Just outside the small town of Salento lies the stunning Valle de Cocora, home to the world’s largest palm trees growing up to 60 meter in height. With rugged peaks lining the green valley floor and the towering palm trees disappearing into the clouds above, it’s a truly awe-inspiring landscape. I half expected to see a brontosaurus nibbling on the treetops as we strolled by.
A taxi jeep from Salento will take you to the trail head for some spectacular hiking routes in the area. One of the most popular treks takes you through the valley and up to the Reserva Natural Acaime hummingbird sanctuary where you’ll be treated to some spectacular views both at the top and along the trail itself.
If you do happen to find yourself in the Valle de Cocora in the rainy season, do not even thinking of attempting this hike without gum boots. As you can see in the photo below, the first hour consisted of wading through ankle deep mud, mixed with horse manure – not something you want to find yourself covered in. Once you enter the forest the mud lessens, but the river crossings increase. There are a total of seven rickety bridges and a few streams that you will need to traverse as you zig-zag your way through up the mountain, each one more unstable than the last.
If you’ve managed to brave the mud, rain and makeshift bridges, you’ll come to a signpost for the split off to the Reserva Natural Acaime hummingbird sanctuary. It costs $4000 CP or $2 US to enter the reserve which includes a steaming cup of hot cocoa and a piece of cheese if you wish. Here you can rest your tired legs and relax as you watch dozens of hummingbirds zoom back and forth from the many plants and feeders around the reserve.
Once you’ve dried off a bit and regained your strength, walk back to the split and then take the fork towards La Montaña. While it does mean more uphill hiking, the views from the top are unbeatable. You’ll finally find yourself above the clouds looking out over the entire valley of gigantic palm trees below. The walk back to town from this point is relatively easy as it connects to the main dirt road and is far less muddy than the way up. Along the way back you’ll run into horses and cows lining the road that might even let you give them a pet. While I don’t recommend petting wild animals, I just can’t seem to help myself.
Be sure to time the walk back with the shuttle transportation to Salento as the last jeep leaves for town at 5 pm. By the time you get back to your hostel you’ll be ready for a hot shower and a good meal. The Planatation House Hostel is one of the best in town and in addition to offering great views and tours to their organic coffee farm, there is always a pot of fresh home grown coffee on in the communal kitchen.
Girl Gone Gallivanting Review: Rain or shine, the hike up the Valle de Cocora is one of the best in the country. Come prepared for the weather and with an upbeat attitude it will easily be one of the highlight’s of your trip. Don’t forget the gum boots!