Cocora Valley: The Colombian “star of water” that redefines natural scenery
Cocora Valley Stock Image
Heading to Colombia is a bucket-list goal for every modern-day traveler. Once there, the country offers infinite options to wander and to connect with very easily. From scenic delight to a marvelous cuisine, everything about the place is miraculous. However, there is something about Colombia which not many countries have managed over the centuries. The natives and the government together have managed to preserve and protect their natural sites. These sites have either been privately divided or guarded under right conservation measures. Meanwhile, one such spectacular sight to behold is the beauty of the “Cocora Valley”.
Often referred to as the most beautiful and breathtaking hike in entire Colombia, the valley is a tourism magnet. For every individual that lands in Colombia, it is a place that should be on the vising list. Moreover, the place is also famous because of its unique location and its historical significance. Interestingly, the name of the place was derived from the initials of the daughter of Acaime. He happened to be the chief of the location and the initials of the princess translated into the literal meaning of star of water.
Where exactly is the Cocora Valley?
Cocora Valley Wax Palm Tree
To trace down the location of the Cocora Valley, one must be familiar with the nearest “foot-town” known as Salento. At a distance of just above 20 kilometers from the town is the prestigious and conserved Los Nevados National Natural Park that happens to be the house for the Cocora Valley.
The town of Salento is sandwiched right between the bigger names of places like Armenia and Pereira. The former happens to be at a distance of merely 25 kilometers from Salento while Pereira is a little higher and is about 35-40 kilometers away and lies towards its geographical North.
When talking geographically, the valley is located at a range of about 2000 meters altitude. The place is often abbreviated to be in the highlands of the popular Quindio River. The entire Quindio region has a significant amount of space (around 580 square kilometers) dedicated to the Los Nevados National Park.
How can you get to the Cocora Valley?
The whole setup of the Cocora Valley might sound intimidating, but it is not so. Moreover, what is a lifetime adventure trip without a little foot-pain? A person usually has two options, as told earlier to reach major cities. Both Armenia and Pereira have major airports and are easily accessible through the air for people who intend to travel. Once the person reaches any of these places, local commute comes to their rescue and relief in a big way.
One of the safest and the easiest ways to reach Salento is through the bus, or what locals refer to as “buseta”. It should be noted that the prices in these regions are comparatively much lower, and hence, one must not fall prey to cheating. A “buseta” from either Armenia or Pereira will not cost more than 3 USD to 5 USD. The general buses are as low as 2 USD, and because of the short distance journey (An hour and a half), they are the most preferred options.
Reaching to the nearby bus terminal from the airport of your plan will need a cab. The cabs are mostly prepaid and have a fixed rate to pick and drop the passenger too. The drivers are very interactive and greet passengers with a bright smile. They also inform people about what they need to do further, albeit they understand the language!
After the person reaches Salento, the next idea is to take the Jeep Willys. These happen to be the most popular means of commute in the area and are available through the Plaza de Bolívar by purchasing prepaid tickets. In a short time (less than half an hour), the person would be at the main entrance of the Los Nevados National Park. The services of the Jeep Willys start right at 5:30 in the morning and go up to around 19:00. It is suggestible to keep sufficient time in hand to catch up some rest as the trek further is quite tedious.
Entry and Other Costs
It is hard to find anything worth significance for free in the present-day market. Same goes for tourist places, and Cocora Valley is no exception either. However, the cost of the visit is hardly a small amount, which needs to be paid in two places. The property is under private management and upkeep, and that is why the two different charges are applicable. The total of both the entry fees comes out to be 2 USD. It can go up to 5 USD, depending upon the nature and size of the travelling group. A major hummingbird reserve is an attraction that is in the vicinity and would incur a separate cost for visiting (around 4 USD)
In total, the travel expense and the entry fees included, the total comes around 50 USD. If a person chooses to stay at Salento, the motel charges are variable. The charges vary seasonally, with spring and early winter being the best of the lot.
Hiking is an activity that relies largely on the weather and the seasonal swing. Being a natural reserve, the Cocora Valley is not much of a high-temperature region. During the spring season, the weather settles down even further, and nature is at its best. The blooming greenery and the attractions lure the tourists. Evenings stay at a pleasant 15-degree to 25-degree Celsius, and it is breezy all the time. This time of the year is also the most crowded and frequent in terms of heavy tourist influx.
Cocora Valley Trek Route
The delight of Cocora Valley and the marvelous hike across it
Once inside the Los Nevados National Park, the destination is to reach the Valley itself. The valley consists of a circular trekking trail. Through its entire circumference, the trail comes out to be approximately 15 kilometers. The highest point for the altitude is roughly between 2800 to 3000 meters and can be quite a task for even the frequent trekkers.
After securing a ticket through the Kiosk and entering the park, the fun starts instantaneously. Within the valley, what stands out spectacularly are the Quindío wax palm trees. These also happen to be the national tree of the country and are preserved and admired by the locals. Tre trees are high and beautiful and lead the way for the visitors towards a marvelous trek. The trek in total can be between 6 to 8 hours long, depending upon the expertise of the enthusiasts who choose to challenge it.
The easier option is to take the clockwise orientation of the circular trek path, and it makes you arrive directly at the palm valley as well. The entire route is full of bridges, most of which are reinforced and suspended in nature. Through these bridges, the visitor would be led to a crossroad and then simultaneously a 3-way. From there, a right turn would ensure that the traveler reaches to the Hummingbird Valley and gets to enjoy the delight.
If the person chooses to go the other way around (anti-clockwise), the trek is certainly more challenging. However, it has the added advantage of reaching the main palm valley spot right at the end. It kind of tops off the entire trip and pays off the effort. Once the trek is completed, the tourists should head to the same point where the jeeps would await them.
Essential Tips for Cocora Valley Enthusiasts
Every possible visitor to the Cocora Valley must have already understood that it is a trekking delight by now. So to suit the cause, a few essentials should never be forgotten as they can be life-savers. A few tips to make the visitors shed less sweat and go around easily prove to be highly helpful.
- Rest and halt at Salento is highly recommended to avoid exertion. The place has a lot of good natural resorts along the highway that come at affordable rates. These resorts can also be used to relax for a day or two after the trek is over.
- Hiking essentials such as hiking boots, stick, appropriate clothes, and other aids are necessary. It is always advisable to keep an extra medical kit in your bag for patching up some cuts. Caps are useful to protect the head and face, and clothes should cover the entire body as the weather is moderately cold too.
- A bottle of water and some light snacks are quite useful for the task. The trek is long and quite be tiring for even the moderately trained people.
- The operators regulate tour and Jeep timings. The hikers must be back at the spot at the designated time.
- Local vendors and service providers do not necessarily accept USD. Keeping the local currency through an appropriate rate of conversion will prove to be a life-saver as well.
- Once at the park, there is no point in rushing through the trek. The place is a marvelous delight for nature’s outlook and should be given due time and significance.
Finishing Off in a Calm Way
The local food in Colombia is a delight because of its indigenous spices. The country takes a lot of pride in keeping their tourists happy. For decades, the place has been a cultural delight that can give literal tremors of joy and happiness. To round off a perfect trip, a nice laid-back rest with some detour through the lesser-known places will help a lot. Tourists always have a chance to improvise, given that safety and security concerns are handled well. As a country and a cultural hub, Colombia leaves a permanent indent on every visitor that comes for a life-changing experience.