Cocora Valley is a famous National Park.
Travelers come to see Cocora Valley. Photo by Flickr/Alexander Schimmeck

The main reason we tourists come here is to hike Cocora Valley, a 60,000 square kilometers national park that’s famous for its wax palms. These regal towers grow 60 meters tall, live to be 120 and look like something from a Dr. Suez book. The latest trend amongst young Israelis is to travel to the valley looking for a certain hallucinogenic mushroom that grows in cow patties.

This is a source of considerable frustration for the search party that has to spend all night in the cold and rain trying to find them. Never the less, the map-less trails, often no bigger than a goat path, are inexplicably described as “very easy to follow.” The fallen sign posts whose mishmash of arrows that are half buried in the mud are confounding. Even the most clear headed navigator coming down from the mountain can feel like they’re on a magical mystery tour.

Soon, we’re heading back to Medellin. When we get there, I stop into one of a chain of coffee shops that has opened up throughout Colombia and whose decorating scheme is the spitting image of Starbucks. It serves very good fresh coffee. And its name…is Juan Valdez.

If You Go to Salento, Columbia:

The Plantation House:  Stay in the 100 year old main house, farm house or for the more adventurous, the bamboo tree fort overlooking the finca.  Cell: 316-285-2603.

Plantation House Coffee Tour:  9 a.m. English speaking tour at Plantation House farm.

Rincon de Lucy: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner. Best traditional bandeja paisa in town.                (Calle 4 y Carrera 6ta)

Valle de Cocora National Park: A 30 minute jeep ride from Salento’s main plaza (3,000 COP), the hiking loop takes 4-5 hours, water proof boots and guide recommended.

Horseback riding: Alvaro Gomez leads trail rides including waterfall and Cocora Valley trips. Ph: 311-375-1534

Author Bio: Jenny Noble is a copywriter, journalist, dedicated traveler and mom. After graduating from UC Berkeley, she worked in advertising for over 16 years in New York City. Her area of expertise is traveling around Latin America, alone with her two young children and very little money.  That, and holding a full cup of coffee in extreme turbulence without spilling it.