There’s no shortage of beautiful landscapes in the Coffee Triangle of Colombia, but few of them get as many oooh and aaahs as the gorgeous Cocora Valley, near the attractive town of Salento.
The secret seems to be getting out on Salento. There were far more tourists wandering around the shops and cafes when I was there in February than there were when I visited a few years back. Colombia’s tourism numbers keep rising as more and more tourists return from the country raving about how great it was. The safety situation is dramatically better than it was in the dark past and the infrastructure is good overall.
When we got to the Cocora Valley 11 kms away, we practically had the place to ourselves though.
The trip up there is half the fun. You get into an old Jeep Willy with benches in the back and barrel out of hilly Salento into the land of the wax palm trees. The best way to do is standing up and holding on to the roof bar so you get a full panoramic view. First you see the misty mountains from afar as the Jeep winds around the turns. As you get closer you see the super-high palm trees studding the green mountains like toothpicks with palm leaves on top.
This is a stunning landscape to admire at more then 2,000 meters and you can see it by walking further in the hills from the parking area or booking a horseback riding trip with a guide from the stables on site.
Most visitors who come up here visit one of the restaurants though. The thing to order is locally farmed fresh-water trout fried up with or without breading and garlic. It comes with fried plantains and different sauces. Order a beer or get the mulled juice, sugar, and spices drink caneloza with or without rum.
There’s no need to make reservations or book a tour for this experience. Just show up in the Salento town square, hire a jeep, and head into the hills.