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Tips on Hiking Cocora Valley

Salento is a small town with huge tourist appeal. If you are looking for a list of things to do in Salento, there are more guides available than there are people in this town. Most of which will list the same 5-8 things to do, and they will all include Cocora Valley.

I’m not here to tell you what to do in Salento; I’m here to tell you how to not messed it up.

There were several things I learned during my time in Salento. Like …
  1. The local game called Tejo, which involves chucking a heavy medal disk at gunpowder 50 feet away, is actually quite horrifying at first but quickly grows on you.
  2. Don’t take the steps up to Alto de la Cruz. Walk two up to Carrera 4 to the Mirador, then come down the steps when you’re done.
  3. There are roosters that go off at all hours of the morning and don’t have snooze buttons. Be sure to bring ear plugs.
Overexcited and Underprepared

The town’s most iconic attraction is Cocora Valley, a sweeping landscape lined with the worlds tallest palm trees. This is also the attraction I was least prepared for. It was that feeling you get when you walk into a new grocery store and everyone knows where to find everything except you.

When we were planning Salento, I saw the beautiful pictures and couldn’t wait to get my palm on. I dreamed up all the Instagram photos I was going to take and it was going to be amazing. It turns out I probably should have spent that time doing a tad more research on the dreamy, picturesque spot.

Here’s what I learned after our hike through the Valley. If you find yourself in Salento, I hope you’ll be able to take some notes and be a little bit more prepared than we were.

If you’re interested in hiking the valley with us, check out our video here.

Tips on Visiting Cocora Valley
1.  Be prepared to hike.

Let me be abundantly clear: this is a real, actual, up-a-mountain hike that will take 5-6 hours (yes, even if you’re marathon runners it will still take you that long). So wear good shoes (with treads and waterproof if available), dress in layers (you’ll sweat, you’ll freeze, you’ll get rained on, plan for it all), and bring lots of water (2L should be good).


It was raining and muddy so naturally I took a few spills. I was happy to have waterproof pants, shoes & jacket or I’d have been miserable.

2.  Go counter clockwise even though it kind of sucks. 

The hike is a loop trail and you can start in either direction. The hostel will recommend clockwise so that you go uphill along a well(ish) maintained road and then down the rainforest/mountain terrain. Everyone else will tell you to suck it up and go counter clockwise. Even though it’s harder to scale the hills, it’s absolutely worth it to have the palms as the payoff near the end of the hike, instead of right at the beginning.

Lookout point of the Wax Palms in Cocora Valley.

3.  Stop for the humming birds at Acaime.

It’s an extra 5,000 COP ($1.67 USD) but is a great respite. The birds are absolutely adorable and so fun to watch. I could have stayed all day if we didn’t have the bulk of our hike ahead of us.

BONUS TIP: Your entry fee includes a beverage. If you get hot chocolate and stand near the bird feeders, there’s a fair chance the hummingbirds will buzz right by your face and hang out there while they decide if they can get in on your hot chocolate. It was the highlight of my day for sure.

4.  If you see a sign that points to Los Nevados, don’t go that way.

After you see the birds, you have to walk all the way back down past the river you walked through (you have to do some rock hopping) and back to the paper sign with the arrow pointing left. ALL THE WAY BACK THERE! If a sign says Corcora is the opposite direction of where you’re heading, believe it and turn around! Even if you see other people going the other way, or a horse going the other way, or you think it will get you to the same spot, do not go that way. (We went that way and went an hour up hill before we were told to turn around, go back to the paper sign, and go another hour uphill in a different direction.

Here we are at 10,182ft altitude…in the wrong direction. But smiling because travel mistakes only cost time or money, and this one just cost us a little bit of time.

5.  The jeeps are scary, but you’ll be fine.

Not only do the Jeep transports not have seat belts, but it’s perfectly common to fit 15 people in a Willys like it’s totally normal and safe. There could easily be 4-6 people standing on the bumper and holding on to the rooftop. It’s actually super fun and I survived. If you find yourself standing, be sure to wear sunglasses and a jacket. It gets chilly and windy during the 20 minute drive.

Riding on the back of the Jeep back to Salento.

Did anyone else get lost on their hike to the Cocora Valley or have other tips to share? Feel free to sound-off in the comments section.


Thursday 11th of October 2018

I went hiking solo today and got lost in the jungle. I was told by the hotel guy that I wouldnt need a guide.. so I took that for granted. I had to actually call 911 because there was no one else deep in the jungle at 3000m high.


Sunday 14th of October 2018

Oh no!! That's terrifying! Were you in Cocora? Fortunately we didn't have to come to that, but that's very scary. I'm so glad you had service to call and they were able to help you. That's terrible that your hotel gave you such bad advance. Stay safe!