Valle de Cocora: Hiking in the Clouds

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Though hiking the Valle de Cocora was one of the things I was most looking forward to in Colombia, nothing could have prepared me for just how beautiful it would be.

We walked to the square a little past 7 in the morning, looking for a “Willy”, or Jeep, to take us to the valley where we would begin our hike. A man escorted us to a Jeep that was already packed full, and we stared at him blankly.

Does he expect us to sit on these strangers’ laps?

Seeing we were confused, he pointed to a small platform that hung out over the back tires about a foot.

We hopped up along with a Dutch guy and held on tightly to the metal bar atop the vehicle as we sped out of town.

Hang on tight!

Hang on tight!


It was at this point that I remembered reading that the ride was not a short one down the block. No, we would have to hang on like this for the next half hour.

Although it didn’t seem like it at first, we actually had the best seats – or standing room – in the entire Willy. The ride was exhilarating and we got to see some incredible views as we plunged down into the valley.

Once we finally reached the starting point, we set off on a five and a half hour hike that took us through six distinctly different landscapes.

Part 1: Tranquil Valley


The first forty minutes we made our way through a beautiful valley. Rain the night before made the path exceptionally muddy, but walking alongside grazing cattle and lush meadows made up for the squishy journey.

Part 2: Tropical Cloud Forest


Complete with Indiana Jones-inspired bridges, colorful fauna, and moss-covered trees, it was like something you see in movies with fairies frolicking to and fro.

Want to hike more in Colombia? Adventure to Ciudad Perdida, the multi-day lost city trek.

Part 3: Hummingbird Hideaway


We took an optional detour into a hummingbird refuge. Here, we were able to sit and watch the birds flutter and zip around at impossible speeds, all while sipping on hot chocolate and nibbling on hunks of cheese (a common pairing in this region). It was a nice break and a chance to regain energy.

Part 4: Uphill Trek

Giant leaves!

Giant leaves!

With zig-zagging trails stretching through a mountainous forest, this was the most strenuous part of the journey, but also had the best views of the landscape below.

Part 5: In the Clouds


Once we reached the top of the uphill portion, we were rewarded with a beautiful mountaintop farm in the clouds. Flowers in all colors and varieties grow alongside vegetables and fruits. After leaving the farm, we walked downhill through low-hanging clouds.

Part 6: Valley de Cocora


Palm trees began to appear one by one through the mist. With clouds hanging heavy, palm trees stretching tall, and wild horses grazing in the hilly valley, it was a scene straight out of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.

The palm trees in the valley are special. Known as Wax Palms, they are the tallest palm tree in the world and are exclusive to this valley.

Wax palms are a symbol of Colombia, and are even pictured on the currency.

Wax palms are a symbol of Colombia, and are even pictured on the currency.

It was without a doubt one of the most insanely beautiful places I have ever seen.

I took 431 pictures that day – I just couldn’t control myself!

After reaching the end of the hike, our rumbling tummies led us to a restaurant in the valley. We ordered the famous local trucha, or trout, and enjoyed every bite. The coral flesh and taste reminded us more of salmon than trout, but it was delicious. Served atop a giant platano – thinly smashed plantain, with rice and a salad, we were stuffed even though we shared one plate. (The portions here are HUGE!)

The famoustrucha

The famous trucha

After lunch, we tried to catch a Willy back to town. The thing we didn’t realize about the Willys is that they only leave once they are completely full. That meant the two of us would have to wait for 6 more people to finish their hike, or we would have to pay for all their fares. Lucky for us, we didn’t have to wait long.

This time we sat in the back of the Jeep, and it’s a good thing we did. We didn’t just pack it full with 8 people, which would be full capacity. No, our driver was a bit of an over-achiever. We squished that Jeep full of 15 people before embarking on the half hour journey back to Salento. 

Read more about our time in Salento:

Exploring a Coffee Farm

Playing Tejo

More pictures from our hike 

Instead of hiking, some people rode horses through the valley.

Instead of hiking, some people rode horses through the valley.


Comments (4) on “Valle de Cocora: Hiking in the Clouds

  1. Ana says:

    It looks stunning! I am planing to go to Colombia in Spring and Valle de Cocora is definitely on my list. How’s that hike called? Did you hop on the Willy in Salento? Where did you get off to start the hike?
    Thank you for your tipps!

    • ktdieder@gmail.com says:

      It certainly is stunning (and pictures just don’t do it justice – seriously!). People just refer to the hike as the "Valle de Cocora hike", so it’s pretty easy to remember haha!

      And yes, in the center of the town square, there are many Willys waiting in the morning. As soon as they fill up with hikers and local children getting rides to school, they head down into the valley (about a 30-minute drive). Riding on the back is the best "seat" for sure! The final stop is where you’ll start the hike. The drivers know that’s where most foreigners dressed in hiking gear are headed, so you definitely won’t miss it! Best of luck!

  2. lia@practicalwanderlust.com says:

    What a beautiful post! Our hike was on a sunnier day but it was just as muddy and rainy up in the cloud forest. We are slow hikers, so it took us much longer to hike than you, and we didn’t get through to the very end! Now that we know what we missed out on we really have to go back …. PS you’re so right that riding in the back of the Willy is the best seat!! SO much fun!

    • ktdieder@gmail.com says:

      I’m so excited to hear that you liked the hike too! We loved the change of "climate", so to speak! It felt like we went through many different places, and even though we were a little bummed that it was cloudy when we started hiking, I think it made the end point more mysterious! I’m heading to your website now to read your take on the hike 🙂

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