Valle de Cocora Hike: Palm Trees & More

The market in Silvia had been interesting, and learning salsa in Cali had been fun, but after a week in Colombia, I hadn’t fallen in love with the country as so many other visitors do. Until I went on my Valle de Cocora hike in Salento…


After a three hour bus ride along winding roads, I reached the tiny town of Salento. I instantly fell under its spell. The main square is charming, with palm trees and outdoor seats with people eating local dishes. The nearby viewpoint offers glimpses of the mountains. Add in a cosy hostel with some friendly new people to meet, and Salento quickly became one of my favourite little South American towns.


Salento town square

Salento town square


I spent my time here with some new friends: Erik from the Netherlands, Anne from Germany, and Ewan from the UK. Adam had opted to head off by himself for a week to explore San Agustin and Bogota- I think I chose the better of the two trips!


My new crew and I spent a couple of days eating massive meals, taking in the admittedly not great nightlife, and relaxing in hammocks drinking local coffee. We then headed off early one morning on our Valle de Cocora hike, in search of the giant palm trees.


View of Salento from viewpoint

The town of Salento


The Valle de Cocora Hike


Jeeps leave the main square at 9:30 am. Frustratingly, while other jeeps left promptly (well, promptly by Colombian standards), ours struggled to fill up with passengers. Finally we were full (two people crammed in the front, six on benches in the back, and two standing at the back holding on to the roof). So we took off, and made it to the start of the trail in just over half an hour (the journey cost us each COP3,400).


Gaucho riding horse in field

A gaucho we passed on the trail

With a very basic map to follow (a single black line on a blank page given to us by our hostel), our little group set off on our Valle de Cocora hike. The surroundings quickly changed from rolling hills and palm trees to a jungle setting (thankfully without the jungle heat and humidity). Rickety bridges took us across shallow streams, and the trail rose up and down to take us through the mountains.


Man on rope bridge over stream in jungle Salento

Ewan crossing a stream


A highlight along the way was Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary. Here, we relaxed with bowls of coffee and watched an amazing collection of hummingbirds flutter around us. The entrance fee for Acaime is COP4,000, and this includes a drink and a slice of cheese.


A hummingbird in Acaime

A hummingbird in Acaime


After our break, we continued our Valle de Cocora hike. The second half of the loop proved to be harder than the first. The trail led us steeply uphill, and we were exhausted by the time we reached the top. But we were rewarded for our effort by the view of beautiful sunlit mountains, and the giant palm trees for which the valley is famous.


Valle de Cocora hike

Valle de Cocora


The giant palm trees  of Valle de Cocora, Salento

The giant palm trees


The final stretch took us back to where we started, walking among the bases of the huge trees. Though the day had been cloudy, the rain held off until we were safely tucked up back in Salento, rounding off the day with another huge meal and celebratory beer.



My Salento crew

My Salento crew


Erik is in this photo somewhere!

Erik is in this photo somewhere!


If you’re looking for hiking in Colombia, then I massively recommend the Valle de Cocora hike. It’s accessible, scenic, and you get to see hummingbirds! What a perfect day!

What’s that? More hummingbirds? Okay! 


Salento (30 of 69)


Salento (38 of 69)


Salento (43 of 69)


Salento (31 of 69)


Also, a big bug eating a tarantula

Also, a big bug eating a tarantula

Looking for more great places to hike in South America? Then check out the beautiful Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador, or the spectacular El Chalten in Argentina.

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