The Valle de Cocora, or the Cocora Valley, is best known for its soaring palm trees. These palm trees, known as wax palm trees or palmas de Cera, are the tallest in the world, reaching heights of 200 feet or 60 meters.
To this day, hiking the Valle de Cocora remains one of my favorite memories from my summer living in Colombia.
Read more below to discover how to hike in the Valle de Cocora! As I mentioned in my story guide on Salento, the Valle de Cocora is accessible via WWII jeeps that line up on the Salento square.
Hiking the Valle de Cocora in Colombia
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Getting to the Valle de Cocora
To get there, it costs around 3000 pesos per person one way. Ask any local on the square for the departure times and they’ll know immediately. We left quite early, at around 7 am.
If you can be flexible with your time in Salento, try to move around your activities so that your day in the Valle de Cocora is on the best weather day of the week.
Traveler’s Tip: The earlier you arrive at the valley, the better! You will have no pressure hiking the long tour, which is what I definitely recommend doing.
The WWII jeep ride is so much fun, but slow. It takes around 30 minutes to get there. As we approached the valley, excitement tingled in my belly. I could see the palm trees soaring on the mountain ridges in the distance!
When we arrived there was a handful of restaurants on the right-hand side of the road that you cannot miss. Save these for after your hike when you are super hungry. It’s so worth the wait!
Short vs Long Hike in the National Park Los Nevados
When you arrive at the valley, you have two options:
- The short route leads straight to the palm trees where they’re most concentrated or;
- the long route which is a 5-6 hour hike that goes across fields and through forests, over bridges and rivers, and finishes at the heart of the palm tree valley.
Plus, with the long hike, you get to stop by the hummingbird sanctuary which is nestled in nature somewhere around the halfway mark. This is what we did, and honestly, it was amazing.
The long tour is a moderately difficult hike, it goes up and down, but it’s nothing extreme so no worries!
The only negative I could see about the long hike is if you got really unlucky with bad weather. If this is the case, you could either postpone, truck on despite the weather, or do the short hike straight to the palm trees. We were fortunate enough to have sunny, blue skies!
Traveler’s Tip: To do the short hike, continue straight/left when you reach the gate. To do the long hike, take a right at the gate/sign. You can’t miss it!
There is a very affordable entry fee as the valley consists of the Los Nevados National Natural Park. There will be a person somewhere along the path to collect the fee. It’s not a scam! It’s for the protection of the Parque Los Nevados. You will get a little ticket.
The hike was so beautiful, I felt like I never put my camera away. The palm trees lining the hills in the distance were so beautiful.
The wooden bridges were so much fun to cross. And the best part? It wasn’t touristy at all. We only saw a handful of travelers, mostly because everyone takes the short route. So if you go early, you’ll have the hike mostly to yourselves!
Hummingbirds at Acaime Casa de Los Colibris
Everyone who treks the Valle de Cocora should make a pit stop at the Acaime Casa de Los Colibris. There is an additional fee of 5,000 pesos to enter (if I remember correctly!), but the fee includes 1 drink.
Traveler’s Tip: For your drink, you should try the hot chocolate and cheese. You’ll get a bowl of hot chocolate and a side plate of fresh cheese that you dip in the! Putting cheese in the drink, or dipping it in your drink, is very famous in Colombia (also often served with agua de panela). Don’t miss out on the opportunity to try it!
When we approached the sanctuary on a hill, we started to hear a slight humming noise filling the silence. When we looked up, there were all types and colors of hummingbirds whizzing around from tree to tree. I had never seen that many in one place in my life!
The hummingbirds are very used to humans being near, so you can even hold up the hummingbird feeder and several will take a drink at the sugar water! They are inches away from you so you can see every detail of their movements. It is magical!
While we were enjoying the view and our choco + cheese combo, a family of coatis came scurrying down the hill to get their morning portion of rice! They were so cute and a curious sight to see!
Palm Tree Paradise!!
There is a bit of a climb to do after you leave the hummingbird sanctuary and get back on route. The views from the top are stunning! Take a break on the bench that sits right next to the mountainside finca.
Take in the views of the valley below and pat yourself on the back because you just hiked all the way up there!
You’re almost there! Follow the dirt road all the way down to the heart of the wax palm trees. Take in the breathtaking views as the soaring palm trees collide with the mountainous landscape!
On a side note, as beautiful as this place is, sadly it will not last for another couple of decades.
Due to a combination of reasons, like the palm trees being constantly exposed to the elements, historical overproduction of wax candles and other materials, overgrazing by the farmers’ cattle, and a spike in tourism frequenting the valley, the palm trees are dying in alarming numbers.
You will see the fallen palm trees as you cross the field and realize that one day, they will all be gone. As much as I loved this place and am happy to encourage others to visit, it’s sad to know that it will no longer exist.
The Colombian government recognized the extinction of the wax palm already in 1985 and measures are in place to protect the park. This is why it is of utmost importance that you respect nature when you visit. Please don’t litter or throw your trash. Keep it until you can find a proper waste bin for disposal.
The Valle de Cocora is the ideal place to visit for anyone who loves nature. If you have the chance to tour Colombia’s coffee country, make sure to put Salento and the Valle de Cocora at the top of your bucket list!