Guide to Hiking Cocora Valley, Colombia’s Wax Palms
Hiking Cocora Valley was one of the highlights of our trip to Colombia. In Cocora Valley you will find Colombia’s Wax Palms, which can grow up to 200 feet tall and are the tallest palm trees in the world. The Cocora Valley hike takes about 5 hours, and the hike has a valley of palms, a forest, a river, and so many incredible views. The scenery changes throughout the hike from open valleys to a lush forest. Follow this guide to hiking Cocora Valley and seeing Colombia’s famous wax palms.
Where to Stay Near Cocora Valley
Cocora Valley is about a 30 minute jeep ride from the town of Salento. If you are planning to visit Cocora Valley, Salento is a great place to stay. The town is colorful and relaxing, with lots of restaurants and shops. There are many hostels, guesthouses, and small hotels in Salento, which you can reserve on booking.com. Continue to our two days in Salento guide for more information on where to stay and how to get to Salento.
How to Get From Salento to Cocora Valley and Back
The best way to get to Cocora Valley from Salento is to take a Jeep (also called a Willy) from Plaza de Bolivar in Salento which takes 30 min. The jeeps start at 6 am and leave every hour or when full. Typically around 8:30 am and later they start to get full fast so they leave very often. The jeeps cost 3K Colombian Pesos per person each way and you can purchase your ticket in the small ticket booth next to the jeeps in the main square in Salento. They try to get as many people into the Jeep and as possible, including having 3 people stand on the back of the Jeep. If the only spots left are on the back of the jeep and you don’t feel comfortable, just ask to go on the next jeep.
To get back from Cocora Valley back to Salento you will find a line behind the information booth near where the Jeep dropped you off. In the afternoon the jeeps come often and they leave when they are full. At about 4 pm we had to wait about 20 minutes since there were a lot of people ahead of us.
What to Pack for Hiking Cocora Valley
- Sneakers or Hiking Boots: We hiked with sneakers because we didn’t have enough space in our luggage for hiking boots, and it wasn’t a problem at all. When we hiked it was dry so sneakers were fine.
- Water: Make sure you bring plenty of water with you for the long hike.
- Snacks: The hike can take about 5 hours, so make sure you bring snacks with you. Some people bring a lunch, but as long as you eat a good breakfast I don’t think it is necessary to carry a lot of food with you.
- Bug Spray: There are a lot of mosquitos when you are walking by the river, so make sure you have bug spray with you.
- Sunscreen: Since you are at a higher elevation the sun is strong here. Make sure to bring sunscreen with you so you can reapply
- Sunglasses: It can get bright so bring sunglasses so you are not squinting in the photos!
- Rain Jacket: In Cocora Valley the weather can change at any point, so make sure to bring a rain jacket with you just incase.
- Camera: Don’t forget your camera to capture all the incredible views.
- Cash: You will need cash to pay for the jeeps, entrance fee for the hike, and additional fee towards the end of the hike.
Where to Start the Cocora Valley Hike: Clockwise or Counterclockwise
I recommend hiking Cocora Valley clockwise. Hiking this direction is more enjoyable and you get to the valley of palms early instead of when you are already tired and ready to finish the hike. If you hike Cocora Valley clockwise the hike will start with a climb but it is on a paved trail so it makes it easier to enjoy the views while you hike. In order to start the hike clockwise you will continue walking straight up the dirt where the jeep drops you off for about 10 minutes until you reach the entrance on your right marked by a small hut. Here you will pay a small fee when you start the hike, and again later towards the end of the hike there is another small fee point.
The reason I don’t recommend hiking Cocora Valley counter clockwise is because this side has a lot of horse poop, big rocks, mud, and a river which makes it already difficult to hike down, and hiking up this part wouldn’t be fun. By the time you get to the valley of the palms, the prettiest part of the hike, you will be exhausted and won’t be able to enjoy it as much. Either way you are hiking up the same elevation and either way it is a great workout, so there is no need to hike counterclockwise.
Forest of Palms
If you hike Cocora Valley clockwise, you will hike uphill for 1 km from the official entrance to the forest of palms. The views here are breathtaking, so take your time enjoying it and get close to the palm trees to experience how tall they are from up close. Note that there are a lot of horses here and therefore a lot of horse poop, so watch your step! When you continue hiking you will have another chance to hike back down a bit on the other side of the open valley. If you have the energy to hike down and back up from the other side of the valley, you will be able to get a different perspective and more nice pictures here. Note that if you do choose to hike down here it is a very, very steep climb back up. The first picture above is from this part.
As you continue hiking up you will get to see different viewpoints, or mirador, with varying perspectives of the valley and surrounding mountains. Take the time to stop at the viewpoints in Cocora Valley.
Hike Along a River
As you hike down you will get to the wetter part of the hike as you are hiking along a river. Here you will see several interesting makeshift bridges that you will need to cross. Note that this part of the hike had a lot of horse poop so watch your step.
Pasture and Valley
In the final part of the hike the forest clears and you will be walking through a pasture. Here if you look to the right you will see the wax palms towering over the rest of the forest that you just hiked through.
I hope this guide to hiking Cocora Valley was helpful! If you have any questions feel free to comment below and I will be happy to answer. Have a great hike!
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