The meters high palm trees of Valle del Cocora are one of the highlights of Colombia. The enourmous palm trees in a lush green valley will make you feel very small. The hike to the valley leads you through another beautiful green valley, a forest with rope bridges and high mountains. With our tips you for sure make the best out of your trip to the Cocora Valley in Colombia!
How to get to Valle del Cocora?
The Valle del Cocora is close to the coffee village Salento. Salento is worth a visit itself, so make sure you combine it with your hike through the palm tree valley. You can get to Salento easily get from Medellin or Bogotá by bus. You will not go directly to Salento, but first to the town of Armenia. From there you take a taxi or – much cheaper – one of the minibuses. The journey to Armenia takes about 8 hours from Bogotá and about 5 hours from Medellin. The ride in the minibus from Armenia takes about 45 minutes. Even easier than the bus is a flight to the airport at Pereira, from where you only need 1,5 hours by bus to Salento. Of course, a taxi is also an option, but the bus is much cheaper and runs regularly.
From Salento it is only a short drive to Valle del Cocora. And what a drive! This ride is actually an attraction in itself. Not only because of the beautiful environment you will drive through, but because of your transport. From the Salento city square, brightly colored jeeps regularly depart during the day to Valle de Cocora. These ‘willys’ are old jeeps that you will see a lot driving around in this region. The sturdy cars are perfect for transporting people, animals or freight on the bumby roads of the coffee region. You will also learn that a willy is never really full, as there is always a spot left in, on the back or on top of the car. The best place for your willy drive to the palm trees valley is also not in, but on the back the jeep. Hanging on the back oduring the thirty-minute ride to the valley, you will get the best views. Tip: this is also the perfect spot for you if you easily suffer from motion sickness!
The day hike at the Cocora Valley
The jeep will drop you off near the start of the 4 to 5 hours hike. As it is a loop, you can walk in two directions. You make a choice right away at the start: you go straight ahead or to the right.
If you choose to walk straight ahead, your hike starts directly in the palm tree valley. You will then have a bigger chance of enjoying palm trees against a clear blue sky, as the fog often comes in later in the morning. Tip: if you do not feel like walking 4 to 5 hours, you can also head straight to the valley to admire the palm trees and then leave again. You do not have to walk back the same way, you can also choose to walk up to the first viewpoint and return to the entrance from there.
We chose to turn right and finish in the valley. In this way we would save the unique palm trees as ‘reward’ at the end of our hike. Most other travelers therefore opt for this direction as well. Do you want to do the same? The spot where you have to turn right is almost immediately in the beginning at the blue gate.
If you choose to keep the palm trees for the last time as well, your walk will start in a beautiful green valley. You’ll walk parallel to the palm tree valley, so you will be able to spot some palm trees already on the mountainside to your left.
After about an hour the vegetation slowly gets thicker and the green valley changes into a foggy forest with tall trees and small rivers that you will have to cross using large stones or rope bridges. The hike is a bit heavier here than during the first hour, because here and there you will have to climb over the rocks and the road slowly goes upwards.
The road is marked with signs “Acaime, casa de los colibris”, as it to both the Valle de Cocora and to a hummingbird finca called Acaime. At one point the road goes straigth ahead towards this hummingbird farm, but you have to turn left into the mountains for the Valle de Cocora. To make sure that you are following the right track, download the offline map for this area in advance via the maps.me app. It clearly indicates the hiking trail. A visit to the hummingbird farm is however a great addition to your hike, if you don’t mind walking back the same path afterwards to get back to the Valle de Cocora track.
After your turn to the left, the hike gets more difficult! The path leads steeply up from here. Next to the trail you’ll see information signs about the flora and fauna in the area, a perfect moment to learn more about this place and catch your breath. But your effort will be rewarded! The steep climb leads to a finca with the appropriate name La Montaña. We heard that travelers have also been able to get a drink or a small snack here, but the farm did not seem to be open to visitors when we were here.
Tip: does a walk of 4 to 5 hours sound too much for you or are you a horse lover? There is also the option to cover the route (partly) on horseback. You can find the horses close to the spot where you were dropped off by your willy.
From the top with the finca, the road will slowly lead you down towards the valley. You will be rewarded with beautiful views with the palm trees in the distance. So don’t forget to take a photo stop at the viewpoints and enjoy the view. The viewpoints are indicated on maps.me as ‘mirador’. Tip: make sure that you don’t follow the track back to the willys from the last mirador, as you will then skip the palm trees. Do you remember that we gave you a shortcut for a shorter route, where you climb to the first mirador and then walk back again to the start? You don’t want that when you are walking the full trail. So just follow the wide path here on which you have been walking for a while now.
Soon you will reach the ‘Basque de Palmas’, as the valley is indicated on your maps.me offline map. Here you can walk under the enormous palm trees, a unique sight! The wax palm trees (‘palmas de cera’) in the Valle de Cocora are the highest type of palms: they can grow up to 60 meters high.
Take your time here. Take photos, admire the palm trees and just sit down to absorb the magical atmosphere. The view is truely impressive! When you are ready to go, you will still have to walk for another half hour before returning to the starting point. There the willys are waiting for you to bring you back to Salento.
Practical tips for the Cocora Valley
#1 Go for the full 4 to 5 hours hike and do not take the shortcut directly to the palm trees. The beautiful daghike will lead you past beautiful places!
#2 Start as early as possible for the best chance of good weather. The valley is super green. That makes a beautiful sight, but all that moisture in the valley also creates fog banks that unfortunately will often deprive you of the dreamed vistas with blue skies.
#3 Hang at the back of the willy for the best view during the ride from Salento to Valle de Cocora and back again.
#4 Download the offline map of this area on the maps.me app to make sure you are following the right trail.
#5 The weather can change fast here. So bring both your sunscreen and poncho. You might need both of them in the same hour!
#6 The palm trees may suggest tropical temperatures, but the valley is actually not very warm. So do not dress for exotic temperatures.
#7 Take enough water and snacks with you, because you will not be able to buy some along the way.