I remember we were in Ilha Grande, Brazil when we first started reading about Colombia, and amongst all the beauties featured in Lonely Planet, it was Cocora Valley in the Zona Cafetera that caught our attention. Looking back at our time in the country considered too dangerous to visit not long ago, Cocora Valley was the absolute highlight.
To hike or not to hike
When visiting Cocora Valley, you have the option to hike for a few hours, or you can take the shortcut and witness a beautiful view very quickly. Since the journey is half the fun, and I don’t really like shortcuts, together with Bertrand, we went for the hike.
From the beginning, you are surrounded by beautiful landscapes, and if you go early, you won’t meet many people along the way.
After two good hours, you reach the hummingbird sanctuary where you can catch your breath and have a drink. Or, in the case of Bertrand, you just snap 800 pictures of the lovely birds :).
From the hummingbird sanctuary, don’t go back on the same trail, but follow the path and go up. You will reach a hacienda with a great view over the cloud forest. This was one of my favorite moments during the hike.
The beauty that is Cocora Valley
As you start going down from the hacienda, you begin to see what the hype is all about. Why people rave about this place and its beauty. Because of the clouds, at least in the beginning, it was hard to have a good view of the valley. However, as we were descending, the sky cleared and we were blown away by the views.
Hosting the Colombian national symbol, the wax palm tree which can reach up to 60 meters, Valley de Cocora is a must when visiting Zona Cafetera in Colombia.
How and Where to
Where to stay: We stayed at Casa de la Ciencia in Salento, which is about 25 min by car from Cocora Valley.
How to get there: By 4WD’s from the main square in Salento. They have a morning schedule which starts pretty early. This might have changed since we went there in March this year, so do double-check before waking up at 6am :).
Hike/no hike: I recommend the hike. It’s not that difficult to do and you don’t need a guide. I saw some people doing it in reverse, so starting with Cocora Valley and then making their way down. I wouldn’t recommend this. First, because you start with the highlight, and second you would be walking with your back at all the beauty this place offers.
Duration: Allow a full day for this experience. From the car ride to the hike, complete with breaks for resting and taking photos.
Safety: When we were planning the hike, we had read that some years ago, people got robbed on the trail. Some people were suggesting that this might happen nowadays too. I don’t know if this is a way for guides to get more work, or if indeed there is any danger. What I can say, is that we had no problems along the way, and at no point did we feel unsafe.
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