poncho – The Quindio region of Colombia where Salento is located is known to receive lots of yearly rain. If you will be hiking for a long time, I highly recommend bringing a rain jacket or rain poncho!
3. Filtration Water Bottle – On your trek in Valle de Cocora, you will encounter streams and rivers. A filtration water bottle will allow you to drink directly from the water source so you don’t have to carry so much weight. It is both an environmentally friendly life-saver that has transformed my hiking experiences. I highly recommend bringing one!
4. Insect Repellent with Picaridin – As you hike through the lush trails of Cocora Valley, you will inevitably encounter many insects. Some of which bite you and some of which will leave you alone. That is why it is important to pack some insect repellent. I particularly like the ones with Picaridin instead of DEET because it is as effective and better for your skin!
5. Comfortable Daypack (Him/Her) – Though I am putting this as the fifth item on the list, a comfortable and reliable daypack is one of the most important items to bring with you to Cocora Valley. If you are hiking for 6 hours or more, you will need something with a nice hip belt and a frame. That is why I highly recommend the Talon 22 and Tempest 20!
6. Snacks – There are few places for snacks at the start of the hike, but you should pack some for the hike itself!
Where to Stay in Salento
Best Hostel in Salento – Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel
Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel is definitely the best budget hostel in Salento. Don’t let the price fool you. Coffee Tree Boutique hostel has some of the most amazing facilities such as a balcony with the best views of Salento. An amazing free breakfast is included in their low prices, how is that even possible? Highly recommended.
Best Airbnb in Salento – Real Traditional Salento House
(Images Courtesy of Airbnb)
Staying in an Airbnb in Salento allows you to stay at one of the charming traditional houses! With its white tiles and colorful wooden roof, guests can immerse themselves in the typical Colombian lifestyle.
This Salento Airbnb features 3 bedrooms and can comfortably allow 9 guests to enjoy the best of its amenities such as a lush backyard with your own personal coffee plants, a smart TV with Netflix, laundry machines and more!
Its ideal location near the center of town means you can stroll along the quaint Calle Real anytime you want or visit Salento’s best eateries!
Best Hotel in Salento – Casa De Las Dos Palmas
Casa De Las Dos Palmas is a small and lovely hotel with some of the cutest decors in Salento. Amazing and helpful staff. Free delicious breakfast. Spacious and clean rooms. The property also has a jacuzzi to help you relax after the Cocora Valley hike!
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Have you hiked Cocora Valley in Salento, Colombia? Which route did you take? Let us know in the comments!
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