Valle de Cocora Loop

Top choice Hiking

in Valle de Cocora

The most popular walk in the area is the four- to five-hour loop hike from the hamlet of Cocora to the Reserva Natural Acaime and on to the Unesco-protected valley of the palma de cera (wax palm) – Colombia's national tree. The hike is done anticlockwise. Sure, you can go clockwise and reach the wax palms first, but where's the fun in that?

As you arrive in Cocora, the trailhead is the gate on the right-hand side as you walk into the valley and away from Salento. Visitors may be charged an environmental fee of COP$2000 at the entrance to the path but it is not always collected.

The first part of the trail (4km) is through muddy pasture, but then you enter the enchanted-looking cloud forest, often wreathed in mist, and spend 3km or so switchbacking across the bridges over the stream before you reach Acaime. At Acaime your COP$5000 fee here usually gets you a hot chocolate (with a chunk of cheese), and you'll see plenty of hummingbirds flitting between the sugar-water feeders.

Backtrack 1km to the main trail and take the energy-sapping 3km path to Finca La Montaña, up a fairly steep mountainside, from where you'll get spectacular views of the valley from above. From La Montaña – you've earned it! – it's an easy downhill trail back to Cocora (1½ hours) through the valley studded with the magnificent wax palms.