Living in Colombia it’s been a struggle to find quality information on how to access Colombia’s stunning National Parks - Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia.
Most of the Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia are easy to access (once you know how) and breathtaking. If you don’t need to rely on public transport it’s going to be even easier for you. Enjoy exploring.
Looking to make your Colombian Public Transport life easier? For urban (intra-city) PT Moovit has a great presence in Colombia - it will change your life. For inter-city public transport, unless it’s a festival day or week just head to the nearest Terminal de Transportes in your town and buy a ticket right before you want to travel. For festivals either book online or head to the terminal in person a few days before you want to travel.
Salento is located in the Department of Quindío and is the easiest entry point to day walks within the Valle de Cocora part of the Parque Nacional Los Nevados. Salento is a great spot to spend the night before heading out to admire the wax palms, if you have more time think about spending some time Filandia as well. The hike’s likely to be muddy, so wear either washable trainers or hiking sandals - if you don’t care about mud there’s no need for wellington boots! Be mindful that Salento is around 1900m above sea level and you’ll gain another 1000m if you do the hike.
How do I public transport to Salento?
First up, make your way to either the Terminal de Transportes in Armenia, Pereira or Manizales. From any of these cities you’ll be able to get a small local bus headed to Salento (you’ll probably need to make a change from Pereira or Manizales). If you come from Armenia (the easiest choice), head to the rear of the terminal go outside and from there you’ll find all the small local buses. It’s around 4000 pesos paid either to the boarding conductor or when you get off the bus. Just be aware if you get to Armenia after 9pm you will have missed the last service, and you’ll be limited to a taxi or spending the night in Armenia.
And then what about Cocora Valley?
Easy. Head to the Plaza de Bolivar (the main town square) and make your way to the edge with the Willy’s (Jeeps) and buy your ticket from the booth. Wait for the Willy to fill and then you’ll be dropped at the start of the trail in the Cocora Valley, in around 30 minutes. Coming back to Salento, just head into the main car park, find the next Willy leaving, wait for it to fill and voila.
Where do I hike once I get there?
So you’ve got off the Willy. You have two choices, the shorter hike which takes in the miradors overlooking the Cocora Valley. Totally worth it and maybe 2.5 hours walking in total. If you want to do this, just continue straight up the road past the horses and follow the main trail.
If you’re more into a longer day hike (most people pick the anti-clockwise direction) - between 5 and 7 hours with time for stops, photographs and a “detour” to the hummingbird sanctuary (if you skip the sanctuary you can get done in 3.5 hours) turn right through the blue gate close to where the Willy stops.
Go down the slope and through farmlands, there’s a clear path (one for pedestrians and one for horses - this is by far the muddiest part, it wont get any worse!), you’ll then make it to the rainforest areas and enjoy traversing the river on a number of rickety suspension bridges. After around 2 hours you’ll reach a T junction - if you want to visit the hummingbird sanctuary turn right, otherwise turn left and start climbing.
At the top of the climb you’ll be at Finca La Montaña - great views and also loads of hummingbirds. From here on the hike is easy, down a gentle slope, you will need to pay the private park entry fee (in both 2018 and 2019 it was 3000 pesos) as you get close to the Valle de Cocora. Make sure you divert to all the miradors and also when you’re close to the bottom get off the road and walk through the fields.
It’s just as lovely doing this longer walk in reverse - and to be honest I actually enjoy it more this way!
Last updated March 2019.