4° 55′ 0″ N, 76° 2′ 0″ W
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HIKING THE VALLE DE COCORA (COCORA VALLEY) LOOP TRAIL. INCLUDING, HOW LONG IT TAKES, WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU, AND WHAT TO EXPECT ALONG THE WAY.
Sitting in the central region of Colombia is a lush forest so magical that it became the setting for a Disney movie (looking at you Encanto). Valle de Cocora, or Cocora Valle in English, is pretty well-known; in fact, it is the second most visited destination in Colombia after the historical Caribbean city of Cartagena. The main draw of the valley, besides its natural beauty, is its towering wax palms - which happen to be the tallest palm trees in the world.
We have been lucky enough to visit Valle de Cocora a couple of times, and no matter how many times we explore the area, we are still always in awe of the crazy, Dr. Seuss-like palm trees that cover the surrounding mountains. Due to the Valley's popularity, there are numerous ways to check out the palms and the surrounding area. But we believe one of the best ways to explore the valley is to take on the full Valle de Cocora Loop Trail.
This lop hike will take you not only through the famous valley full of gigantic palm trees, but also through the thick jungle, along the rushing Quindio River and across lush, open meadows. If you are looking for an amazing Colombian adventure - then we highly recommend this hiking trail. And below you will find everything you need to know to take it on.
🗣 WHAT'S IN A NAME?
The name Cocora actually comes from a Quimbayan princess who was the daughter of the local chief Acaime. The Valle de Cocora, or Cocora Valley in English, was put aside for conservation in 1985 in hopes of curbing the exploitation of the endemic wax palm, as well as the threats against the species that were dependent on the palm. The biggest threats against the trees were the felling of the palms to make candle wax or to use the palm fronds for Palm Sunday festivities, overharvesting, disease and habitat loss.
HIKING THE VALLE DE COCORA LOOP IN COLOMBIA
\\ Where is Valle de Cocora?
The Valle de Cocora is located in central Colombia in the eje cafetero region. It sits on the western slope of the second of the three mountain ranges (cordillas) that cross the entire country. The large valley is part of the much larger Los Nevados National Park, one of the premier national parks in all of Colombia. The entrance of Valle de Cocora sits at an elevation of 1800 meters (5,905 feet) while the highest point sits at an elevation 2400 meters (7,874 feet).
HOW TO GET TO VALLE DE COCORA
The Cocora Valley is located 11 kilometers from Salento - a small town in the mountains of central Colombia. The most common way to reach the Valle de Cocora is to take a Willy, a colorful, WWII era jeep.
You can find the Willy jeeps in the main square in Salento. Just look for a line of them on the side opposite the large yellow church. Before hopping aboard one of the departing jeeps, you will first need to purchase your ticket - which you can do at a small white building next to the line of waiting Willy's.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: while the Willy’s can hold around 6-8 people, the drivers are usually fine adding a couple more people onto the back. So if you are feeling adventurous, we definitely recommend riding on the back of the jeep.
It takes about 20 minutes to go from Salento to Valle de Cocora. Once you arrive, the Willy’s will drop you off at a parking lot near the restaurants and shops that line the street near the entrance to the trail and the wider valley. This parking lot is also where you will pick the Willy's back up when you finish hiking.
| COST: it costs 4000 COP per person, per way; meaning it costs 8000 COP per person to go to Valle de Cocora and then back to Salento. You will pay the total price upfront in Salento.
| TIME: the first Willy departs the square at 6:30 AM and then again around every hour (unless it is really busy). The last Willy leaves Cocora Valley at 6 PM.
| FUEL UP: if you are looking to grab some food and coffee before heading out on the hike, we suggest stopping by Café de La Esquina, a local family run café, for some coffee and a quick breakfast. The café opens at 7 AM and is on the corner of Calle 5 and Calle Real (near the church).