The Cocora Valley is located in the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes, specifically in the department of Quindio. The best thing to do in the Cocora Valley is to walk through its mountains where the Wax Palm is abundant.
Let’s start by saying that this beautiful valley owes its name to the Quimbaya. Specifically, daughter of the cacique Acaime. Her name was Cocora and means water star.
The Cocora Valley is located near the Quindio River. The valley is 24 kilometers northeast of Armenia. It is undoubtedly one of the tourist references of the Eje Cafetero.
It is part of the protected area of Los Nevados natural park and has a maximum altitude of 2400 meters above sea level and a minimum altitude of 1800 meters above sea level. It should be noted that the park is located in the Cordillera Central in the Andean region of the Colombian Andes.
Its climate is very varied, there are times during the day when the sun is very strong and suddenly begins a heavy rain, but at night if it gets very cold for this reason we recommend you go well wrapped.
Cocora is green, with mountains, rivers, palm trees, fog, trout, trekking, camping, nature, and horseback riding, it is a natural reserve that you will fall in love with.
To prevent the exploitation of the wax palm and the endemic species of the Cocora Valley, the government of Belisario Betancur proposed the creation of a natural sanctuary in this place.
In addition, the wax palm was established as Colombia’s national tree through Law 61 of 1985, ratified on September 16, 1985.
The strong winds coming from the Pacific Ocean are stopped by the Andes mountain range. Therefore, the Cocora Valley has a humid environment.
Thanks to this environment, a cloud forest ecosystem develops at high altitudes. That is why it rains almost every day. The average annual temperature is 15 °C, with a maximum of 25 °C and a minimum of 12 °C.
The Cocora Valley is the main home of most of the remaining populations of the wax palm. But, other species of flora and fauna can be found in the valley. Some of these are:
Flora: rosemary pine (Dissocarpus rospigliosi), sietecueros (Tibouchina lepidota), encenillo (Weinmannia tormentosa) and frailejón (espeletia).
Fauna: Andean tapir (Tapirus pinchaque), spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), puma (Puma concolor), blue toucan (Andigena nigrirostris), Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) and the hummingbird (Trochilidae).
Arriving in the Valley
It is important to keep in mind that the Valley is part of the Los Nevados National Natural Park.
This means that there is no entrance fee and you can also enter with your pets.
There are two ways to get to the Cocora Valley where the Palmas de Cera reserve is located.
1. Follow the road’s direction to go directly into the valley.
2. turn right after passing La Reserva Natural de Acaime – Casa de Los Colibríes.
At the Casa de los Colibríes you can go bird watching and have delicious panela water with cheese.
The whole tour to the valley can take you all morning, it lasts between 6 to 7 hours more or less and it is best to do it with one of the guides that you find at the entrance.
But not everyone wants to make a plan for so many hours. Then, there is a solution. There is a private farm that charges for access to one of its mountains where there are 3 viewpoints to see the giant wax palms of the Cocora Valley.
The hike here is only 60 minutes. To be perfectly honest, the mountain is not that big and is where the famous swinging wings are found.
From the fantastic viewpoint of Salento, the beginning of the Cocora Valley is breathtaking.
I can say that it is my favorite place in the world and without fear of being wrong, I can assure you that you will not find another corner like this.
The Quindio River runs through the valley making infinite shades of green emerge.
In the valley, you can walk, run, bike, swim in the river, and enjoy the unique landscape.
What to do in the Cocora Valley?
For starters, you can take it for granted that you won’t be bored. There are as many possibilities to enjoy Cocora as there are tastes.
Once in the park, there are several ways to get to the valley. One of them, the shortest and easiest, is to follow the road to get directly in front of the palm trees.
The other is to enter, leaving the asphalt behind, by a road to the right to begin a five or six-hour trek.
This last option allows you to enjoy every point of view that the valley offers more authentically and specially.
One of the most famous attractions is the practice of free trekking or being guided by specialists in the area.
This depends on the level of mastery you have over wooded territories.
You can also adopt and plant a Wax Palm or just sit in one of the restaurants with a good coffee and appreciate the scenery.
Let’s start by saying that the classic jeeps, which were used by the Americans in World War II, have become the main means of transportation in the area.
They are known as “Willys” and leave from the Plaza de Bolivar in Salento, 15 minutes from the valley.
The journey to this landscape unveils the majesty of Quindío with a bumpy ride.
Me, this is one of my favorite plans. Maybe it’s because I love Willys, I don’t know. In any case, it is possible to hire an exclusive service for a maximum group of 10 people.
Usually, you can arrange for the driver to pick you up at a specific time.
The drivers know very well the details of the area they are in. So, it never hurts to ask about what you can do once you get to the restaurant area.
A fantastic place
Cocora is a fantastic place to enjoy alone or with your family.
It is possible to go horseback riding through the cloud forest of the Cocora Valley. However, if you are not used to riding horses or you are afraid that the children will go alone, just tell us and a guide will take the reins throughout the tour.
To discover this place is to walk along a path along the Quindío River, cross seven suspension bridges, enter the jungle, eat with hummingbirds, and touch the clouds between mountains that can exceed 2,800 meters in altitude.
Opting for the most demanding route guarantees that the experience in the Cocora Valley will be full and surprising.
For me, that moment of solitude, of tranquility that comes from immersing oneself in nature, is one of those rewards. The changing landscapes, the adrenaline of hanging bridges, or nature in its purest state; others.
Undoubtedly, one of the most fantastic activities is the hike to the water star. It is a biological station that is 3120 meters above sea level.
Its origin is the beginning of the Quindio River, and the walk begins in the Cocora Valley and lasts about 5 hours.
The visit should only be done under the supervision of a professional who knows the area perfectly.
At lunchtime, there is a good gastronomic offer for all visitors.
In addition to the typical Colombian dishes, the main offer is trout, since there is a trout hatchery in the upper part of the area.
The trout is served in different presentations but always accompanied by a delicious patacón (presentation of the plantain) with hogan.
The Cocora Valley: one of the most beautiful places in Quindío and a must-see if you travel to the coffee region of Colombia.
You don’t need more than one chance to fall in love with the Cocora Valley. However, the desire to return is impregnated in every first impression is important, and you don’t need a second chance to be impressed.
The fantasy in this place is palpable. On this second visit, I felt like I was in a dream. As if it were a sound territory. Something so pure that it should not exist among mortals.
I never, without exception, fail to visit it and never without exception fail to be moved. I think the beauty of this place has no equal. The contrasts are so pure, the colors, the smells. The people who live there. Everything seems like a fantasy to me.
You have to immerse yourself in the mountains of Cordillera Central. A valley is a special place, it is one of those places that fill your soul and reconciles you with yourself.