Hola viajeros! Welcome to my destination guide on the incredible Cocora Valley in Colombia. My name is Andre and I’m an Ecuadorian backpacker, ambassador of Couchsurfing, travel photographer and digital nomad.
I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. My passion for traveling around the world was first sparked when I finished my postgraduate degree in Girona, Spain. Over there I began this traveling lifestyle around Europe – and then I returned to Ecuador and backpacked around my own country.
In 2020, I started a journey to Peru, Bolivia and Argentina (I had my flights all booked) but then the pandemic hit and I got stuck in Cordoba, Argentina. However, I loved that experience! I have some really good friends there. I also managed to find a job and went exploring in the area.
As the New Year arrived, I made my way to Brazil. I spent six amazing months in Brazil and then headed to Uruguay and Paraguay. After my passport expired, I planned to visit Colombia and the coastline, mountains, cities, colorful towns and everything else this country has to offer – before returning to my country of Ecuador. All in all, it was an epic trip!
For me traveling is the best thing you can do, especially when there is purpose behind it. Nothing is better than waking up in a new country, grabbing your daypack, exchanging travel experiences and discovering amazing sights. I have met so many awesome people on my travels by just throwing plans to the wayside for a bit, chilling out and going with the flow.
Visiting Cocora Valley for the First Time
I visited Cocora Valley because I wanted to explore this type of landscape that has only been open to tourism for a few short years. I wanted to show people that paradise on earth does exist! With the wax palm trees as the protagonists (the national tree of the country), this place is one of the most impressive corners of Colombia and a unique place in the world.
But the wax palms aren’t the only highlight of Cocora Valley. Discovering this place is done by walking along the paths of the Quindio River, crossing several hanging bridges, entering the jungle, eating while humming birds sing and touching the mystical clouds between the mountains.
Funnily enough, at first we didn’t even plan on visiting this part of Colombia. I had doubts if it was worth traveling here just to see a park with palm trees, no matter how beautiful the view was. Now I’m really happy that I changed my route at the last minute and visited both Salento and Cocora Valley. I believe they are two essential visits if you travel to Colombia, especially if you plan on spending a few quality days in the coffee region.
Salento and Adventures with Willys Jeep
I used Couchsurfing in Salento with my friend from Guatemala, who I met in Guatape. We arrived in the evening as we visited Filandia in the morning. When we arrived at about 5pm, we immediately went to watch the sunset.
After walking on a series of steps, we could see the point of the village which is located in a small wooden house that offers a wonderful view over the entire green valley of the coffee region in Salento. This place is open until late but it’s advisable to arrive before dark, just as a security measure.
To experience Cocora Valley to the max from Salento the best way is to go with Willys Jeeps. They leave from the main square of Salento. Our one-way trip cost us about 4,000 pesos. It’s advisable to go early to make the most of the day. It gets dark early and first thing in the morning you have a better chance of having good weather and visibility. Cocora Valley is a place where it rains a lot and where fog sometimes rolls in, so keep that in mind.
Cocora Valley, Home to Quindio Wax Palms
Cocora Valley is located in the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes (in the heart of the coffee region) and is one of the most special places in Colombia. In this place grows the Quindio Wax Palm, the national tree. The unique landscapes here can’t be seen anywhere else on earth.
These trees reach 60 meters high and only grow at an altitude of between 1,500 and 3,000 meters above sea level. It’s very curious to see “palm trees”, more typical of coastal areas, at this high point. The landscape of the very green valley with the wax palms rising so high is one of those images that has stuck with me the most from my trip to Colombia. It’s so iconic!
My Best Experience at Cocora Valley
The day we visited Cocora Valley, we arrived with jeeps and saw very few people. Despite the fact that Colombia still receives very little tourism, I was surprised that there were so few people visiting such an incredible place. This will surely change in the coming years with the arrival of more tourism that the country will undoubtedly have, in parallel with increased security.
As soon as you arrive at the entrance of the park, you will find several paths that you can follow. The one that is the most common (and that most people follow) is on the right hand side as soon as you arrive with the jeeps.
This circuit takes you to Reserva Natural Acaime where the house of the humming birds is situated (the Finca la Montaña) and ends at Cocora Valley. The tour takes you through various paths, hanging bridges, streams, forests, mountains with viewpoints, and allows you to enjoy the nature of the park and the beautiful landscapes that Cocora Valley has to offer.
The only place where you have to pay admission is at Reserva Natural Acaime. This admission is paid to see the humming birds and used for maintenance. You pay 5,000 pesos and they give you a drink of coffee or lemonade with panela, and the house specialty – chocolate with cheese.
Need to Know Before you Go
First of all, Cocora Valley is located in the Department of Quindio which belongs to “Eje Cafetero” (the Colombian Coffee Growing Axis). Therefore, if your plan is to visit Cocora Valley you should take into account that the altitude is high (between 1,800 and 2,400 meters), it can get quite cold (the annual average temperature is 15 degrees) and that it rains regularly.
I suggest bringing a raincoat of some sort and a warm jumper. It’s also necessary to wear sports shoes and bring plenty of water. Additionally, some snacks are a good idea. However, there are several restaurants in the valley where you can enjoy a good trout. We had lunch already prepared for us. Many hotels in Salento can prepare lunch for you, which is a nice touch.