If you’re looking for a great adventure that will send you back in time, and surround you with some of the earth’s best offerings, then do some hiking in Colombia’s Zona Cafetera Region for a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city life.
I have done a lot of spectacular hikes in my day, but I have to say that the Cocoa Valley in Los Nevados National Natural Park has got to be one of my favorites. The scenery is so unique and often changes during the hike. Once you get out of the cloud forest, you will start to see all of the 60 meter Wax Palm Trees(Palma de Cera) scattered along the hills. Through in a blue sky mixed with some mystical clouds and you’ve got some stunning photo opportunities!
The Cocora Valley and the town of Salento are both located in the Zona Cafetera region of Colombia, at the foothills of the Andes. This area has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, because of its people’s relaxed way of living, beautiful landscapes, mystical cloud forests, traditional values, world famous coffee, and its spring-like temperatures making it perfect for hiking.
How To Get To Salento
Most people that want to visit the Cocora Valley stay in or near Salento. The quickest way to get to Salento from Bogota is to fly. You can fly one way from Bogotá to Pereira(1hour) from $70 USD to as little as $25 USD if you book your tickets early with VivoColombia.co. You can also check Avianca, Latam Airlines, Flight Hub, CheapFlights.com, or TripAdvisor. From Periera, a taxi to the bus station from the airport should cost around $7 USD and a bus from Periera(45 minutes) to Salento is around $2 USD.
Taking the bus from Bogotá to Salento can sometimes cost more than flying plus it takes 9-10 hours because you have to transfer buses at Armenia or Periera. The average price for taking a bus from Bogotá to Salento is about $25 USD. You can find all the prices at the Bogotá bus station. There are a few companies that service this route. One of the more reputable bus companies is Bolivariano. Click on the link to find out their latest ticket prices.
Option 1 The bus from Bogotá to Armenia(7-9 hours) cost around $20 USD and the bus from Armenia to Salento(1 hour) cost around $1.50 USD.
Option 2 The bus from Bogotá to Periera(6-8 hours) cost around $25 USD, and the bus from Periera to Salento(45 mins) cost around $2 USD.
How To Get To The Trail
Most backpackers take the public transportation(4X4’s) from Salento’s town square to the Cocora Valley trailhead. The 4X4’s start running around 7:30 a.m. and leave as soon as they are full(Cost $1.50 USD one way). You can find them waiting next to the park. The drive is 11km and takes about 20 minutes to reach the starting point of the hike. When you finish your trek, the 4 X 4’s will be waiting for hikers at the same drop-off point. You must pay the same amount to return to Salento.
The Hike(Cocora Valley)
The Cocora Valley Hike takes 4-5 hours, and most hikers do it as a loop. Most people start their walk in the cloud forest where the 4 X 4’s drop everybody off. If you choose to go this way, then you will finish the trail just after seeing all of the famous Wax Palm Trees in the valley. You do not need a guide to do this trek because the trails are all well marked, plus you will most likely be in a big group with other backpackers.
CAUTION! Just because you’re hiking with 20 or 30 other backpackers doesn’t mean that they know where they are going! I followed a group of over 2o people up the wrong trail. This mistake added an extra two hours of hard hiking uphill! I guess it’s human nature to be lazy and follow the leader with the assumption that the people in the front are paying attention.
The other trail that I mistakenly walked goes to a Biological Station. Some people like to add this path to their hike to make it longer, and more challenging. Regardless of what your hiking itinerary is, I suggest that you pay attention to the trail signs so that you only hike the sections that you intend.
I did this hike in December, and the weather was constantly changing. I would suggest taking a light jacket in case of rain, some snacks, and bottled water. There are a few places along the way where you can stop to eat, and buy some snacks or get traditional coffee.
Our group stopped at a viewpoint that showcased the entire Cocora Valley. It was such an incredible feeling to look at the stunning scenery and see all the gigantic Wax Palm Trees scattered across the hills reaching up to the sky. It was almost surreal! I plan to return to this place one day!
What To Do In Salento
Salento is a little town with plenty of colonial architecture that you can admire while walking along the main streets. The town is somewhat isolated from the modern world so it never really advanced like all the other places in Colombia. The town has a traditional appearance with a laid back feel because of this isolation.
It’s nice to stroll along the main road in town(Calle Real), and look at all handicraft stores, try some Colombian style food, and finish it off with some coffee brewed the traditional way at one of the many cafes. The evening is the best time to walk around town because there are street vendors set up at the main square and some of the locals play old school Colombian music along the main road. If you’re looking for a break from visiting cities, and beaches, then this is the place to visit!
The main street(Calle Real) has many good restaurants, cafes and gift stores all housed in restored Colonial buildings. Calle Real ends at a lovely square on one side, and the other end leads up a lot of steps to a lookout point. From this lookout, you can see stunning views of The Cocora Valley, a great view of Salento, and some of the many mountains of Los Nevados National Natural Park. Oh, and there are a couple of ATM’s located in the main square, but they often run out of money during the busy weekends so load up on pesos before you come to town.
You can go to one of a few different coffee plantations for a tour. Two of the popular tours near town are Don Elías(Spanish Only), and Plantation House(English & Spanish). I did my tour with Plantation House. If you want to learn more about the coffee plantation tours in and around Salento, then check out my coffee tour post “Love Coffee? You Need To Visit Here?”
If you have any questions about Salento, hiking in the Cocora Valley, or Colombia, then please leave a comment below, or you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to get some more free travel tips, then check out my website travelcanbecheap.com. Thanks for visiting today!