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Hiking & Visiting Salento’s Cocora Valley Colombia


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Aura Chapman



Welcome to Salento’s Cocora Valley, a breathtaking natural wonderland nestled in the heart of Colombia. With its towering wax palm trees, lush green landscapes, and magnificent hiking trails, this picturesque valley is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.


Located in the Quindio department, Salento is a charming town known for its colorful architecture, traditional coffee farms, and warm hospitality. Just a short distance from the town center lies the Cocora Valley, a hidden gem that attracts visitors from around the world.


The Cocora Valley is famous for its iconic wax palm trees, which can reach staggering heights of up to 60 meters. These slender trees, considered Colombia’s national tree, create a surreal and ethereal atmosphere, as if stepping into a fairytale.


Besides its striking beauty, the Cocora Valley offers a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, birdwatching, and horseback riding. Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline-pumping adventure or a peaceful retreat into nature, this valley has something for everyone.


Throughout this article, we will guide you through the enchanting Cocora Valley, sharing essential information about how to get there, the best hiking trails to explore, the rich flora and fauna you can encounter, and practical tips to make the most of your visit. So, put on your hiking boots and prepare to be amazed by the natural wonders of Salento’s Cocora Valley!


Getting to Salento

Getting to Salento is relatively easy, and there are several transportation options available depending on your starting point. The most common way to reach Salento is by flying into Armenia, the nearest major city, and then taking a bus or taxi to Salento. Armenia has its own international airport, El Edén International Airport, which receives flights from major Colombian cities and some international destinations.


From Armenia, you can take a shared Jeep, known as a “Willy,” to Salento. These iconic Willys are the main mode of transportation in the region and offer a unique and bumpy ride through the scenic countryside. The journey from Armenia to Salento takes around 45 minutes and offers stunning views of the surrounding coffee plantations and mountains.


If you prefer a more direct route, you can also take a taxi from Armenia to Salento. Taxis are readily available at the airport and provide a comfortable and convenient option, especially if you’re traveling with a lot of luggage.


Another option is to take a bus from the capital city, Bogota, or other major cities like Medellin or Cali. The buses are comfortable and provide a more affordable way to reach Salento, although the journey may be longer, especially from Bogota.


Once you arrive in Salento, the town can easily be explored on foot. It’s a small and pedestrian-friendly town with colorful streets and charming colonial architecture. You’ll find the central plaza, known as the Plaza de Bolivar, surrounded by shops, restaurants, and coffee houses, where you can immerse yourself in the local culture and indulge in a cup of Colombia’s famous coffee.


Overall, reaching Salento is a delightful adventure in itself, as you wind through the picturesque landscapes and absorb the beauty of the Colombian countryside. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey to Salento, the gateway to the enchanting Cocora Valley.


Exploring the Cocora Valley

Once you arrive in Salento, it’s time to embark on an unforgettable journey through the breathtaking Cocora Valley. The valley is easily accessible from the town, and there are various ways to explore its natural wonders.


One of the most popular activities in the Cocora Valley is hiking. There are several well-marked trails that cater to different fitness levels and time constraints. The most famous trail is the Los Nevados Route, which takes you on a 6 to 8-hour adventure through lush forests, across suspension bridges, and up to the ridge line offering panoramic views of the valley and the towering wax palms.


If you’re short on time or prefer a less strenuous hike, the Acaime Reserve trail is a great option. This 1 to 2-hour hike takes you to a hummingbird sanctuary, where you can marvel at a variety of colorful hummingbirds amidst the lush greenery. It’s a perfect spot for birdwatching enthusiasts and those looking for a tranquil experience in nature.


For those seeking a more immersive experience, horseback riding is a popular activity in the Cocora Valley. You can rent horses in Salento and explore the valley’s scenic trails with the assistance of a local guide. It’s a fantastic way to cover more ground while enjoying the beauty of the surroundings from a different perspective.


Another must-do activity in the Cocora Valley is taking a jeep tour. You can hop on one of the iconic Willys and venture deeper into the valley, visiting hidden gems like the Quindio River, La Estrella Waterfall, or the Finca Montaña Oscura, a coffee farm where you can learn about the art of coffee production.


As you explore the Cocora Valley, keep an eye out for the famous wax palm trees. These towering giants are a symbol of Colombia’s natural heritage and are a sight to behold. With their slender trunks rising high into the sky, they create a majestic backdrop against the emerald green landscape.


Whether you choose to hike, ride a horse, or take a jeep tour, exploring the Cocora Valley is an adventure that will leave you in awe of Colombia’s natural beauty. It’s an opportunity to disconnect from everyday life, reconnect with nature, and create lasting memories in this stunning and tranquil environment.


Hiking Trails in the Cocora Valley

The Cocora Valley offers a range of hiking trails that showcase the unparalleled beauty of the Colombian countryside. With options suitable for all fitness levels and preferences, hikers of any experience can immerse themselves in the breathtaking landscapes and unique ecosystems of the valley.


One of the most popular trails in the Cocora Valley is the Los Nevados Route. This challenging 6 to 8-hour hike takes you through dense forests, across hanging bridges, and up to the ridge line offering panoramic views of the valley. The trail allows you to get up close and personal with the iconic wax palm trees and provides plenty of opportunities to photograph the surreal landscapes along the way. Be prepared for steep inclines and uneven terrain, and make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for the journey.


If you’re short on time or prefer a more leisurely hike, the Acaime Reserve trail is a great option. This 1 to 2-hour hike takes you through the cloud forest to the Acaime Reserve, where you can observe a variety of colorful hummingbirds and learn about their behavior from knowledgeable guides. The trail is well-paved and relatively easy, making it suitable for families and those looking for a more relaxed hiking experience.


For a unique perspective of the valley, consider hiking the Alto de la Cruz trail. This 2 to 3-hour hike takes you up to a viewpoint that offers panoramic views of the entire Cocora Valley. As you ascend the trail, you’ll encounter different types of vegetation and encounter a wide variety of bird species. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with awe-inspiring vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see.


For the more adventurous hikers, the La Montaña trail is a challenging yet rewarding option. This 5 to 6-hour hike takes you up to an elevation of 3,700 meters, providing stunning views of the valley below. Along the trail, you’ll pass through cloud forests, cross rivers, and witness the incredible biodiversity of the region. This hike requires a good level of fitness and stamina, as you’ll be navigating steep slopes and enduring changes in altitude.


Remember to bring appropriate hiking gear, such as sturdy shoes, sun protection, and plenty of water. It’s also advisable to hike in a group or with a knowledgeable guide who can provide assistance and insights into the flora and fauna you encounter along the way.


Whether you choose a challenging all-day trek or a leisurely stroll through the cloud forest, hiking in the Cocora Valley is a truly immersive and awe-inspiring experience. The trails offer a glimpse into Colombia’s natural wonders and provide an opportunity to connect with the rich biodiversity and stunning landscapes that make this region so unique.


Flora and Fauna in the Cocora Valley

The Cocora Valley is not only renowned for its towering wax palm trees but also for its abundant and diverse flora and fauna. This unique ecosystem is home to a wide range of plant species and supports a rich variety of wildlife.


One of the most iconic and striking features of the Cocora Valley is the wax palm tree. These majestic giants, reaching heights of up to 60 meters, dominate the landscape and create a surreal and ethereal ambiance. With their slender trunks and feathery leaves, they stand as a symbol of Colombia’s natural heritage. It’s estimated that there are over 7,000 wax palms in the valley, making it the largest palm forest in the world.


Besides the wax palms, the valley is teeming with other plant species that flourish in the cloud forest environment. The cloud forest is characterized by its high humidity and misty conditions, creating an ideal habitat for a diverse range of flora. Mosses, ferns, orchids, and bromeliads are just a few examples of the fascinating plant life you can encounter while exploring the trails of the Cocora Valley.


As for the fauna, the Cocora Valley is home to a variety of bird species, making it a paradise for birdwatchers. The cloud forest provides a vital habitat for numerous bird species, including hummingbirds, woodpeckers, toucans, and the vibrant Andean cock-of-the-rock. Birdwatching enthusiasts will have the opportunity to spot and admire these colorful creatures as they flit from tree to tree.


In addition to the avian residents, the valley is also inhabited by diverse mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Squirrels, spectacled bears, pumas, and even the endangered ocelot can be found in the area. Reptiles such as snakes and lizards are also part of the valley’s biodiversity, along with various frog and toad species that add a symphony of croaks to the surroundings.


The Cocora Valley’s rich biodiversity and unique ecosystem have led to its classification as a protected area. To ensure the preservation of the valley’s flora and fauna, it’s important to practice responsible tourism and follow the guidelines set by local authorities. This includes staying on designated trails, not feeding or disturbing wildlife, and respecting the natural environment.


Exploring the flora and fauna of the Cocora Valley is an incredible opportunity to connect with nature and appreciate the intricate web of life that exists in this remarkable Colombian landscape. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, photographer, or simply someone seeking a serene and captivating experience, the valley’s biodiversity is sure to leave a lasting impression.


Local Guides and Tours

When visiting the Cocora Valley, enlisting the services of a local guide or joining a guided tour can greatly enhance your experience and provide valuable insights into the region’s culture, history, and natural wonders.


Local guides are experts who possess in-depth knowledge of the Cocora Valley and its surroundings. They can offer valuable information about the flora and fauna, share fascinating stories and legends, and provide guidance on the best trails and viewpoints to explore. Their expertise can help you make the most of your visit and ensure a safe and enriching experience.


Guided tours often include transportation from Salento to the Cocora Valley and provide a hassle-free way to explore the area. These tours may be conducted on foot, by horseback, or in a jeep, depending on the chosen itinerary. They typically offer a mix of hiking, sightseeing, and opportunities to interact with local communities, giving you a well-rounded and immersive experience of the valley.


By hiring a local guide or joining a guided tour, you not only support the local economy but also have the chance to engage with the community on a deeper level. Local guides often belong to indigenous or rural communities in the area, and they share their ancestral knowledge and personal experiences, giving you a unique perspective on the region’s history and culture.


When choosing a local guide or tour operator, it’s important to consider their reputation, experience, and commitment to sustainable tourism practices. Look for guides or companies that prioritize environmental conservation, respect for local communities, and responsible tourism. This ensures that your visit contributes positively to the preservation of the Cocora Valley and its ecosystem.


Whether you opt for a private guide or a group tour, having a knowledgeable local by your side adds depth and context to your exploration. They can point out hidden gems, explain the significance of certain landmarks, and share interesting anecdotes about the valley and its inhabitants. Their expertise and passion for the region create a more enriching and memorable experience.


By engaging with local guides and joining guided tours, you not only gain a deeper understanding of the Cocora Valley but also support the local community and contribute to sustainable tourism in the region. So, consider adding this valuable dimension to your visit and let the expertise and hospitality of the local guides enhance your journey.


Practical Tips for Visiting the Cocora Valley

Visiting the Cocora Valley requires a bit of planning to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here are some practical tips to help you make the most of your visit:

  1. Choose the right time to visit: The Cocora Valley is beautiful year-round, but it’s important to consider the weather and crowds. The dry season, from December to March, is ideal for hiking as trails are less muddy. However, this is also peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds. If you prefer fewer visitors and don’t mind a bit of rain, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons.
  2. Dress appropriately: The weather in the Cocora Valley can be unpredictable, so it’s essential to dress in layers and be prepared for various conditions. Wear comfortable hiking shoes, bring rain gear, and don’t forget sun protection like a hat and sunscreen.
  3. Stay hydrated: Hiking in the Cocora Valley can be physically demanding, so be sure to bring plenty of water and stay hydrated throughout your adventure. It’s recommended to bring a reusable water bottle to minimize waste.
  4. Pack snacks: While there are a few spots to eat in the Cocora Valley, it’s always a good idea to bring some snacks to keep your energy levels up during your hike. Opt for lightweight and nutritious options such as granola bars, fruits, and trail mix.
  5. Follow trail regulations: To protect the natural environment and ensure everyone’s safety, it’s important to stay on designated trails and follow any regulations provided by local authorities and guides. Avoid venturing off the marked paths and respect any signage or barriers in place.
  6. Bring cash: While some businesses in Salento and the Cocora Valley accept credit cards, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand for small purchases, local markets, and tips for guides or tour operators.
  7. Respect the local culture and environment: The Cocora Valley is not only a natural wonder but also a place with cultural significance to the local communities. Respect the environment by avoiding littering and taking any garbage with you. Additionally, respect the local customs and traditions, and be mindful of the local residents when visiting the valley.
  8. Capture memories responsibly: When taking photos in the Cocora Valley, be mindful of the surroundings and the privacy of others. Avoid disturbing wildlife and be cautious when using drones, as regulations may restrict their use in the area.
  9. Be prepared for limited phone reception: Due to the valley’s remote location, cell phone reception can be limited or non-existent in certain areas. It’s a good idea to inform someone of your plans and expected return time before venturing into the valley.
  10. Support local businesses: Salento and the Cocora Valley are home to many small businesses, such as cafes, souvenir shops, and guesthouses. Support the local economy by patronizing these establishments and purchasing locally made products.

By following these practical tips, you’ll be well-prepared for your visit to the Cocora Valley. Remember to embrace the beauty of the scenery, respect the environment and local community, and enjoy every moment in this stunning Colombian natural wonderland.



The Cocora Valley in Salento, Colombia, is a treasure trove of natural beauty and adventure. From the towering wax palm trees to the lush cloud forests and mesmerizing hiking trails, this valley offers a captivating experience for nature enthusiasts and explorers.


Throughout your visit to Salento’s Cocora Valley, you’ll be immersed in breathtaking landscapes, encounter unique flora and fauna, and have the opportunity to connect with the rich cultural heritage of the region. Whether you’re hiking along the Los Nevados Route, observing colorful hummingbirds in the Acaime Reserve, or horseback riding through the valley, every moment spent here is filled with awe and wonder.


By supporting local guides and tour operators, you can gain a deeper understanding of the Cocora Valley’s natural and cultural significance. These experts will accompany you on your journey, providing valuable insights, ensuring your safety, and enhancing your overall experience.


As you explore the hiking trails, keep in mind the importance of responsible tourism. Stay on designated paths, respect the environment, and engage with the local community in a respectful and considerate manner. By doing so, you contribute to the preservation of this pristine ecosystem and the wellbeing of the people who call it home.


Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a nature lover, or simply seeking a serene escape, the Cocora Valley is sure to captivate your heart. So, lace up your hiking boots, embrace the spirit of exploration, and allow yourself to be swept away by the enchanting beauty of Salento’s Cocora Valley.