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The white daub and wattle houses with their red clay roofs line Calle Real, where the inhabitants of Salento come out with a welcoming smile to make a proud offer of their work in a sort of craft carnival. Among the things they make are aromatic coffee-bean bracelets, totumo bowls, bamboo ornaments and weaves.
At the end of this short street, you can walk up 238 steps to a high point, and a breathtaking view around you, across the Valle del Cocora, fertile soil where the wax palms – Colombia´s national tree – keep silent watch. Cocora seems to come from the name of a bird found there, or even from a Quimbaya princess of that name. The word means “star of water”.
Rainbow trout are to be found in the local waters – and hence also, on local tables, prepared with garlic, fines herbes, almonds, or almost anything you could want, but always with rice, patacón (plantain tortillas) and salad.
En el Valle del Cocora crece imponente la palma de cera que custodia el camino hacia el bosque de niebla / Foto: Carlos Sueskún.
The story which visitors must surely remember the best must be the time they spent in Valle del Cocora. It´s a trip that could take one or two days. If you have only one day, however, you can still take an ecological trail or go on horseback (about two hours) up into the mists, an extraordinary setting of giant wax-palms and at the top, a lunch of local dishes – a favourite, of course, is trout.
The second option is to climb the mountain which is sometimes covered in know: but for that you need to be physically and mentally well-prepared. Whatever you decide to do, the adventure starts in the main square of Salento, where you catch the Willys Jeep, specially adapted to be a “taxi”.
Once inside the Cocora valley, the Willys drops you off for some beautiful scenery and some lunch, before you take off into the fairy-tale mists above.