Visiting Salento has become a backpacker’s right of passage in Colombia. A beautiful small town located 20 minutes from the tallest wax palm trees in the world. Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley) is the location of these famous trees with great trails to hike.
This activity is very different than the popular Santa Rita waterfall outside of town. There are many trails and even ones longer than what we did. This area is amazing because it has a little bit of everything for everyone.
In this guide I will go over all the details you will need to know when planning your trip to hike Valle de Cocora in Salento, Colombia.
Where is Valle de Cocora?
Valle do Cocora (Cocora Valley) is a section of forest located inside the Los Nevados National Natural Park. It is here that you will see Colombia’s national tree, the Quindio wax palm. Correctly named as this is the Quindio Department of Colombia.
There are certain parts of this park that are only accessible by foot. This helps the many species of flora located here, as some are also endangered. You will find this area near the top of the Quindio river. Valle de Cocora sits between 1800 and 2400 meters.
How to Get to Valle de Cocora in Colombia
The most popular option when wanting to visit Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley) is to stay in Salento. This is a small quaint town that has really seen a bump in traffic in recent years. Below will be the details on how to get to Salento and also Salento to this wonderful valley.
Getting to Salento
If you’re coming from Medellin, then the bus is the most popular option. You can catch the bus from the Terminal Transportes del Sur. The bus company is called Flota Occidental and should cost around $54,000 Pesos. This bus route is direct but could fill up quickly.
When missing out on the direct bus, you can get a bus to Armenia and then from there to Salento. Below are some bus times but this can change often!
Medellin to Salento Direct
- 8 am
- 11 am
- 1 pm
- 2 pm
Medellin to Armenia
- 4:30 am
- 6:30 am
- 8:45 am
- 9:45 am
- 11:00 am
- 2:00 pm
- 3:00 pm
- 6:00 pm
It is always better to go to the bus station the day before and see what they say.
Another popular option if you’re coming from the Northern region of Colombia is to fly to the nearby airport and either bus or uber to Salento. The closest airport to Salento is Pereira (PEI). From here you can go to the bus station and take a 1-hour bus. Our flight got delayed multiple hours and we ended up having to uber.
Salento to Valle de Cocora
Getting to the Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley) is extremely easy and quite an adventure! In the center of town, there will be old WWII-looking jeeps that will take you places. All you have to do is go find them and ask for Cocora. It is a good chance that they will already be yelling it out.
The cost for these is $4,000 COP each way, so $8,000 COP total.
Other Hikes in Colombia You’d Love:
- La Cueva del Esplendor
- Cascada la Escalera
- Cerro Kennedy Hike
- Pozo Azul in Minca
- Marinka Waterfalls
- Camping in Cabo San Juan
- La Piedra del Penol – Guatape Rock
- 9 Amazing Hikes in Medellin
My Suggested Hiking Gear
Below is a list of some of my favorite hiking/travel gear I bring everywhere. Everything below is something I currently use and never leave my house without.
- KEEN Durand II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots: I finally upgraded my hiking boots in 2022 and these are fantastic. They have top-notch ankle support and are super durable.
- Petzl Tikka Headlamp: A headlamp for hiking is a must if you’re like me and love sunrise hikes. This is a great price for a quality headlamp and also has a good red light to not disturb others in the morning.
- Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks: I originally got these as a present but I had to buy more because these are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever tried on.
- Grayl GeoPress Water Filter Bottle: You will never have to rebuy plastic water bottles. This is the best water filtering device on the market. It is excellent for hikers and travelers alike.
Valle de Cocora Hike Details
- Distance: This hike is around a 6.4-mile loop hike.
- Duration: It will take 4-5 hours to complete depending on how long you stay at the miradors.
- Difficulty: I’d rank this hike as moderate to difficult. There are plenty of spots to take a break at but also a good amount of elevation.
- Incline: The elevation for this hike is around 2500 feet or 762 meters.
- Hiking Guide: A guide is not needed for this hike and is easily accessible by the public.
Find out more about the hiking details as well as read reviews at Alltrails.
Best Places to Stay in Salento
Once you decide you want to hike Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley) then you’ll need that perfect accommodation.
- Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel: This is where we stayed at. It is a beautiful hostel located perfectly in town. Very quiet and safe. The cleanest hostel I’ve probably ever been in. Highly recommend.
- Viajero Salento Hostel: This is a chain hostel but is also located in a great spot in Salento. They have a bar for those who like to drink and socialize some more.
- Yambolombia Hostel: Located a little bit further outside of town, this hostel has more of a traditional feel to it. It is also a lot cheaper than the other options mentioned.
My Experience Hiking in Valle de Cocora
When we arrived in Salento we immediately fell in love with the town. It was so peaceful and everyone seemed so happy to be there. This was our first stop in the coffee region of Colombia. The hostel we stayed at captured the vibe of the town extremely well and we didn’t want to leave. Our first full day in Salento is when we decided to visit Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley) and start our hike.
Jeep Willy Experience
The adventure starts the second you leave Salento as you will ride in an old WWII jeep. These jeeps have large areas in the back to sit. If there isn’t enough space you can stand on the back and hang on. I preferred this as it was more of an adventure.
From here they will drop you off and you will g t to decide what you do next. You’ll pass a coffee shop, restaurants, and different trails you can take.
The Different Trails in Valle de Cocora
When arriving at Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley), you may only have a day to spend here before you need to head back to Salento. If that’s the case then the trail I linked above is perfect. You can always edit it the way you want to.
It is possible to go further into the park and stay in cabins or camp in a tent. Valle de Cocora is only one section of the stunning park of Los Nevados. Along the trail above there will be areas where you can go further into the park. I suggest you download either wikiloc or alltrails. You can download the offline maps with the paid version and it is extremely affordable.
Along the main trail, you will come across multiple miradors. This trail does cost $10,000 COP but totally worth it.
We did this trail backward. I’m not sure if this has any benefit to it but we liked it. The first mirador you will come along in around an hour after starting. It is hard to say exactly how much time as we stopped many times for pictures and drone shots.
There will be a sign when you have arrived there. This can also lead straight back down to where you paid. The unfortunate thing about us starting backward is we then had to climb back up from mirador 1 to continue onward.
Mirador 1 was very crowded compared to mirador 2. If you’re looking for a great spot to eat lunch then I suggest waiting until mirador 2. There are only 700 meters that separate these two areas and thankfully it’s not 700 meters of elevation.
Once you arrive there will be less room to walk around on but a better view in my opinion. This is where we ate our snacks and flew the drone some more.
Continue on up around and you will cross different streams and beautiful nature along the way.
Final Thoughts on Hiking in Valle de Cocora
At first, I wasn’t sure if we were going to visit Salento. More and more people kept telling me how touristy it was but I’m glad I didn’t listen to them. Hiking in Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley) was an amazing experience. I highly suggest visiting this area but if you can, come during the week. It is one of the most popular places in all of Colombia and you’ll see why. This whole region of Colombia is amazing and I’m sad that I had to leave.
Thank you for reading my guide on hiking the Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley) in Salento, Colombia. I hope these pictures and all the information I gave will help you plan out your trip to Colombia as well as this amazing region.