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Cocora loop, Nevados Natural Park, Salento

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Here's a short, accessible loop to discover the famous Cocora valley and its wax palms or Ceroxylon quindiuense, Colombia's national symbol. Ascending along the Quindio River, the trail plunges into the jungle for a course marked by several suspension bridges in a tropical atmosphere. Before tackling the steep slopes that lead to the Andean highlands and the Tolima nevado massif, the route climbs up to Finca La Montaña before descending gently and crossing fields of wax palms, as small as they are huge, that soar skyward, inaccessible, often in a rather fantastic misty atmosphere. A great excursion from Salento, before tackling some of the more challenging routes at altitude.

Dans la jungle pour remonter à la Finca la Montaña

Technical summary

■ S tarting point: Cocora, Salento, Quindio, Colombia
Type of route: mid-mountain loop hike
Distance: 9.5 km
Cumulative elevation gain: +550 m
Cumulative negative altitude gain: -550 m
Estimated total time: 3h to 3h30
■ Min and max altitude: 2140 m / 2860 m
■ S ignposting: no, but a few signs from time to time, combination of well-marked trails and paths
Equipment in place: small suspension bridges in precarious condition
Equipment required: useful GPS track

Difficulties: none, except for a few steeper sections.

Access to the place

From Cali, drive to Salento, between Pereira and Arménia, at the foot of the los Nevados Natural Park (3h to 3h30 bus ride to Arménia or Pereira, then 45' to 1H bus ride to Salento). In Salento, take a Willis jeep from Plaça Bolivar to Cocora. Currently departing every 2 hours from 7 a.m., 4000 pesos each way. Same for the return trip, departing every 2 hours from 8 a.m. or when a 10-person jeep is full.

Itinerary description


The itinerary forms a loop and crosses 2 reserved areas where you have to pay an entry fee of 5000 pesos to date. The terrain is very wet and muddy in the first section along the torrent, and less so on the return trail at higher elevations. No particular difficulty, except for the steady climb back up to Finca la Montaña. It's worth noting that the suspension bridges are rather rickety and don't inspire a great deal of confidence, but they still seem to be solid enough - at least, we crossed them without any damage.

Part 1: the suspension bridges

From the jeep parking area, climb 20 metres to the road on the right. At the bottom, follow the main track across the Quindio and up to the park entrance. Pay 5,000 pesos to gain access (note that on the way back down from finca la Montaña, we're asked to pay another 5,000 pesos as we're crossing another landowner's property...).

Follow the wide path as it winds its way along grassy slopes grazed by superb cows. You'll come across a few palm trees, but above all you'll be able to see them on the left-hand ridge line, where we'll be returning to on the second part of the trip. At the very end, the valley narrows and we enter the rainforest. The trail then follows the torrent alternately on the right and left banks, over a series of suspension bridges (1 ford to be crossed at the start, possibly by walking in the water if the flow is strong). The atmosphere is enormous, the vegetation overgrown and, if we're lucky, we may see some colorful birds land in plain sight. The route is generally flat, but slightly uphill in places. At the end, after crossing Quindio one last time, it climbs a little and we find the path that leads up the southern flank of the mountain. There's a painted sign for R.N. Akaime and Casa de las Colibris.
Part 2: the wax palms

Steep, steady ascent through the forest and under huge trees, still on very muddy ground, to finally emerge into a clearing and reach Finca de la Montaña at 2860m, the highest point of the hike.

Take the track heading west again. It descends fairly steadily and you pass a few viewpoints over the valley and the fields of wax palms, now rising in a ghostly mist. Further down, follow the track as it makes a wide bend to return to the level of a small tourist park. Rejoin the main track to descend it and return fairly quickly to the jeep park for the return to Salento.

Map & topo

The loop can be made in either direction, but is described here counter-clockwise.

Voir en plein écran



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