Cocora was a princess, daughter of Acaime, chief of the local Quimbaya indigenous people. Today she lends her name to Colombia’s Cocora Valley, where the native wax palms (the national tree) grow up to 60 metres and live for about 200 years.
The trees were once threatened, in part because of Palm Sunday celebrations in this staunchly Catholic country. But nowadays they are protected within a national park, Los Nevados. The felling of the wax palm tree is forbidden by law and punishable with a fine. I was surprised though to find the area quite developed with lots of small restaurants along the road in the park, and several Instagram-friendly features like this one:
We visited the valley with a guide, Juan-Paolo. He was a very enthusiastic guy, taking lots of photos during the day which he later sent me (including the one above, and another I’ve used below, with his permission). He was a great talker but not quite so good at listening. I found it hard to get him to understand my limitations when it came to walking. There are various trails here and he showed us on a map at the start the one which he thought would be OK for my dodgy knees and which would take us to a good viewpoint.
It proved more challenging for me than he had suggested. However, I have to admit I saw more of the valley than I would have done had he not been so persuasive that the walk he’d selected was ‘easy’. So maybe it was a good thing he challenged me to have a go.
On the trail
Most of the path was well made, with steps in places and handrails on the steepest parts. Of course we stopped for lots of photos on the way up. That’s always a good opportunity to take a break on a steep path, isn’t it? It meant that I found this one more manageable than I might otherwise have done. You can see the path in many of the shots below. You’ll also meet one of the horses available for hire for those who can’t manage the walk or who want to go further into the valley.
When we were nearly at the top, however, the path ended. I was a bit disconcerted to see that there was just a steep grassy slope for the final few metres. At first I decided to opt out of this and left Jean-Paolo and Chris to climb the last part without me.
But I couldn’t come so far and not see it through, so I soon followed them up. Jean-Paolo was right about the views from this spot.
As I’d suspected though, I found the descent much more challenging than the climb. I paid the price for the next day or two with very sore knees!
Still, looking back at these photos and remembering the view, I have to admit I’m glad I did it! It was quite a sight to see these tall palms in such a lush green valley, when I usually associate them with drier environments or coastlines.
I visited Colombia in February 2023