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Valle de Cocora

Valle de Cocora has become one of the most-visited spots in Colombia, and it's little wonder why. Often described as Switzerland in Colombia, this region of lush rolling green hills, cow pastures, and towering wax palm trees (the national tree of Colombia) has captivated many an imagination. And from Salento it's just a twenty minute ride by jeep ($3.000 per person), out to the valley, which is part of the Los Nevados National Park.

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Jeeps leave from Salento's main square every morning on the hour, typically at 7, 8, and 9, but make sure that you have enough passengers to fill up a jeep. A jeep will hold eight people, and the standard fare for transportation to the Cocora entrance is $26.000 in total.

Once at the entrance, you will make your way to a trail through the heart of the valley, meandering through lush cow pastures, and eventually reaching a stream which will lead you to Acaime, the hummingbird reserve. The walk to Acaime is delightful. Once there, you'll pay an entrance fee of $3.000, which includes a beverage of your choice (hot chocolate, coffe, juice, or soda). While there are many things to see on the walk, the reserve itself is just two bird-feeders and whatever hummingbirds you'll find there. Further beyond the hummingbird reserve you'll find the Estrella de Agua waterfall, although this adds significantly to the total kilometers of the trip.

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After Acaime, it's probably most advisable to work your way up the mountainside to the Finca la Montana. Make sure to stop and look at the interesting mushroom species along the way. At the top you'll find a lookout where, at 2860 meters, you'll be at a higher altitude than in Bogota. Turn back towards the valley entrance at the mountain top, and you'll work your way down a road that winds around the mountainside. Here you'll find horse pastures, and the best part of the Valle de Cocora. It's here where photographers take their most spectacular shots, amidst the towering wax palms.

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After about 2km walking down the mountain, you'll see a gap in the fence, where you can head out onto a grassy bluff. Don't forget your camera!

All in all, the total loop from the entrance to Acaime to Finca la Montana, and back to the entrance is somewhere around 10 to 12km. It's a vigorous day, but well worth the experience. After the tour, a perfect way to end your day is by enjoying some delicious trucha (trout) at one of the two restaurants you'll find at the park entrance. Or, head back into Salento for a few cold Colombian beers.

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