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Published: March 9th 2013
from Popayan to Salento and the Cocora Valley
It only had taken around 4h to get to Popayan
from San Agustin but when we finished we felt it was not enough. The views on the way simply astounded us as we could not stop looking through the window of our small bus. The valley, the waterfalls and lush green jungle was what we exactly imagined about Colombia. We could not stop wondering where all the drug plantations and factories were as this place seemed ideal for that purpuse.
We made our way straight to the highly recommended TrailHostel and got a double room as a treat. It was said so many times that sex comes pricey when traveling on a budget hahaha and it is true. We made our way to the centre to find some nice eatery and were astonished how touristy this place was. Yes, Popayan is lovely and all colonial with its white walls and stunning churches but it lacked some authentic feel to us. It is true, we became snobs when it comes to places we visit. It has to have this something otherwise we are not very thrilled. Nevertheless, we were already there so
we walked around, visited all the monuments and plazas and even climb a hill to watch sunset over this pretty place. There and then we made a decision that we were not feeling it, so we had to move on.
We could have gone to the national park nearby but because of some local protest our hostel manager did not recommend it. The plan was to go to Medellin for some modern city feel but we did not really feel like doing that either. We got an email from a friend we met in Bogota and he really recommended Salento in the mountains. It was like a sign from heavens to us so we jumped on a minibus to Armenia
in Zona Cafeteria. It was a long journey but we knew we would love this place. Not Armenia so to speak as this was one doggy stop-over. It was probably the only place in the whole country where we felt uncomfortable around bus terminal. As the last bus to Salento left had left already, we were forced to overnight. We only went to a hotel next door from the terminal but already some people were following us and asking
In the morning we embarked on a 45min ride to Salento,
on winding mountain road with mouth dropping scenery of the Valle de Cocora
. We had read before that this place was many travelers’ favorite when it comes to mountain views so our hopes were pretty high. We walked to the Plantation House Hotel, which was highly recommended to us by our friend and we liked it straight away. It is one of those no stress – no fuss places with all the extras you need on the road. They have hot water showers, kitchen and dining area for guests and free, unlimited coffee from their own finca
(plantation). As we had no reservation they had troubles finding us a place but eventually they suggested that we might want to stay at the plantation itself. “It is very basic – I am warning you”
–said the receptionist but of course she could not have known that we love basic and we love unusual places to stay.
We made our way down the hill to the plantation and when we saw the place we could not believe how pretty the views were. We get to stay HERE!!!
The house is based literally at the edge of a hill with the most amazing eastern view of the valley. It was a pleasure to wake up and have breakfast with views like that. Yes the place was basic but we also met some amazing people (as we were all trapped there in the evening) and got to cook our food on wood fire stove. Loved it and we keep recommending this place to everybody. Unfortunately people don’t like to compromise wi-fi, hot shower and proper kitchen ‘just’ for views and incredible silence at night so there were no many requests to stay there. Are we crazy because we actually enjoyed it?
We gathered all the info from our fellow travelers and the next day we were ready to take on the Cocora Valley trek. It is a 5-7h hike through amazingly beautiful forest, across the rivers and then through the plateau of wax palm trees. They are incredible and so odd looking. They stay tall in the vast space just as if someone placed them there. Apparently this species of palm is distinctive to Cocora Valley, how weird. John, whom we met in the Plantation house, told us
to go to the La Montana first (mountain peak) and then move on to the Humming Birds sanctuary. Everybody else do the loop in other direction. Unfortunately we did not figure out the way straight away and we found ourselves on a trail with loads of other people, walking, running and horse-riding.
The trek was fantastic. We loved the bridges across rivers the most. When we got to the sign directing traffic to La Montana we just followed it. Should have though twice!!! It is a very steep 800m climb but at the end you are rewarded with amazing views. In the end it turned out great that we had made that mistake as we were the only people who could see these magnificent views in full sun and with great clarity. 10 minutes later clouds descended over the valley and the rain came. We turned around and walked back to the humming bird sanctuary which for me was like an amusement park for a little kid. I simply did not imagine that you can see them so close and personal. Previously we spent so much time standing still in one place and trying to get a nice shot
of them but here they were everywhere.
The small entrance fee covers your chot chocolate or coffee so we used this place as a lunch spot as well. It was raining so we had nowhere else to go anyway. Eventually we had to walk back as we had to catch the last jeep to town and the trek takes 2-3h. We still had to encounter the big palm trees so it was not the end of a stunning hike. Shame that it was raining so heavily because the mist obscured the views but we were happy nevertheless. We loved treks we have done in different parts of the world but Salento and Cocora Valley beats them all, I suppose. This place is breathtakingly beautiful and if you don’t include it in your schedule when in Colombia, you sure will have something to regret.
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