Valle de Cocora | An Updated Hiking Guide

Looking for how to get to Valle de Cocora fromSalento, the best hiking route or what to see? This is the guide for you!

Updated fully in January 2020

Rising up through the mist, the wax palms - a national symbol of Colombia - tower over their surroundings. At 60m tall, their spindly trunks barely seem adequate to support their height.

With the time of day greatly affecting the weather, the vistas on the hike are as plentiful as the trees; from a morning of blue skies and tropical haze to afternoons of calming mists and long shadows.

It is impossible to take the same photo twice.

An absolute must-do for not only visitors to Salento but visitors to Colombia as a whole, this is probably one of the most magical sites in the country.

This is our guide on how to get to Valle de Cocora and how to make the most of your hike amongst the palm trees.

How to get to Valle de Cocora from Salento

虽然理论上你可以走到entrance of the Valle, we’d recommend taking the colourful jeeps (locally known as ‘Willys’) that leave from the main square.

Whilst a timetable does theoretically exist, due to the increasing popularity of the hike, after the first departure of 6.10 a.m., the jeeps leave at least every hour - and up to every 30 minutes if there’s the people to fill them. The journey takes 20-30 minutes and cost 4,000 COP for the return journey.

Also, if you want clearer views, and a quieter hike with fewer tourists, definitely get one of the earlier jeeps - especially if you are attempting the hike during the weekend when local tourists descend upon the area en masse.

To return toSalento, you'll find the jeeps in the same spot leaving at the set times every hour on the hour from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Insider info | Travelling by a Willy Jeep is quite the experience! Whilst the vehicles 'technically’ hold severn people seated, the drivers will happily take onboard at least 11 - which means that if you’re the last few to squeeze on to the jeep, you’ll be standing on a platform at the back of the vehicle holding on for dear life!

Don’t worry however, it’s definitely part of the experience, and we actually intentionally waited to jump on last so that we could travel with the wind flapping through our hair.


Valle de Cocora HIking Route Options

Frequent readers of Along Dusty Roads will know that we love a good hike, especially now that we’re getting a little - cough, cough - older. However, we appreciate that not everyone has the time or fitness levels to spend hours hiking through the Colombian countryside in search of beautiful wax palms - especially when there’s actually a much easier way to visit them.

So, we’ve given you two options: ‘the short way’, that will allow you to see the palms up close but removes a lot of the hard work, or ‘the long way’ which will take most of the day and definitely require a pair of hiking boots!

To avoid any confusion, take a note of this photo - and which way you’ll need to go.

the short way

Distance | Round trip is around 2.5 km

Time | 60-90 minutes

Difficulty | Nice and easy (even in the mud)

If you're only in Salento for a short time, have arrived at the site after noon or aren't feeling particularly energetic, you can still experience the Valle de Cocora and capture the photo we all go for - simply head straight for the trees.

To take this option, when you get off the truck walk straight along the dirt track. Do NOT pass through the blue gates, or a path to the right. Follow the clearly marked trail for around 1km and you will come to a clearing dotted with the palms.

花,只要你like meandering amongst the trees and the lush green grass or walk part way along the track into the hills to enjoy views from above.

Once you're done, simply head back the way you came to catch a jeep back to Salento.


the long way

Distance | Round trip is around 15 km

Time | 5-6 hours to complete loop

Difficulty | The uphill bits can be a bit tough in bad weather, but the hike itself is never more than ‘moderate’ difficulty.

For those that want a little more exercise and adventure, we'd recommend this much longer loop which takes you through the forest, over wooden suspension bridges and along steep hiking tracks. It is from this vantage point you will find the best views.

If you pick this route, you will arrive at the trees after approximately 4 hours. This is the option we took - and we'd highly recommend it as having your final stop being in amongst the iconic palms is something to look forward to.

For this route, when you exit the 4WD, take the path to the right (through the blue gates), with signs towards Los Nevados Parque Nacional and continue walking straight, heading downhill until you reach a sign saying ‘Fundacion Herencia Vero’ - stay to the right of it.

继续,摇摇晃晃的suspension bridges (perfect for a photo if you ask us!) until you reach a T-junction with a sign for ‘Acaime La Casa de Los Colibris’, a hummingbird sanctuary. Entrance is $6,000 and includes a hot or cold drink (you can even sample the famous hot chocolate with cheese!). It's a nice break and there are a number of birds but, if money or time is tight, we would recommend giving it a miss. To avoid confusion along this section, take note that you do not need to follow the path to the Estrella de Agua, but need to turn left just before the hummingbird sanctuary.

If you’ve decided to visit the hummingbirds, you’ll need to retrace you steps back to the main trail and continue up the hill on the left. It’s pretty steep in parts and, if its been raining and there’s lots of mud, can be a little bit of a challenge.

After about an hour, you’ll arrive at Finca La Montaña where you can have a break (we’d definitely recommend bringing water and snacks) and enjoy the spectacular views out over the valley.

When you’re ready, head along the obvious path downhill from the finca for around 1.5 hours until you reach a wide dirt path, and then - what you’ve walked all this way for - the epic wax palm trees.

Take 101 different photos (they really are incredibly photogenic), then continue along the path on the left to return to the start of the hike.


The Details | As we mentioned, this hike takes between four and five hours depending upon your fitness levels, how long you break for at Finca La Montaña and how many photos you take at the wax palms.

Also, this is no longer a free activity - but there is a little bit of confusion over exactly how much you should expect to pay. The general consensus is that you will be asked for a fee of 2,000 COP when you pass through the blue gates, and a further fee of 2,000-3,000 COP after Finca La Montaña. To keep this guide up to date, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

Tip | If you’re keen to do the full hike but would like to make it a little easier on yourself, you can of course begin the hike along ‘the short way’ and complete the full five hour hike in reverse. This will avoid a lot of the difficult uphill walking - but will mean you see the wax palms first.

A Hiking Alternative

For those more comfortable on four legs rather than two, horseback is an alternative way to view the valley. On arrival, you will find a number of locals dressed willing to rent you a horse - but we’d highly recommend that before you take a chap up on his offer of a horse, that you check the animal’s condition.

Unfortunately not all horses are looked after as they should be, something that is very clear upon viewing the horse properly.

In order to avoid this issue completely, it’s possible to arrange horse rides in town where you can speak with your accommodation about a recommended company, and perhaps check on the condition of the horse before hand.

This might all sound a little excessive, but animal welfare is not always at the forefront of people’s minds and the positive reinforcement of seeing tourists much more interested in healthy horses increases the chances of widespread improvements to animal welfare in the region.

The Details | Prices vary dependent upon how many of you there are, and your negotiation skills but expect to pay somewhere in the region of 25,000 to 30,000 COP per hour.


Tips For Visiting the Valle de Cocora

Set off early | We mentioned this earlier, but can’t stress it highly enough! Not only will this help yo avoid the worst of the crowds, as the afternoon weather is notoriously crap in Salento (we had rain both times we’ve visited), starting early will increase the chances of a dry hike and blue skies.

Mud | We were quite fortunate on our hike that although there was rain, the mud wasn’t too bad - by all accounts not everyone is so lucky. For this reason, a resourceful chap has began renting wellies at the entrance to the Valle. Don’t underestimate how difficult several days of torrential downpours can make the hike - sometimes the shorter, easier hike really is the best option.

Food | If you’re doing the long hike, we’d absolutely recommend bringing a picnic with you. There are a number of restaurants in town that can organise this, or simply do as we did and prepare your own lunch box in the morning.

Water | Although there are a few drink stands, think of the environment and bring a refillable water bottle with an in-built filter (like this one by water-to-go) with you. You’ll be able to fill up in the river, and a couple of taps along the way.

What to wear | This is definitely a day for the proper hiking gear if you have it. Full outfit depends upon weather, but absolutely bring a waterproof with you, and we’d recommend wearing a solid pair of hiking trainers/boots to help with grip.

Tour vs Independent hike | We have heard of guided hikes, but given the number of people following the loop on any given day, we really don’t think it’s necessary. We would however recommend that slightly more nervous solo travellers ‘buddy up’ with other people in their hostel.

Maps | The loop should be straight forward to follow, but there are definitely a few sections where you can veer off course. We’d recommend downloading an off-line map on something like or wikiloc.

like it? pin it!

The Valle de Cocora should definitely be on your Colombia bucket list. Click on the pin to check out our guide on how to make the most of your hike amongst Colombia's iconic wax palm trees.

Plan Your Time in Colombia