TLDR? Cocora Valley is a popular tourist destination and weekend getaway from Medellin.
Colombia has several ecological treasures, making it a great place to live or visit. However, the Cocora Valley is one that thousands of people flock to each year to get a glimpse of the country’s natural beauty.
If you’ve touched down in Medellin or Bogotá, you’ll likely have heard of this place. But how do you get there? And is it worth going to?
In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about the Cocora Valley. Ready? Let’s pack for your next adventure!
What is Cocora Valley Known For?
Part of Los Nevados National Natural Park, Cocora Valley is famous for being home to the tallest palm trees in the world. The Quindio wax palms (Ceroxylon quindiuense) can grow up to 60m tall and live for over 200 years!
The national park status means that the area surrounding the valley is protected, which has helped to keep the landscape relatively untouched. The area is also popular with birdwatchers, as there are over hundreds of species of birds that have been spotted in the park.
Visitors can get a chance to see a variety of hummingbirds, Yellow-eared parrots, and the Andean Condor. In addition, you might get a chance to see sloths, Andean Beer, and even the occasional jaguar!
For activities, the Cocora Valley is a great place for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. In addition, thrill-seekers can take part in rafting, and scenic flights can be arranged to get a bird’s eye view of the valley.
Restaurants near the valley specialize in trout dishes due to the large trout farm located just outside the park.
Sound pretty awesome, right? Well, in order to enjoy it, you have to get there first! So read on as we take a look at how you can make your way to this natural wonder.
Getting to the Cocora Valley
The Cocora Valley is located in the department of Quindio, which is in the center-west region of Colombia. Therefore, the closest town visitors will need to head to is Salento, about a 5-hour drive from Bogota or a 7-8 hour drive from Medellin.
However, if you live in Pereira, then you’re an hour’s drive away! So, now that you have arrived in Salento, it’s time to take a ride to the Cocora Valley.
Before you go, here are some essentials to bring with you:
A hat or sunglasses
Plenty of water
Cash for drinks, snacks, or souvenirs
First Aid kit (optional)
Get a Willy at the Plaza
The first step in getting to Cocora Valley from Salento is to take a jeep taxi. These jeeps have seating added to the back to fit more people, and they’re the primary mode of transportation in the area.
You may have seen in Jardin or Guatape that you take moto-taxis everywhere. But in Salento, they use jeeps! To get a jeep, you will need to go to the main plaza in Salento and look for one with enough room to take you.
The jeeps leave starting at 6:30 am and leave every hour on the hour. They’ll pack as many people in the back as possible, so don’t be surprised if you’re squished in like sardines.
It’s important to note that the ticket you buy in Salento is a round-trip ticket. But, be sure to keep your ticket because you’ll need it to get back on the jeep on your return trip!
20-Minute Ride to Cocora Valley Entrance
You’ll take an adventurous (but possibly uncomfortable) 20-minute ride up to the entrance of Cocora Valley. The road is paved, so it isn’t too bad unless you are riding on the back of the jeep.
The jeep will drop you off at the exit of the park. From there, you have three hiking loops to choose from.
Full Loop (Clockwise)
In order to take the full loop clockwise, you will need to walk up the road until you reach the vendors. Once there, you will see the signs for the full loop.
This route (6.5 miles or 10.2 km) will take you to the palm trees first. Then you will reach Finca La Montaña, which is the highest part of the hike.
From there, you will take a steep decline back to the road.
Full Loop (Counterwise)
The other option is to walk through the blue gate where Willy dropped you off and head towards the Finca La Montaña.
While this route has a steep pitch, it may be better to do it during the rainy season. However, going down the clockwise route may be slippery and dangerous if it has recently rained.
Plus, saving the palm trees for last is a great way to end your hike!
During the hike, you will go through vast jungle areas, cross rivers, and see some of the most incredible views. The flora and fauna are also something to behold!
Your last option is to take the in-and-out hike, which is the small loop. On this route, you will see the palm trees and a few lookout points.
This is a great option if you are short on time or not feeling up for a longer hike.
Although the small loop doesn’t give you the full experience of the valley, it’s still an amazing hike with incredible views.
In total, the small loop will take 2 hours or so, while the full loop will take 4-5 hours.
Take In the Views
You’ll be blown away by the views no matter what trail you take. The valley and palm trees are unlike anything you have ever seen.
It’s important to know that there will be a ton of people taking pictures and selfies. So, if you want that perfect Instagram shot, you need to be patient.
The best time to take photos is in the morning when the lighting is perfect, and there aren’t as many people around.
If you can, go early during the week to help avoid the crowds. However, you’ll find that Salento receives a lot of tourists, so don’t be surprised if the trails are packed!
Horseback Rides Are Available
At the palm trees, you will have the option to take a horseback ride. This is a great way to see the valley if you don’t want to hike.
The rides vary in cost depending on how long you want to go. But, it’s a fun activity for the whole family. If not, you will take a jeep back to Salento, where you started!
What is the Weather Like in Cocora Valley?
Due to its high altitude, Cocora Valley has a temperate climate. You can expect the mid-70s during the day and the 50s at night.
However, the valley is known for its frequent rain showers. So, it’s important to pack a rain jacket just in case!
The best time to visit is between December and March or July and September. This is when you can expect the least amount of rainfall.
If you do visit during the rainy season (April-June and September-November), then be careful on the trails. They can get muddy and slippery.
Plus, a rain jacket is a must during this time!
Is Cocora Valley Worth Going to?
If you have time and like to explore, then yes, Cocora Valley is worth going to! Although it may be crowded at times, the valley provides a one-of-a-kind experience.
You’ll be blown away by the palm trees, views, and horseback riding options. But if you don’t have a lot of time in Colombia, then you may want to skip it.
Colombia is a big country with several amazing places to see. So, don’t feel like you need to do everything!
Lastly, it will also depend on your tolerance for tourists. If you want an authentic experience, then you may want to avoid popular places like Salento or Cocora Valley.