The world’s tallest palm trees are located in… Valle de Cocora! The Cocora Valley is located near Salento in Colombia and was one of my highlights during my trip around Colombia. The area is full of wax palms that can reach up to 60 meters in height. It’s absolutely recommended to make a hike through the valley, through the jungle and over suspension bridges.
Hiking in Valle de Cocora
Nature in Valle de Cocora is absolutely amazing. It’s incredibly green, the views are amazing and you can also spot various animals. I was lucky enough to see a green toucan and even a condor, the largest flying bird in the world.
The best way to enjoy nature is to go on a hike. For a hike through Valle de Cocora, I can definitely recommend spending a full day. There are two different routes for the Cocora Valley, the short route and the long route.
Short route in Valle de Cocora
The short route follows the path through the valley with a direct view of the wax palms. During the route you’ll make a loop up to the viewpoints and back again which is about 1.5 hours of walking. You’ll have to pay COP 5,000 entrance fee before you can enter the valley.
Long route in Valle de Cocora
The long route follows the same path through the valley only then continues upwards past more viewpoints, through the jungle and over rickety suspension bridges. This route is about 12 kilometers and takes about 5 to 6 hours including breaks.
The route ends (or begins) at the blue gate where you’re dropped off by jeep. I can recommend you not to walk through the blue fence yet, but just to follow the path up. This will bring you first to the valley and then to the viewpoints. Because it’s often only sunny in the morning, you will have the best view in this way.
The path follows gradually uphill with several viewpoints along the way and after 2.3 kilometers you’ll encounter a small shed where you can buy a drink or snacks. The highest point of the route is at about 3,000 meters at the Finca la Montaña. From this cottage the route follows quite steeply down through the jungle.
During the long route you can choose to visit the Casa de los Colibris (hummingbird garden). To do this you have to walk a bit upstream over/through the river. It’s about half an hour walking to the hummingbird garden, but definitely recommended! Entrance is 5,000 COP which includes a drink.
The trail back also goes through the river for a bit. I had trouble finding the right path and Maps.me helped me out. The path only gets steeper now and you pass several rickety suspension bridges over the river. Sometimes a bit challenging, but a very cool experience!
The last part of the route is fairly flat through part of the valley, with a beautiful view on the mountains.
During the long route you’ll have to pay twice the entrance fee of 5,000 COP each time. Once before you enter the valley and again somewhere at the end of the route.
What is the best route in Valle de Cocora?
If you have enough time, then I can absolutely recommend the long hike. You will see nature gradually change while hiking and it’s an awesome experience. During the long route you’ll hike a little bit through the river. It’s pretty easy to jump over the stones, but you can also rent boots in Salento or at the entrance where the jeep drops you off. I found my own sneakers a lot more comfortable for the long hike.
I preferred to start the route in the valley. Partly because of the good weather in the morning, but also because the last part was pretty tough and steep downhill. That would be more difficult hiking up.
If you are not up for a 5 hour hike, then the short route is a good idea. This one only goes through the valley, but it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the route.
How to get to Valle de Cocora?
The best starting point for visiting Valle de Cocora is the village of Salento which is about 11 kilometers away. Jeeps leave every hour from the central plaza and take about 20 minutes to reach the valley.
The first jeeps leave at 7:00 and a ticket costs 8,000 COP. If there are 8 or 10 passengers already present, the jeep will leave earlier. For the best view, you may want to stand at the back!
Everything about Salento you can read here.
What to bring?
Be sure to bring plenty of water and some snacks. There is only one shack along the way after 2.3 kilometers during the long route where you can get something to drink. If you also hike to the Hummingbird Garden, you will have another opportunity to buy something and there are also restrooms there.
As for clothing, I can recommend you to wear lightweight clothes and maybe bring a vest. At higher altitudes it can be a bit chillier. Wear comfortable shoes with reasonable grip. Hiking boots are helpful, but not necessarily required. If it has been raining it may be nice to rent boots. You can do this both in Salento, and at the entrance to Valle de Cocora.
The altitude also makes you sunburn faster. Therefore, sunscreen is an essential item during your hike.
I traveled to Colombia equipped with a drone, which allowed me to capture some insane footage of Valle de Cocora. Check them out here!