Salento is a starting point for hiking Cocora Valley and one of the most beautiful towns in whole Colombia – cosy, artistic, backpackers place. Something like Pai in northern Thailand (well almost ?). This charming town offers a great atmosphere and hundreds of small guesthouses.
Prices in the town are much cheaper compering to Bogota. For a meal for two: 1 fried fish, fish soup, aborrajados with cheese, fruit cocktail, tea – 30 000 COP in total. They have an amazing white, fresh cheese in Colombia and Ecuador. They add this to soups and banana pancakes.
Trekking through Valle de Cocora in high Colombian Andes in Los Nevados National Natural Park.
This trekking is a must in Colombia. Los Nevados National Natural Park is a protected home of the world’s tallest Palm Trees – Wax Palms. Even if you’re not a fan of long trekkings, 1 hour walk is enough to explore the highest Wax Palms in the world and the beauty of Cocora Valley. What is interesting you can take the long loop both ways – it’s 13 km in total (you can also hike higher). The total trekking took us 5 hours, taking a Willy at 9 am. You can also hire horses but I’m not sure if they are well maintained and I think the trail is quite too difficult for the horses. If you take the loop from the left side the walk starts very slow and is not too steep and pleasant when on the way up. The way down is hard and climbing the other direction is much more difficult. It’s very easy to find the trail. Before taking this trekking I read a lot on internet on the difficulty level. Some of the stories were terrifying, especially those from the rainy season, as the trail gets extremely muggy and sometimes impossible to climb! We did it in September and the trail was dry and no rain during the day. I would recommend checking the weather a day before going to be prepared for the conditions. But you also need to be aware the weather might change quickly, so always be prepared for rain. Take small rain jacket, hiking pools, water, sun lotion, hat, always hiking shoes.
Trekking was amazing! From the beginning of the path the massive condors are flying above your heads. Take a stop on the top of the hill, there’s a small restaurant offering one option for 5000 COP – a local cheese, amazing bread and awful chocolate! Still worth to take this snack. If you want to witness something amazing stay for a while near the flowers – hummer will appear shortly. You better enjoy wooden rope bridges as there’s 7 of them. There’s also a sanctuary for bird watching – 1 km aside the road.
Getting to Salento from Armenia.
Buses Armenia – Salento run every 20 minutes. One of the most funniest situation once they see you in Armenia’s terminal with a backpack – everyone roars – Salento bus there!!! And points on of the exits. So don’t worry you won’t miss it ? The road takes about 2 hours and the mountain views are amazing. The road is going up and is formed into hairpin turns. It might get a little scary when the bus backs up few times to take a turn on a rocky road.
Getting to Cocora Valley from Salento.
You need to get to Salento’s main square, or ask anyone for Willy’s jeep or Cocora Valley. The jeeps are waiting on the main square, the cost is 4000 COP one way/per person. It’s possible to buy return as well. Nice and friendly Colombians will take care of you from this moment. You’ll be packed in the jeep with 8 people inside and 3 more standing on the back of the jeep. ? Way far from the comfort zone but funny ride, which takes 20 minutes. There’s 3000 COP National Park entry fee – and that’s the right direction, if you wanna take the loop easy. And 2000 COP on the end of the trail if you’re doing a full loop.
Very important – last Willy leaves at 6 pm!! It’s 10 km to Salento, so walking that distance is the last thing you want after such a long trekking. Driving back you’ll see huge avocado plantations on your right.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next destination you need to reach is Tatacoa Desert, check out the photos from desert trekking here: Surreal landscapes of Tatacoa desert.