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[VIDEO] Come Hike to Cocora Valley with us

One of the main attractions in Salento, Colombia is the Cocora Valley. You can’t read about Salento without seeing photos of the vast valley popping with unbelievably tall palm trees. These wax palms check in at over 60 meters tall and live well over 100 years.

In order to get to them though, you have to hike.* (You can read our tips for the hike here.) So lace-up your hiking boots and come with us as we hike through the cloud forests near Salento, Colombia to Valle de Cocora. Our journey is not without adventure, but finding the worlds tallest palms at the end of the journey makes it absolutely worth it!

*Okay, you can actually get there without doing the full hike, but you don’t get full credit.

A Brief History of Cocora Valley

My best retelling of the story as told to us by the conservationists over at Kasaguadua

The entire valley used to be home to tropical cloud forest (rainforests at high elevations). The palms grew in the shady, rich soil below the dense rainforest foliage. The trees were happy.

Then, like we always do, humans came along and ruined it.

When settlers came to the valley, they cut down many of the rainforest trees to use for wood (such as the local bamboo variety). That takes away the shade and reduces the quality of the soil below which impacts all the other happy rainforest plants. The people left the palms standing, as they are not actually a tree and thus their stem is no good for wood.

Now the land is cleared and the people bring in their cows who have been eating grass and they “spread” the grass seed through the valley. The soil no longer has trees or shade to protect it and is now dry and acidic which is great soil for the grass, which continues to take over the valley.

What’s left is a completely unnatural ecosystem of these really tall wax palms, which are indigenous to rainforests with rich soil, standing tall and exposed in a vast grassland of dry, acidic soil.

It’s beautiful, though, so the land becomes protected (a little too late) and people flock here everyday to see these beautiful trees against the flat grasslands.

But the trees aren’t happy. They crave the rich soil of the rainforest, so they’re starting to crumble. In 20 years, this beautiful valley could be nothing but another grassland valley. Way to go, humans!

Anyway, if you want to see this beautiful valley, go now!