Walking the Valley de Cocora, visiting the humming birds and soaking up Salento

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
8
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
6
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
8
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
4
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
4
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
7
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
67 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
South America
country
Colombia
Length of time
3-4 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 150
Time of year visited
March
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
141st/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 40% SUMMARY RATING: Superb

Summary

The Los Nevados National Park region is gorgeous, mist-filled rolling valleys with just miles and miles of luscious greens of the jungle all around you.  And the highlights are the Valley de Cocora – a valley full of the world’s tallest palm trees (up to 60m / 200 feet) that also includes a great 5/6 hour round trip hike with views of the valleys below and a spot with hundreds of hummingbirds hovering around you – and staying in the pretty hill-top town of Solento for a relaxing few days.  They can get a little touristy in spots, but you don’t have to wander far to find yourself a quieter spot that allows you to relax and soak up the central Colombian vibe

 

Definitely one of the highlights of Colombia

highlights

#1 Seeing the view of the surrounding mountains as you walk along the 5-6 hour hiking route through the Valley de Cocora

#2 Wandering through the pretty towns and chilled out vibe of the Solento area

#3 Soaking up the gorgeous, lush mountain and jungle scenery of this central part of Colombia

#4 Wandering under the giant palm trees in the centre of the Valley de Cocora

#5 Watching and playing with the hundreds of Hummingbirds flying to within inches of you in the Hummingbird Reserve

Travel Tips

  • For the Valley de Cocora:
    • Walk the round trip – you could, if pressed for time, take 1-1.5 hours and only check out the valley, but I’d recommend the round trip loop which takes 5-6 hours at a slow pace giving plenty of time for stops.  The loop lets you see the hummingbirds, the mountain farm and the river, but more than anything its just a beautiful hike with gorgeous viewing points and rickety old bridges to cross that are fun.  Plus, you’ve probably spent the best part of a day to get here from the likes of Medellin or Bogota so it feels a bit weird not to take in the walking loop
    • You can go clockwise or anticlockwise round the loop – I don’t think it makes a huge difference which way you go other than the walk from the Valley de Cocora to the Mountain Farm is far longer and less steep than the walk from the Mountain Farm to the Hummingbird area.  We went anti-clockwise and enjoyed it
    • Bring some snacks for the day – but if you forget you can get some very basic food at the Hummingbird place
    • You don’t need a guide – just as much fun to head off on your own and the track is very simple to follow
    • I’d suggest going early – mainly because it felt like it typically rained in the afternoon rather than the morning
  • Getting around – you get from town to town (and to the Valley de Cocora – don’t walk) using the colourful jeeps that are always stationed in the town centres.  They look like they should hold 7-8 but they happily fit 12, which means last to get on will most likely be standing hanging on to the back.  I found this quite fun as you’re zooming through the countryside, with the breeze on your face getting the best view, but could understand how it might be a bit tedious / scary for some.  You won’t so much get a “ticket” for the jeep, but there is always either a driver nearby trying to find the next people or a small hut organising trips who is next.  Whilst they do have a timetable, it seems to go out the window a bit at times.  They leave at least every hour and its super cheap (4,000 COP / US$1).  If you get a bit fed up and want to leave quicker, they’ll usually find one to leave with just you and your group
  • Restaurants – there’s a heap of restaurants, many with nice views of the surrounding mountains.  I’d really recommend La Herreria on the west side of town which did superb food and great place for cocktails
  • Finlandia and Circasia are worth a visit – just as much to jump on the jeep and head off on a mini adventure and soak up the countryside as anything else
  • Accommodation – you can find super cheap deals in really lovely small hotels in many of the hilltop towns.  I’d recommend Hotel La Caracola in Salento which was friendly, colourful and separate from some of the busier parts of town
  • Be ready for long bus rides to get there and away – even though the distances look short on the map, the terrain is super hilly so it takes a long time to get around.  Around 9 hours for either Bogota (via Armenia) or Medellin
  • For how Salento and the Valley de Cocora can fit into a bigger 3 week trip to see the highlights of Colombia, see 3 weeks in Colombia for itinerary and tips
  • Book recommendations:
    • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the traditional must read literature.  At times it can be a little slow going, but it created its own genre (magic realism . . . obviously) and very much tells the story in a round about way of many of the difficulties faced by Colombia
    • To give a perspective of just what it must have been like for the American civilisations before the Spanish arrived, I highly recommend 1491 by Charles Mann.  It will change your view from what is likely to be that of basic jungle tribes / Indians hunting the buffalo on the plains to what they really were – in many ways equally sophisticated civilisations to those of Eurasia
    • For a broad, often quite opinionated, overview of modern South America, I also recommend Viva South America Oliver Balch
  • Broader Colombia – for how Bogota can fit into a bigger 3 week trip to see the highlights of Colombia, see 3 weeks in Colombia for itinerary and tips

Experiences nearby

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Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone