Tap thunk…bloop… tap thunk…bloop… the incessant noise of the raindrops on the roof woke me from my restless sleep. It was 5am.
A little later, I stepped out into the deep white mist, that hung heavy all around the town of Salento. The air was crisp and cooI as I navigated a maze of narrow alleyways. I was heading to the place where the Willy jeeps were parked. Like legos strewn around the floor, the red and black jeeps were waiting for their passengers.
These ancient modes of transport were used to carry workers to the coffee plantations. They are still in use today to ferry visitors like me to the Cocora Valley which is a part of the Los Nevados National Park.
The Park’s unique and mystical landscape is a sought-after destination for adventure enthusiasts, hikers and offbeat travelers.
A unique tree found in the park is the Wax Palms which grows indigenously in the cocora valley area. The wax palm is the national tree of Colombia and can also be found on the country’s currency note.
They can live upto a 100 years and are only found in the Quindio region of Colombia. The Los Nevados National Park, which is based in Quindio is one of the best places to see them in their natural habitat. Growing at a height of almost 200 feet, these palms, are the tallest in the world.
Hiking is one of the best ways to soak up the views in the Los Nevados National Park. There is a popular and challenging hike of around 5 hours through the Park that most hikers come to experience.
For the not so adventurous, the gently sloping landscapes around the cocora valley can be explored on your own.
Some prefer to explore the valley via horseback.
It often rains in the cocora valley so it is normal to see the wax palms hidden behind a deep veil of mist, clouds and rain.
Most travelers base themselves in Salento. There are several stay options here which are budget friendly.
Transport to the Cocora Valley
Taking a shared willy jeep is the best way as it will drop you at the park’s parking lot. A sign board ahead lets hikers know the starting point and the cocora valley is also along the same route.
The jeeps start from Salento so its best to check for the exact location and time with your hosts. The shared ride costs only a few pesos. The ride takes around 20 mins one way.
The jeeps can be taken even when returning to Salento. It is best to know in advance the time for the last jeep’s departure from the parking lot. Plan your entry and exit accordingly.
Other things to do in Salento
The region of Quindio is a prime coffee cultivation area and Salento is surrounded by several coffee plantations. Plan a visit to any one of these plantations and get to know how the world’s best coffee is made.
The Los Nevados National Park attracts several colorful bird species. You will be lucky to catch the humming birds which are local to this area.
Explore the pretty and colorful town of Salento. Soak in the vibe and hospitality of the people. Travel during the local festival season to immerse yourself in the local traditions and culture.
Try the local trout with chilled beer.
Drink copious amounts of coffee cause you are in coffee heaven.