Nestled in the central range of Colombia’s Andes Mountains lies the incredible Cocora Valley. One of the country’s top touristic destinations, it is home to the tallest palm tree in the world: the wax palm. Here you will discover why this place is a must-see on your Colombian vacation.
The Cocora Valley is in the municipality of Salento, in the department of Quindío. It serves as an entry point to the National Natural Park Los Nevados, which encloses some of Colombia’s remaining snow-capped peaks. Transportation to the valley — usually 4×4 vehicles — is available at the town square at different times throughout the day.
Cocora’s ecosystem is the Andean misty forest. Its temperature ranges from 41 to 60 °F. It is dry from December to February, as well as during July and August. Rain usually takes over in April, May, October, and November.
The area holds a special place in the heart of locals because it is the birthplace of Colombia’s national tree, the wax palm. This species of palm tree is the world’s tallest, reaching up to 197 feet. The sight of green hills adorned with wax palms, against a background of misty mountains, makes the Cocora Valley a nationwide star location for photographs.
The most popular activities in the valley are hiking, horseback rides, and viewing the wax palm fields.
There are different routes available when hiking the Cocora Valley. Choose one depending on how much time you have and your physical performance.
If your visit is on the shorter side, or you are not particularly fit, this is the one for you. You will see the palm trees in all their glory, reaching up to the sky. It takes about 30 minutes from the start of the trailhead.
The usual way of exploring the premises takes an average of five hours. You can either go clockwise or counterclockwise. The first takes you to the palm valley first, while the latter saves the star of the show for last.
Either way, the full route takes you through both farmland and the forest, as well as creeks. There are various uphill sections that can pose a challenge but will reward you with gorgeous views of the valley.
Horseback rides are also available for travelers who don’t have a lot of time, or who have a physical disadvantage.
When packing to explore the Cocora Valley, do not forget these essentials:
The town of Salento itself is an excellent destination in the Colombian Coffee Triangle. It is a colonial town of colorful homes, small streets, and friendly people.
Salento is a top location for taking a coffee tour. There are several coffee farms nearby that offer outstanding guided visits. You will learn about the production process straight from the source. And, naturally, indulge in a cup of the best coffee in the world.
Now, if a good plate of hearty food is what you are after, Salento has you covered. The typical, most sought-out local dish is rainbow trout. It comes in many styles — with garlic, herbs, almonds, and more — with sides of white rice, fried plantain tortillas, and salad. Other local favorites are the infamous bandeja paisa, the montañero stew, and sancocho.
The town also offers some incredible views of the Cocora Valley and its surroundings. The best lookout sits at the top of a 238-step stairway, at the end of the Calle Real, or Royal Street. The road also offers the opportunity to see some local crafts such as coffee bean bracelets, weavings, and plant-fiber items for the home.
The valley is, without a doubt, one of Colombia’s most enchanting destinations. Be sure not to miss it!
If you need help or guidance with the planning process of your trip to Colombia, don´t hesitate to contact us. We have a team of travel experts looking forward to help you have the best holiday of your life.