Lush Cocora Valley filled with colibri and palm trees
Salento is a quaint Colombian town that makes a living from coffee plantations and tourism. One of the “must do” things when in Salento is taking a hike in the famous Cocora Valley, filled with wax palm trees (which is also a national symbol of Colombia), mountain springs and colorful hummingbirds. You can explore it on a horse, but don’t hesitate to go on foot and take time and enjoy Coroca Valley’s spectacular nature. Have in mind that on the way up you have to cross a few rickety bridges, so make sure you wear appropriate footwear. If you need to catch your breath and admire various colibri species from up close, you may make a small detour to the Colibri House – a small cafe that serves hot chocolate and snacks.
A Landscape from a Fairy Tale
Picture a land where the hillsides are adorned with the tallest palm trees you’ve ever seen. These towering wax palms, the national tree of Colombia, can reach heights of up to 200 feet. As you wander through the valley, you’ll feel like a character in a fairy tale, surrounded by a forest of slender giants that seem to touch the sky.
But the wax palms are just the beginning. Cocora Valley is a living canvas of biodiversity. Dense cloud forests, babbling brooks, and vibrant flora create a natural wonderland that’s waiting to be explored. It’s like Mother Nature decided to show off her artistic prowess.
Salento: The Gateway to Adventure
Before you delve into the depths of Cocora Valley, you’ll likely start your journey in the nearby town of Salento. This picturesque pueblo is the perfect introduction to Colombia’s coffee region. Its colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, and vibrant atmosphere make it an ideal base for your adventures.
Don’t forget to fuel up with Colombian coffee from one of the town’s quaint cafes. The locals take their coffee seriously, and you’ll quickly discover why Colombian coffee is world-famous. Sip slowly, savor the flavors, and let the caffeine kick awaken your inner explorer.
Hiking: The Heartbeat of Cocora Valley
Now, let’s lace up those hiking boots and hit the trails! Cocora Valley offers a variety of hiking options to suit adventurers of all levels. The most popular hike is the 5 to 6-hour loop that takes you through the valley, into the cloud forest, and up to the iconic Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary.
As you trek through the valley, you’ll cross babbling brooks via charming wooden bridges, walk among the awe-inspiring wax palms, and experience the refreshing embrace of the cloud forest. Keep an eye out for the vibrant quetzal birds and the playful spectacled bear – the valley is home to these magnificent creatures.
The Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary is a must-visit pitstop. Here, you can rest your weary legs and marvel at the dazzling hummingbirds that flit around the feeders. It’s like stepping into a scene from a Disney movie, where these tiny, iridescent creatures steal the show with their aerial acrobatics.
How long is Cocora Valley Hike?
Palms and Passes: Cocora's Hidden Gems
The Cocora Valley holds more than just hiking trails; it’s a treasure trove of hidden gems. For those seeking even more adventure, there are challenging hikes that take you to higher vantage points for jaw-dropping panoramic views of the valley.
One such hike leads to the Finca La Montaña, a remote coffee farm perched atop a hill. The climb is steep, but the reward is a freshly brewed cup of Colombian coffee served with a side of unparalleled vistas. Sip your coffee as you soak in the valley’s splendor below.
For a unique perspective of the wax palms, consider a horseback riding excursion through the valley. Trot along the trails with your trusty steed as you weave between the towering palms, creating memories that belong in the pages of your adventure diary.
Mysteries in the Mist: The Cloud Forest
Cocora Valley’s cloud forest is like stepping into another world, where the air is crisp, the vegetation is dense, and a mystical ambiance prevails. As you ascend into the forest, you’ll notice a dramatic shift in the environment. Moss-covered trees, epiphytic orchids, and a chorus of chirping birds create an enchanting atmosphere.
The mist that often envelops the cloud forest adds an extra layer of mystique. It’s as if the forest is sharing its secrets with those who dare to venture into its depths. Take your time, breathe in the pure mountain air, and let the ethereal beauty of the cloud forest captivate your senses.
Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary: A Burst of Color and Energy
Your journey through Cocora Valley would be incomplete without a visit to the Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary. This hidden gem is a haven for these vibrant and hyperactive birds. As you enter the sanctuary, you’ll be greeted by the melodious hum of their wings as they flit about, sipping nectar from the feeders.
It’s a mesmerizing sight that defies description. Picture a palette of shimmering colors – emerald greens, fiery reds, and sapphire blues – all brought to life by these tiny avian acrobats. They’ll dart and dance before your eyes, their iridescent feathers catching the sunlight like living jewels.
While you’re here, indulge in a steaming cup of Colombian hot chocolate served with a slice of cheese – a local specialty that will warm your heart as you watch the hummingbirds perform their mesmerizing ballet.
The Rainbow River: Riachuelo
Cocora Valley isn’t just about the towering palms and cloud forests. It also boasts a hidden gem known as the Rainbow River or Riachuelo. This vibrant river gets its name from the minerals in the water that create a stunning array of colors, ranging from turquoise to deep red.
Exploring Riachuelo is like stepping into a dream. You can follow a trail that meanders along the river, crossing it via rustic wooden bridges and pausing to marvel at the ever-changing hues. The Rainbow River is a hidden treasure that adds another layer of magic to your Cocora Valley adventure.
How to get to Cocora Valley?
1. Arrive in Salento:
- Your journey to Cocora Valley typically begins in Salento, a picturesque town in Colombia’s coffee region.
- You can reach Salento by taking a bus from several major Colombian cities, including Bogotá, Medellín, Pereira, or Armenia. The bus journey offers stunning views of the countryside.
2. From Salento to Cocora Valley:
- Once you’re in Salento, there are a few options to reach Cocora Valley, which is approximately 11 kilometers (about 7 miles) away.
3. Jeep Willys Ride:
- The most popular and authentic way to get to Cocora Valley is by taking a Jeep Willys, an iconic vehicle in the region.
- Head to Salento’s central plaza, where you’ll find a designated area for these jeeps.
- The Jeep Willys ride to Cocora Valley is not only practical but also a fun and memorable experience. The winding road offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
- The jeeps typically depart when they are full, so be prepared to wait for other passengers. It’s a shared ride, and you’ll pay a fee for the journey.
- The ride takes about 30-40 minutes, and you’ll be dropped off at the entrance to Cocora Valley.
4. Hiking from Salento:
- If you’re feeling adventurous and have plenty of energy, you can choose to hike from Salento to Cocora Valley. The hike is around 11 kilometers (about 7 miles) and takes approximately 3-4 hours, depending on your pace.
- The trail is well-marked, and you’ll pass through lush green landscapes and local farms. Be prepared for some uphill sections and muddy paths, especially if it has rained