Hiking through the Cocora Valley, or “Valle de Cocora,” is one of my favorite memories from our 2 week trip to Colombia. We visited during our 3 day stay in Salento and on top of this being my favorite town from our trip, this specific activity was also my favorite! If you’re new around here, one of my husband and I’s favorite things to do is hiking. We’ve hiked in dozens of states and a few countries, so adding this to our list was very special!
Even if you don’t consider yourself a hiker, you’d be remiss to skip this beautiful part of the country. The hiking isn’t too strenuous and the views and weather more than make up for it! In this post, I am going to convince you that hiking the Cocora Valley needs to be on your Colombia itinerary. Keep reading to learn about the valley, how to get to it, and how to hike it.
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About the Cocora Valley
The Cocora Valley is a beautiful landscape perfect for hiking, horseback riding, and enjoying the native wax palms. It is located west of Bogotá and south of Medellín within the Quindío department of Colombia, tucked in the Andean mountain range. The valley is located within Colombia’s coffee region just near the quaint town of Salento, so you’ll have somewhere to stay and other things to do during your visit! The Cocora Valley is also part of Las Nevadas National Park, one of Colombia’s most beautiful areas.
The valley is most famously known for holding the world’s tallest palm trees. It is truly a sight to behold because while they are very tall, they’re also very skinny! The landscape is absolutely breathtaking with the tall palm trees dotted along the lush, green forest.
During your travels through Colombia, visiting the Cocora Valley is something you don’t want to miss. Even if you’re not a hiker, you can still enjoy the park, take a horseback ride, or even just take a 30 minute walk up to one of the view points! This is now something many tourists consider a can’t miss activity when visiting Colombia.
Hiking the Cocora Valley
So, after reading all about this magical place you’ve decided you want to hike it. I certainly can’t blame you! It was definitely one of the coolest hikes we’ve been on.
Let’s talk about the logistics of hiking in the Cocora Valley.
Once you walk out of the parking lot, you’ll follow a dirt path to the entrance. There are people right outside the parking lots that will give you little (unhelpful) maps and point you in a general direction. I recommend going to the left–unless you want to hike UP and into the national park. The leftward path will bring you to the official entrance where you’ll have photo opportunities, a small cafe, and pay your entrance fee. Walk for about 15 minutes along the dirt path past small shops, parks with toys for kids to play on, and lots and lots of horses.
There will be several stables offering you rides through the valley if that’s the route you’d like to take, as well. I’m unsure of the cost because we hiked. If you’re considering the horse ride because of the hike, I’m here to assure you the hike isn’t THAT tough. Take plenty of water and go slow, you’ll be fine!
Once you get to the entrance gate, you’ll pay a fee of 20,000 COP (at time of writing) which is about $4 USD. There’s a large map on the side of the building you can peruse to plan your hike.
There are 3 general options for hiking:
- The first option will take you to Mirador 1 (viewpoint 1) which takes 1-2 hours. You’ll get to see a few wax palms and plenty of sweeping views. Once you hit the viewpoint, you’ll see another small dirt path to follow back to the entrance.
- The second option will take you to Mirador 2 (viewpoint 2). This takes around 2-3 hours, takes you a bit farther into the valley for more views of wax palms, small villages nestled in the mountains, and more gorgeous views. Once you get to the viewpoint, you’ll have to backtrack back to viewpoint 1 to hit the second trail to complete the loop.
We chose the second option because we didn’t pack many snacks or enough water (oops).
- The third option will take you in a full loop through the valley and into Los Nevados National Park and takes about 5 hours. After leaving viewpoint 2, you’ll go up, up, up a bit more until you reach a little shack. The shack offers candy bars and drinks but this is also where you’ll pay another small fee to enter the national park. At the time of writing, I believe the fee was 10,000 COP. Continue along on the path until you get to the tip top of the mountain. You’ll pass La Finca de la Montana, a small cafe offering small meals and drinks at the top. Stop for a coffee and sustenance before continuing on your journey… This is where things get interesting! Now you’re heading back down the mountain and I’ve heard it gets very very muddy.
On the rest of the hike down, you’ll get to experience several suspension bridges and a hummingbird sanctuary. How cool! If you have the time and the resources (like water, don’t be like us), this would be an extraordinary way to spend your day! The full loop through the national park will bring you back down closer to the parking lot, not the official entrance, so just something to keep in mind!
For options 1 or 2, you’ll come back down to the entrance where you started. Relax on the sprawling grounds and enjoy a snack or a coffee from the little cafe, lie on the hammocks, or take photos on all the fun props!
How to Get to the Cocora Valley
To get to the Cocora Valley, you’ll most likely base yourself in the quaint town of Salento. Salento is located in the middle between two bigger towns, Pereira and Armenia. There are airports in each town that are about an hour’s car ride away from Salento. Both airports are very small so I recommend choosing whichever one that has better flight times.
Depending on where you stay, you may have a hotel shuttle from the airport to the town. Otherwise, you’ll have to get a rental car or take the bus. A bus is much cheaper and easier, around $2 USD one-way but will take a bit longer. Rental cars are more pricey and more of a hassle because you won’t need it to get around once you’re in Salento.
Once you are ready to start your adventure, head into Salento Plaza. In the plaza you’ll see a handful of colorful jeeps, called Willys, waiting to take you to your destination. At the time of this writing, a round trip ticket to the valley and back totaled $4 USD. You’ll be in the back (or even standing holding onto the back like we were…) for about 8 kilometers, so prepare for a bumpy ride. But it’s all in the experience!
Once you arrive, the Willy will drop you off in a parking lot across from some small businesses and restaurants. Leave the parking lot and head to the left along the dirt trail. Everyone should be heading this way, so just follow them! There is a small fork where you can either head left or right, I recommend heading to the left because the right will take you along the full loop whether you want to do that or not! Follow the left trail all the way up and you’ll pass some more shops and photo op spots. I recommend passing those without stopping and continue on until you get to the park gates.
Where to Stay to visit Cocora Valley
Centrally located, you are in the plaza in about 30 seconds and a stone’s throw away from Calle Real. This is where we stayed and thoroughly enjoyed it. The price was fair (but moderate/pricy for the area) and the included breakfast was out of this world! The room was nothing over-the-top special but it was clean and had a decent bed, what more can you ask for?
The hotel also offers a shuttle to and from the airport for approximately $30 USD. This was a good deal for us so we didn’t have to figure out the bus schedule.
Just a 5 minute walk from the center of Salento, this adorable hostel overlooks the valleys and coffee farms surrounding the area. It costs just $25 USD a night to stay here (at time of writing) and you can choose between dorm-style rooms or private rooms. Breakfast is also included!
Book it here.
In the center of town on the other side of the plaza from Hotel Salento Plaza, this small hotel is very affordable, clean, and adorable. It has great reviews. It is closer to Calle Real though, which means it can be a little loud if you want to go to bed early. Breakfast is offered, but not included.
If we were to return to Salento, this is where I would choose to stay next! Terasu is located five minutes from the town center and looks so dreamy. The rooms overlook the coffee farms and give a rustic-chic vibe. Breakfast is included as well. This hotel is the one of the more expensive places in the area but still very affordable if you’re coming from somewhere more expensive, like the US.
What to Pack
The coffee region within the Andean mountains has variable weather. The temperature is mild all year round but you can also expect frequent rain. With rain, comes mud. You can expect a good amount of mud on the trails, even if it’s just a few patches here and there. Come prepared with a good pair of hiking boots. I like a pair that can double as shoes to wear around town as well as get you through those impromptu hikes when traveling, like these.
A good day pack is always handy too and will be good for all your travels! We always take one like this so we can take it as a carry on/personal item and then empty it at the hotel to use for day hiking.
The temperature is mild but if the sun comes up it can be warm. I wore shorts with layers on top that I could easily shed and it worked well. I love these shorts, this pullover, and these UPF 50 shirts!
In addition, you’ll also want plenty of water and some snacks. It can be pretty humid and hot if the sun peeks out. We love large stainless steel water bottles that we can just refill throughout our travels like the popular Owala bottles (they really are that great!). I’ll throw everything in this backpack which also holds our camera and camera gear.
Cocora Valley Day Trips
The Cocora Valley is a place you must have on your Colombia itinerary. This is one of the few areas of the world where you can enjoy the famous wax palms, hike in the Andes, and then enjoy fresh, Colombian coffee afterwards! No matter whether you are more of an adventure-seeker or prefer to stay indoors, you won’t regret hiking the Cocora Valley. As long as you have an idea of what to expect and are well prepared, you can conquer this hike and enjoy the breathtaking views.
If this post has been helpful, leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!