Cocora Valley, located in the heart of the Colombian Andes, is one of the most picturesque and unique hiking destinations in South America. With its towering wax palm trees, lush green valleys, and breathtaking mountain views, Cocora Valley is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know to plan and enjoy an unforgettable hiking experience in Cocora Valley.
Getting to Cocora Valley
Cocora Valley is located in the Quindio department of Colombia, approximately 12 kilometers from the town of Salento. The closest major city is Pereira, which is located about 35 kilometers from Salento. If you’re flying into Colombia, the closest airport is Matecaña International Airport in Pereira.
Once you’ve arrived in Salento, you can take a jeep or a horseback ride to Cocora Valley. The jeep ride takes about 30-40 minutes and costs around 4,000-5,000 Colombian pesos ($1.50-$2 USD). The horseback ride takes about 2-3 hours and costs around 40,000-50,000 Colombian pesos ($15-$20 USD).
Choosing a Hiking Route
There are several hiking routes you can take in Cocora Valley, ranging from short and easy to long and challenging. Here are some of the most popular hiking routes:
a. Short Hike to the Viewpoint (1-2 Hours)
If you’re short on time or don’t want to do a long hike, you can take a short hike to the viewpoint overlooking the valley. This hike takes about 1-2 hours round trip and is relatively easy, with only a few steep sections. The viewpoint offers stunning panoramic views of the valley and the surrounding mountains.
b. Full Loop Hike (5-6 Hours)
The full loop hike is the most popular hiking route in Cocora Valley. It takes you through the heart of the valley, past the towering wax palm trees, and up into the mountains for breathtaking views. This hike is about 5-6 hours round trip and is moderately challenging, with some steep sections and rocky terrain.
c. Extended Hike to Acaime (7-8 Hours)
For a longer and more challenging hike, you can hike to Acaime, a hummingbird sanctuary located in the mountains above Cocora Valley. This hike takes about 7-8 hours round trip and is quite challenging, with steep ascents and descents and rocky terrain. However, the reward is well worth it – the hummingbirds at Acaime are a must-see for any nature lover.
What to Pack
When hiking in Cocora Valley, it’s important to pack appropriately for the weather and the terrain. Here are some essential items to bring:
a. Hiking boots or shoes with good traction
b. Comfortable and breathable clothing, such as lightweight pants and a moisture-wicking shirt
c. A waterproof jacket or poncho, as the weather in Cocora Valley can be unpredictable
d. Sunscreen and a hat to protect from the sun
e. Plenty of water and snacks, as there are no stores or restaurants in the valley
f. A camera or smartphone to capture the stunning views
Tips for Hiking in Cocora Valley
Hiking in Cocora Valley can be a challenging but rewarding experience. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your hike:
a. Start early in the morning to avoid crowds and the heat of the day.
b. Be prepared for changes in weather – it can be sunny one minute and raining the next.
c. Take breaks as needed and listen to your body – hiking at high altitude can be exhausting.
d. Stay on the marked trails and avoid wandering off into the wilderness.
e. Respect the natural environment and do not litter or disturb wildlife.
f. If you’re not an experienced hiker, consider hiring a guide to accompany you on the trail.
g. Bring some cash with you, as there is a small fee to enter the valley and use the facilities.
h. Don’t forget to bring your passport or ID with you, as it may be checked at the entrance to the valley.
Other Things to Do in Cocora Valley
In addition to hiking, there are plenty of other things to do in Cocora Valley:
a. Horseback riding – If you’re not up for hiking, you can take a horseback ride through the valley instead. This is a great option for families with young children or those who prefer a more leisurely pace.
b. Camping – There are several campsites in Cocora Valley, allowing you to spend a night under the stars and wake up to the stunning views.
c. Birdwatching – Cocora Valley is home to a wide variety of bird species, including several hummingbird species. If you’re a bird lover, be sure to bring your binoculars.
d. Coffee tours – The Quindio department is famous for its coffee production, and there are several coffee farms near Cocora Valley that offer tours and tastings.
e. Explore Salento – Salento is a charming colonial town with colorful houses, narrow streets, and a laid-back vibe. Take some time to wander around and soak up the atmosphere.
While Cocora Valley is a safe destination for tourists, there are a few things to keep in mind:
a. Stay on marked trails and avoid wandering off into remote areas.
b. Keep an eye on your belongings and do not leave valuables unattended.
c. Do not drink the water from streams or rivers – bring your own bottled water or water purifier.
d. If you’re hiking alone, let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return.
e. If you’re not an experienced hiker, consider hiring a guide to accompany you on the trail.
In conclusion, Cocora Valley is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Colombia who loves the great outdoors. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a scenic stroll, Cocora Valley offers something for everyone. Just be sure to pack appropriately, respect the environment, and stay safe on the trails.