- South america
- The Ultimate Hiking Guide to Valle del Cocora (Cocora Valley)
When you think of Colombia, you may not have an iconic image in mind like when you think of France or Peru. That may be due to how new Colombia is as a travel destination but if I have to pick one image to represent the country, I would pick the view of rolling lush green hills and weirdly tall wax palm trees of Salento for sure.
I have never seen anything like Valle del Cocora (Cocora Valley) throughout my travel and as usual, this place is best-seen on foot, so here is a one full day hiking guide to Valle del Cocora, Salento and everything you need to know to visit and have the best time there. Let's begin!Table of Contents
- Valle del Cocora, Salento Hiking Map
- Colombia Travel Video
- When to Visit Salento
- Things to Prepare for Valle del Cocora Hike
- Travel Insurance
- How to Get to Salento
- How to Get to Valle del Cocora
- Where to Stay in Salento
- One Day Hiking Guide to Valle del Cocora, Colombia
- Further Reading for Colombia
Valle del Cocora, Salento Hiking Map
Colombia Travel Video
When to Visit Salento
The best months are December to March and July to August which is the driest period out of all but keep in mind that Salento and the Valle del Cocora are notorious for their unpredictable weather. I had all 3 weather in one day when I was there, rainy in the morning, cold when I was at La Montana and sunny when I was making my way back so do prepare accordingly.
Things to Prepare for Valle del Cocora Hike
- Rain & Warm Jackets: The weather in Valle del Cocora is as predictable as a cockroach fight path (seriously) so be sure to bring warm jackets for when you go above 2000m as well as a rain jacket in case it pours on you.
- Food, Snacks and Water: There is a restaurant at the entrance and a cafe at Acaime but it's not cheap so if you want to save some money, bring a few hiking snacks with you and a bottle of water with you or better, your own lunch.
- Good Sturdy Shoes: The trail can get real muddy when it rains so take good sturdy shoes, preferably water-proof ones.
- Get Maps.Me: Maps.me 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 capabilities and their comprehensive list of available hiking trails, you will never get lost here.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Colombia, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
How to Get to Salento
The fastest and cheapest way to get to Salento and eventually to Valle del Cocora is to fly to Medellin instead of Bogota. Medellin is 6.5 hours bus ride away. To go to Medellin, you can fly via Avianca, AeroMexico or American Airlines or get yourself to Bogota and fly domestic to Medellin. Be sure to check out the prices on Skyscanner and Momondo for the best possible deal for your trip.
To get to Salento from Medellin, you can take a direct bus operated by Flota Occidental which leaves at Centro Comercial Terminal Del Sur 4 times a day. The cost should be around 45,000 - 50,000 COL and the trip should take you around 6.5 hours.
How to Get to Valle del Cocora
From Salento, you have to take the local jeep to Valle del Cocora entrance. You can find the jeep at the Plaza de Bolivar Salento Park and it leaves every hour from 6:10 AM to 5:00 PM. The same goes for the opposite direction where you can find a jeep back from the entrance. The jeep should cost you around 3700 - 4000 COP one way.
Where to Stay in Salento
Budget - Yambolombia Hostel - 8.50 USD/Night (Dorm)
This is a little further away from the town area but it has a nice view of the landscape around Salento, very peaceful and quiet. If you are looking for a quiet place in nature to stay for a few days, this is the best place to be. No internet access here though.
Mid-Range - Casa Borbon - 34 USD/Night (Double Room + private bathroom)
Salento is quite remote so internet will be hard to come by outside of the town center even with a local sim card. I bought a sim card from 2GB 30 Days plan from Claro for 46000 COP and it worked well in Salento town and at the entrance of Valle del Cocora.
For more info: Colombia Data Sim Card Wiki.
One Day Hiking Guide to Valle del Cocora, Colombia
Salento to Valle del Cocora (30 minutes)
Start your first day in Salento as early as you can and catch the first jeep (6:10 AM) to go to Valle del Cocora. That way, you will likely have a stable weather and have the whole place to yourself. You can find a bunch of jeeps waiting around the Plaza de Bolivar Salento Park in the city center. Line up and wait until you get on one and of you go!
The jeep leaves at every hour from 6:10 AM to 5:30 PM and it will cost you around 3700 - 4000 COP one way to get to the Valle de Cocora's parking lot. From the parking lot, you walk east until you see a blue gate where you have got right to start the trail counter-clockwise.
By far, the best route to do it as it will take you all the way up to Acaime hummingbird houses (2800m) first when you have the most energy and then you can stroll down at your own leisure and enjoy the wax palm trees at the best time of the day.
Valle del Cocora Entrance to Acaime (2 hours)
Once you turn right at the entrance, you will see a directional sign that points to Acaime. That's where you will be going first. You will be walking down a hill along a river (stick to the right), criss-crossing across multiple suspension bridges for about an hour and a half until you arrive at an intersection.
Remember this intersection as you will have to backtrack your way back to this T-junction after a visit to Acaime Hummingbird House. For now, stick right (follow the red arrow sign) and go up the steep hill. Again, stick to your right whenever possible.
For about 30 minutes you will arrive at the Acaime Hummingbird House where you can relax, enjoy the sight of the magical hummingbirds flapping its wings swiftly, and have a nice Colombian coffee served with a stick of cheese (delicious!). The entrance fee is 5,000 COP with drinks included.
Acaime to La Montana (1 hour)
After resting at the Hummingbird House, backtrack your way down to the intersection I mentioned previously and right (when coming down from Acaime) and you will be hiking up a hill for about an hour before you arrive at La Montana, a beautiful resting point with a sweeping view of the landscape around it.
Here, you can relax, enjoy the view and have some snacks before you continue on to the last part, and the part you are most looking forward to, the wax palm trees area.
La Montana through the Wax Palm Trees Area Back to the Entrance (2 - 3 hours)
From La Montana, it's all down hill from here so you can stroll down at your own leisure. You will start to see the iconic tall wax palm trees protuding out from thick bushes along the trail.
The most photogenic part of the hike is when you arrive at an openning where you can see the tall wax palm trees scattered all over the hill going all the way up to the foot of a mountain. It is quite a sight to behold.
You can either follow the trail to enjoy the wax palm trees from afar or simply take the shortcut through the field so that you can stare up and really see how tall these palm trees really are.
From La Montana, it will take you around 2 - 3 hours to loop your way back to the entrance where you will be able to get lunch at a restaurant by the gate or get a jeep back to Salento.
Bonus: Eat at La Fonda de los Arrieros Restaurant
La Fonda de los Arrieros is a nice local restaurant by the corner of the Plaza de Bolivar park in Salento which serve one of the best trucha dish (trout, a local delicacy) in town. There's no better way to award yourself after a hike in Valle del Cocora than to have a nice fried trucha at La Fonda de los Arrieros.
Further Reading for Colombia
I hope you found this Colombia travel guide useful. If you are looking for something to read to help your Colombia trip planning even further, be sure to check out these articles below:
- Looking for a complete travel guide for Colombia? Here’s a one month backpacking itinerary for Colombia.
- Bogota is an awesome capital city to start your Colombia journey if you know where to go. Here’s an insider’s guide on top 10 things to do in Bogota.
- Medellin is also another fun city to visit, full of great food, salsa dancing workshop and more. Here’s a complete travel guide on things to do in Medellin.
- Looking for something less wordy to inspire you to visit Colombia? Check out 23 photos that will inspire you to visit Colombia
- You can also watch my Colombia travel video here: Colombia is Dangerous? travel video.
- To see all articles about Colombia, visit Colombia Travel Guide page.
- Not sure where to go next? How about visit Ecuador and experience all its wildlife in the Amazon or the Galapagos? Check out my Ecuador Travel Guide page for more information about traveling in Ecuador.
- Looking for more travel guides for the South America? You can find more on my South America Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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