I arrived in Salento two days ago and was surprised with the number of people there. It turned out it was a Colombian holiday and Salento is a popular tourist destination for Colombians.
Salento is a small town part of the Zona Cafetera of Colombia, the coffee growing region. It has a nice temperate climate. It’s about an hour bus ride from Armenia and beautiful scenery along the way.
I stayed in Ciudad de Segorbe Hostel, ran by the two really nice and friendly owners: Enrique and Luis. It’s a beautiful hostel and has a very relaxed atmosphere, which I prefer. The owners gave me lots of good tips on what to do and where to eat in town. The main attraction here, apparently, is doing a day hike in the nearby Cocora Valley (Valle de Cocora).
Cocora Valley is about a 20-minute jeep ride from the town center. It’s known for the wax palms, palm trees that can grow over 60 feet tall. I decided to do this hike right the next day.
The first jeep leaves from the main plaza at 7:30 AM. I was warned to get there at least 10 minutes earlier as it leaves right on the dot, and sometimes earlier if there’s enough passengers. I got there around 7:00 AM and there were already a few people waiting. There were about 11 of us passengers, two hanging on the back of the jeep. The fare was COP3000 (around $1.70). There is no fee to enter Cocora Valley.
We started the hike right away as soon we got there. The first 5 km or so was very muddy. I almost wished I rented the boots that Enrique was offering at the hostel. I decided against it as I found the boots quite uncomfortable, I didn’t want to get blisters after the hike. I found ways to avoid most of the mud, but there were sections that were quite tricky. It can also get pretty chilly here and rains from time to time so make sure to bring at least a light sweater and/or a rain jacket.
The views along the trail are really beautiful. Lots of green around you. The view also changes from this open area to a more jungle-like area, with rivers and waterfalls nearby. After crossing about 5 hanging bridges, you’ll get to a fork with signs pointing to ACAIME nature reserve and the La Montaña ranger station. Both destinations are about 1 km each away from these signs. Entrance to ACAIME is COP3000 (around $1.70) and also includes either a bottled water, a glass of soda, or bread with cheese. I decided to make a stop to ACAIME as it seemed to be a good point to take a break. It’s mostly uphill from here but not too steep.
When I reached ACAIME a couple from Holland, Tim and Inga, who were on the same jeep I took, were already there watching the different types of hummingbirds flying around. A guy from Brazil, Marcos, also arrived shortly after I got there. We all chatted for a little bit and decided to do the rest of the hike together. There’s also a bathroom here you can use for COP500 ($0.28) if you need it.
We hiked back down to where we saw the sign pointing to La Montaña and went that way this time. The hike from here to La Montaña was probably the hardest part of the hike, pretty steep uphill climb. Fortunately, it’s only about 1 km long.
When we reached La Montaña, we were all very impressed with the scenery and spent some time here to take pictures and enjoy the beautiful views. We were all glad that the hardest part was over.
We then kept going and the views just kept getting better and better. Inga found a really nice spot along the way right by the trail that I don’t think we were supposed to enter as there’s barbed wire in between, but it was low enough that we went ahead anyway. We spent quite a bit of time here as it’s just such a great spot to hang out. We watched birds fly by, the moving fog that changes the scenery quite a bit, while enjoying the nice breeze. We took lots of pictures here but when I looked at them when I got home, the pictures don’t do it justice. You have to be there to really appreciate how beautiful this place is.
From here, we had about another hour of walking to get back to the entrance. It’s an easy walk from here, and again, more beautiful scenery and I never got tired of looking at them…and taking more pictures.
We got back at the entrance at around 2:30 PM. The jeep that goes back to the town leaves at 3:00 PM, so we had a small snack at the restaurant while waiting. The entire hike took us about 6 and a half hours including all the stops. Total distance covered was probably around 14 km (approx.8.5 miles). I say it’s about a moderate hike, not easy but not too difficult either, and definitely not to be missed if you’re in Salento. Easily one of the best hikes I’ve ever done and one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen!