Valle Del Cocora | Colombia’s Cold Mountain Hideaway

by Stephanie Walsh on May 8, 2012 · 11 comments

in Colombia, South America, Travels

Beautiful evening colours in Valle del Cocora

Valle del Cocora is among one of the most visited regions in Colombia, due to its stunning landscapes, covered in a beautiful mountain mist almost all year round.

Wax Palm Trees are synonymous with Colombia

Wax Palm Trees are synonymous with Colombia

Just 3 hours from the warm climate of Cali, Valle del Cocora feels like another country and has the unique characteristic of being almost always covered in “cloud forests’, a mist that covers the tops of the mountains and often slides its way down the sides to lower altitudes. The valley is also part of the Los Nevados National Natural Park.

The cozy restaurant situated below the 'cloud forests' of Valle del Cocora

The cozy restaurant situated below the 'cloud forests' of Valle del Cocora

Sunset in the Valley of Wax Palm Trees

Sunset in the Valley of Wax Palm Trees

Like the nearby small town of Salento, it rains almost everyday in the valley, however we were lucky to escape the rain almost entirely during our trip there. It was very cold during the evening and night; so don’t forget to bring warm clothes and hiking shoes and clothes if you are visiting the area.

One of my favourite time of day for taking pictures - dusk

One of my favourite time of day for taking pictures - dusk

The drive from Salento to Valle del Cocora is stunning and the landscape gets more and more beautiful the closer you get to the Valley. On entering, you are surrounded by the famous wax palms, the national tree and symbol of Colombia, rolling green hills and deep mountain valleys with rivers and waterfalls. Once you arrive you can choose a campsite and set up your tent. We had the help of a local boy who clearly had a lot of experience in helping visitors put up their tents.

The sun begins to set over our campsite in Valle del Cocora

The sun begins to set over our campsite in Valle del Cocora

That night we tried to light a campfire…with very little success…in fact with NO success. We spent about two hours embarrassingly trying to light a fire with all the fire gadgets and loose wood we could find. Eventually two guys from the Colombian army saw our pathetic attempts and came over to help us. Within a few minutes they had chopped a huge pile of wood and started the fire…obviously they have had army training in outdoor survival skills…just saying.

Our first attempt to light a fire for the night...

Our first attempt to light a fire for the night...

After three hours of attempting to light a fire, two guys from the Colombian army offer us their help and expertise

After three hours of attempting to light a fire, two guys from the Colombian army offer us their help and expertise

They really put our skills to shame...

They really put our skills to shame...

And so the army guys, complete with massive machine guns proceeded to roast marshmallows with us around the campfire until they had to go hide from their boss!

Success! Andres, Leonardo and Ana around the campfire

Success! Andres, Leonardo and Ana around the campfire

The next day we got up early to go horse riding up the mountain to the Fundación Herencia Verde (Green Heritage Foundation), known for its many hummingbirds fluttering around at the top and the tough but worthwhile trek to the top. I recommend going by horse as it’s a pretty tough climb for about an hour and a half uphill and the terrain often involves climbing and descending steep rocks. I was very excited (and nervous) to get on our horses, as I hadn’t ridden a horse since a traumatic horse experience when I was around 12 years old.

Day 2 and the epic horse trek up the mountain begins

Day 2 and the epic horse trek up the mountain begins

Another Indiana Jones moment for me in Colombia as we crossed numerous fast flowing rivers, climbed slippery rocks and walked along steep cliffs all on the back of our trusty steeds.

The trail brought us through forest, river and rock

The trail brought us through forest, river and rock

Crossing one of many fast flowing rivers (so badass!)

Crossing one of many fast flowing rivers (so badass!)

At the top, we had to pay a $3,000 COP ‘entrance fee’, which was clearly just a way to disguise the fact that you are actually paying for the ‘free lunch’…a not so pleasant bowl of ‘agua de panela’ and a stick of rubbery cheese.

The agua de panela and stick of cheese meal at the top...

The agua de panela and stick of cheese meal at the top...

Apart from looking at the hummingbirds and eating a stick of cheese, there is really not much to do at the top. The views are nicer on the way up and the signs posted all around the shack at the top make it clear that they have a bad perception of foreigners with English signs reading “If you go for a second bowl, you pay for a second bowl”.

The Council of Elrond

The Council of Elrond

I love their eyes, so cartoon-like

I love their eyes, so cartoon-like

It is better to leave early for the trip, preferably around 8am, as we barely encountered any other people on our way up, however on the way back down we met numerous people on foot and on horse starting their journey to the Fundación Herencia Verde. We were back down at our campsite by 12 noon.

He's totally checking his Facebook

He's totally checking his Facebook

We wanted to leave early to get back to Cali before dark so we packed up our stuff and had a quick lunch at the campsites (expensive but homely) restaurant, complete with open fire!

My egg obsession continues!

My egg obsession continues!

Although we only had one night in Valle del Cocora, it was totally worth the 3-hour journey. Colombia is so diverse and the Valle shows a whole new side to the country with its colder climate, unique landscapes and the unexpected combination of palm trees and on cold mountainsides!

Sunset at Valle del Cocora

Sunset at Valle del Cocora

A local farmer 'Campesino' strolls through his fields in Valle del Cocora

A local farmer 'Campesino' strolls through his fields in Valle del Cocora

Along with the nearby picturesque town of Salento and the fun National Coffee Park, it can make a great weekend trip from one of the nearby cities or the perfect stop on a backpacking trip around Colombia. Go there, experience one of the most famous places in the country and see for yourself the process of coffee making from start to finish.

I love him! Our new campsite neighbour!

I love him! Our new campsite neighbour!

Evening in Valle del Cocora

Evening in Valle del Cocora

 

For more travel photos from Valle del Cocora visit our set on Flickr here.