As if growing some of the world’s best coffee is not enough, the zona cafetera in Colombia is also home to Valle de Cocora – a vast field of wax palms which can grow as high as 60 metres! The wax palms of Valle de Cocora are considered the tallest palm trees in the world and are native to this area.
We were based in Salento, one of the towns in Colombia’s coffee zone. From here it was a only a few minutes to the start of the hike to Valle de Cocora.
Related Post: Coffee Tour in Salento: A Taste of Colombian Coffee
The Day Hike to Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley)
We took a jeep early (around 8am) from the main square of Salento ($3500 COP each way) to the start of the hike to Valle de Cocora. From the entrance, you can either go left which leads straight to the wax palms or right, the start of the loop which goes through cloud forests and ends in the Valle de Cocora. The loop, of course, is a more interesting way to do it. If you have time, make sure to complete the whole thing. Here are the details of the hike:
The trail started with a preview of the towering palm trees. The walk was easy along flat fields until we reached the entrance to the cloud forest.
One thing I learnt after hiking in several cloud forests, it always ends up being muddy. The trail was not difficult although we had to cross a few shaky bridges along the way. I think there were more than 5.
We made a short detour to Acaime, a small house uphill that is frequently visited by hummingbirds or colibris, as they are referred to in Spanish. We took a break, paid $5000 COP for the entrance which included chocolate con queso (a cup of hot chocolate and a slice of local cheese – we didn’t eat the cheese) and watched the hummingbirds roam around the garden. They had feeders set up in front of the house so they were close enough for us to take photos.
The next part of the trail was a hike uphill which took about 30 mins. I was feeling sick then and had to stop a few times but I still made it to the top.
Valle de Cocora
Finally, the immense field of wax palms had come into view. As we slowly went downhill we saw the incredible extent of these wax palms. It was an unbelievable sight. I was really tiny compared to the towering trees!
Tips for the Hike to Valle de Cocora
- Start early (we left town around 8am) since the whole loop takes 6 hours to complete. Check with the driver about the last jeep back to Salento. I think the last jeep goes back before sunset (which is around 5pm).
- Bring enough food and water as there aren’t any shops along the trail (apart from the coffee/ hot chocolate stop in Acaime and shops at the start of the trail). There is a shop/ guest house at the top of the hill but it was closed so we didn’t get any water there either.
- Keep a lookout for the signs. It’s actually quite hard to get lost as there is only one major trail apart from the detour to Acaime for the hummingbirds.
- Valle de Cocora is a hike in high altitude. Keep yourself hydrated. Protect yourself from the sun and put some sunscreen on. (The altitude in Valle de Cocora is between 1800masl and 2400masl. )
Salento: A Great Base for the Hike to Valle de Cocora
Salento is a great base to start the Hike to Valle de Cocora and for exploring the coffee region of Colombia. It is a colourful town with beautiful colonial-style architecture. Salento is probably one of the most touristy towns we visited Colombia, but not in a bad way. The atmosphere was actually quite interesting (and it’s concentrated in only certain areas). Apart from the main plaza, Salento has one walking street lined up with souvenir shops, fancy restaurants and quaint cafes. At the end of the walking street, there is an uphill viewpoint that overlooks town.
Have you been to Colombia? Did you do the hike to Valle de Cocora? Let us know.