Colombia (Republic of Colombia)

Languages: Spanish

Currencies: COP · Colombian peso ($)

Capitol: Bogotá

Continents: South America

Borders: Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Panama

More useful information

Area: 1,141,748km2

Population: 50,882,884

Traffic/driving side: right

Landlocked country: No

Independent country: Yes

United Nations member: Yes

IDD Prefix: +57

Timezones: UTC-05:00

Last updated on July 15, 2024
Full travel guide on hiking Cococra Valley from Salento in Colombian Andes.

Hiking Cocora Valley.

Hiking Cococra Valley is one of the most popular activities in Colombia, which brings you across the breathtaking natural beauty of this unique region among the tallest palm trees in the world! Even if you are not a hiker you will be amazed by exploring Cocora Valley landscapes of towering wax palms to stunning cloud forests. Here is a full set of information for the best and safe hiking experience in the Los Nevados National Natural Park. 

Los Nevados National Natural Park in Colombia.

Cocora Valley is part of the Los Nevados National Natural Park, located in the Cordillera Central of the Colombian Andes, spreading at an altitude between 1,800m and 2,400m. The park was created by volcanic activity thousands of years ago and it is now home to many hiking expeditions across volcanic peaks. 

Getting to Cocora Valley from Salento.

Getting to Cocora Valley from Salento is relatively straightforward and can be accomplished in a couple of different ways. Most travelers (so did we) decide to take a Jeep Willys from Salento to the entrance of the Cococra Valley to begin their hiking adventure. The drive shouldn’t cost more than 5 000 COP per person. The journey to Cocora Valley is an adventure in itself (a very popular way of traveling in the whole of Colombia), as the open-air Jeeps drive through a rough terrain is great fun and you also get the views of the surrounding mountains and coffee plantations.

You will find Willy Jeeps in Salento’s main square. You can buy a return ticket as well. The Colombian drivers and nice and friendly. They need 8 people for one jeep. The drive to Cocora Valley entrance takes 20 minutes. Apart from the National Park entry fee you will need to pay extra 2000 COP at the end of the trail if you’re doing the full loop (Long loop).

The last Willy Jeep leaves at 6 p.m.! It’s 10 km distance from Cocora Valley to Salento, so you won’t be able to walk after hiking Cocora Valley.

Where to stay in Salento?

Salento is a starting point for hiking Cocora Valley. At the same time it is one of the most beautiful towns in Colombia! It’s a quiet, charming town with great relaxing atmosphere and hundreds of guesthouses.

Accommodation and food prices are much cheaper compared to Bogota. For a meal for two: 1 fried fish, fish soup, aborrajados with cheese, fruit cocktail and tea we paid 30 000 COP. 

Hiking Los Nevados National Natural Park.

Los Nevados National Natural Park is a protected home of the world’s tallest Palm Trees – Wax Palms. If you’re not a fan of long trekkings, 1-hour walk will take you to the valley with the highest Wax Palms in the world.

We took Willy Jeep at 9am and decided to hike the LONG LOOP: 13 km in total (you can also hike higher if you wish). The long loop can be approached both ways. If you start your hike clockwise, the beginning of the route is nice and pleasant. 

Wax Palms - the highest palms in the world.

Towering wax palms are Colombia’s national tree and the tallest palm trees in the world. The palms dominate the skyline creating a surreal atmosphere.

There are a number of hiking trails in Cocora Valley with different lengths and difficulty levels. You don’t have to approach challenging treks to witness towering wax palms. One of the most popular trail options is the 5 hours loop trail (the one we took) that takes hikers through the heart of the valley, offering up-close views of the wax palms and cloud forest.

Hiking route in Cocora Valley.

The 5-hours long loop is quite challenging, especially on the way down. There are terrifying stories across the internet from hiking this loop in a rainy season. NOTE: hiking at this altitude can be demanding, you should have a good fitness level and some hiking experience. The trail can become extremely demanding in bad or rainy weather conditions – some preparation ahead of trekking is required.

Is hiking Cocora Valley difficult?

Hiking the long LOOP in dry conditions should be no problem for average hikers. However, Hiking Cocora Valley in rainy conditions might be very challenging, since the trail gets extremely muggy and sometimes even impossible to climb! In September the trail was dry and there was almost no rain during the week.

I would highly recommend checking the weather forecast before approaching Cocora Valley. Be aware the weather in cloud forests might change rapidly, always pack a water and wind-proof jacket and have proper hiking shoes.

Check weather forecast.

It’s important to come prepared for your hike in Cocora Valley. Weather in the Andes can be unpredictable, the trails can be muddy and uneven, especially during the rainy season. Bring along plenty of water and snacks, as facilities within the valley itself are limited.

Trekking was amazing with massive condors flying above your head and humming-birds around colourful valley of flowers. There’s a small restaurant on the way offering one dining option for 5000 COP – locally made cheese with tasty bread and awful chocolate! There are seven rope bridges along the way. There’s also a bird-watching sanctuary, to reach it you need to step from the main trail and walk approx. 1 kilometer. The entry fee is 20 000 COP.

Hiking Cocora Valley on a tour.

Many visitors would choose to go on an organized full-day tour taking you through all the highlights of the region and Cocora Valley. Here are a few best options for a great adventure, including visiting Salento and coffee plantations.

How long does it take to hike Cocora Valley?

SHORT LOOP: you can do a short loop which is around 4 kilometers.

LONG LOOP: Hiking Cococra Valley Clockwise is a 12 kilometers distance.

Entrance FEE to the park is 15,000 COP (~$4).

Where to stay in Salento?

I would definitely recommend Lilly guesthouse, it’s an amazing place. The owner is incredibly friendly, we left all our stuff and backpacks, used the toilets and charged phones and she did not want any money from us! Amazing woman. The guesthouse has great atmosphere and decorations. It’s an environmental friendly place, which stole my heart from the beginning.

Instead of choosing one of the conveniently located hostel in Salento, I booked a nice room out of any civilization – Finca el Diamante. It was a hustle to get there but the place was worth it. You need to take a local small bus from Armenia terminal to Calarca and get our in the centre. From there you would need to take a taxi (7000-8000 COP). It’s only 6 minutes drive from the Calarca but the road is in terrible condition and little scary as it drives through a jungle. 

In September at 6 pm is already full night, so we drove in complete dark. Of course, everything looks different in the day light. The place is stunning! It’s still under construction (not mentioned in hotel description) and the outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi are not working yet. But once it’s finished it will be a gorgeous place. I don’t mind staying in a very simple, cheapest dorms but it was not expensive at all and it’s a nice hotel with amazing gardens. There’s plenty of interesting things around the hotel – coffee and banana plantation. I went for an early walk and the garden is just heaven for birds. They are flying just meters from you, around you. There are mandarin, avocado and lime trees. There’s also a horse stable. The horses were trained during a day for professional shows. There are hammocks on long wooden bamboo balconies.

If you need any advise or have some questions simply write me, I’m always happy to help: waran997@gmail.com

Next destination you need to reach is Tatacoa Desert, check out the photos from desert trekking here: Surreal landscapes of Tatacoa desert.

palms in Salento
Sassari Sardinia

Hey - I'm Eva!

Hiker, adventurous traveler and the author of this blog. My biggest joy is mountaineering and writing reportage travel stories here on this blog, to help you create a unique travel experience. Traveling is freedom, allows you seeing the world truly, meet communities, grow. Taste it!
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