THE COCORA VALLEY - COLOMBIA

The Cocora Valley is a top notch landscape in Colombia to visit. It is easily accessible, cheap, and therefore the rewards far outweigh the efforts.

 

Wax Palms in the Cocora Valley when viewed from below - Valle De Cocora, Colombia.

 

WALKING OPTIONS

When you arrive at Cocora you will have three walking options:

  • a two hour hike to Acaime;
  • a three hour hike to Acaime; or
  • the full 5 hour hike plus Acaime. 

Also you don't need to go to Acaime, but it's not much further at the end and worth it for the Hummingbirds.

 

This is the easier option. The 'Willy's' will drop you off near the entrance gate where there is a large map showing you which way to go. Entrance is free.

A return journey down a dirt road bordered by a post and wire fence down the Cocora Valle. You see the occasional wax palm close by, but majority are on the hill side. The walk itself it beautiful as the farmland is lush and green. 

After an hour through farmland and the open valley you will reach a forest. From here you can continue walking alongside a river, also crossing it several times on shaky wooden bridges. 

This part of the walk takes another hour. At the end you will come to a signed junction with options to continue on the full circuit, continue to Acaime, or return back through the Valle. 

This is a more difficult option, but you get to see the Cocora Valle from a different perspective. 

This route begins ten minutes further up and down the main entrance gate. You will pass a restaurant and a juice stand until you reach a black timber farm gate on your right. There will so be a sign and a worker sitting under a small pavilion. Here you will need to pay 3000CLP entrance as it is private property. 

This section of the trek is by far the best. You will be walking on a dirt road through rolling green pastures. There are no fences on either side and there are plenty of wax palms around you so you can walk directly underneath them to witness their true grandeur. 

It is worth staying here a while, or if you do the full loop, finishing here and relaxing. 

The dirt road from here leads up, up and more up. You get a nice, sometimes obstructed, views over the Cocora Valle on a clear day.

The uphill lasts about 2 hours.

Keep walking until you get to Finca Mirador, then it is a steep downhill through forest to the signed junction where you can continue to either Acaime or through the Cocora Valle as described in option 1. 

This is just a combination of options 1 and 2.

Acaeme is a secluded sanctuary at the end of the Cocora Valle where you can get lunch or even stay the night. 

What most people come here for are the hummingbirds. They have sugar water just outside the main building where a bunch of hummingbirds float around like little pixies. 

They are amazing creatures, that are just way too hyped up. Perhaps if they took less sugar into their diet, they might mellow out a bit. Probably the only thing in Colombia that doesn't abide by the term 'tranquillo'.

Acaeme costs 5000CLP to enter, but is well worth it because there isn't another place where you can get this close to the hummingbirds.

Plus the funds go to oath restoration and you get a drink for it. 

Local Colombian farmer walking his pack mules along a dirt road in the Cocora Valley, Salento, Colombia.
Tall Wax Palms of the Cocora Valley, Salento, Colombia.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Pack a picnic and lay in the grass under the tall Wax Palms at the end of your trek. 

If you don't feel like walking far then I would recommend going straight to the black gate and paying 3000CLP for access to the private land. This area is by far the best if you are here for the wax palms. 

 

Wax Palms scattered on the hills in the Cocora Valley - Valle De Cocora, Salento, Colombia.

 

ADDING IN THE LOS NEVADOS TREK

The Los Nevados Trek can be added on to the end of the Cocora Valley Trek by continuing from the junction point or from Acaeme. 

More about the Los Nevados Trek can be found here.

 

Local Colombian riding a horse in the high lands of Parque Nacional Los Nevados - The Los Nevados Trek can be added onto the Cocora Valley Trek

 

GETTING TO THE COCORA VALLEY FROM SALENTO

The Cocora Valley can be accessed via a 'Willy' - a post world-war 2 restored jeep that are commonly used within the cafeteria district to transport basically anything. 

The 'Willy's' leave from the main plaza at the following times:

  • 06:10;
  • 07:30;
  • 09:30;
  • 11:30; or 
  • when full.

Full means about 15 people. Sitting on the roof, hanging off the back and sides.

Taking a 'Willy' is an experience in itself. 

The 'Willy' ride should last about half an hour.

 

Lone Wax Palm in the Cocora Valley, Colombia.
Man walking at the base of Wax Palms of the Cocora Valley, Salento, Colombia.

GETTING TO SALENTO

Salento is north-east of the department of Quindío, Colombia. It is possible to get buses to Salento directly from the major cities - Bogotá, Cali and Medellin. But is is more common to get a bus from any of the above to Pereira (the closest major town) and then another from Pereira to Salento.

 

Buses leave during the week:

  • 07:50;
  • 12:50;
  • 14:50; and
  • 17:50.

Note: Buses leave on the weekend hourly from 07:50 to 17:50. 

Take a bus going to Armenia and ask the driver to stop at Las Flores. From there, you just cross the road and wait for a bus coming from Armenia. Then hop on and it will take you to Salento.

From Armenia (1 hour)

Everyday. Every 20 minutes from 06:00 to 21:00

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