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The Amazing Cocora Valley


When I visited England this past Christmas, there was général bewilderment at my lack of a tan. For people back home, Colombia is a sun-drenched paradise where we all drink coconut milk on the beach. Now, as lovely as that would be, I’m a Londoner and so I’m thankful to be living here in Bogota where I can indulge in that great English activity: complaining about the rain, even though it’s an unavoidable, inherent part of living in England (or Bogota).

A guest post by Paul Fowler.

Here in Colombia, when it does rains in a serious way. Two hours of a sheer onslaught and then, almost faster than you can blink, the sun uncovers itself. This can (and does) lead to some memorable moments. For me the best of these was in Cocora Valley, home of Colombia’s national tree, the wax palm.

We had driven along mostly smooth roads, but when we got closer to our destination the concrete turned to mud and, as a result, I was being thrown around the car like a pinball. All part of the adventure, I told myself as my car-sickness began to creep up on me. All part of the adventure.

Eventually, probably somewhat paler and definitely unwilling to say more than a few words, I arrived with my friends to the beginning of Cocora Valley. To compound my misery at feeling sick it had begun to rain in that way that we don’t get in drizzly London. This was real rain. Real, furious, tropical rain. Nonetheless, we covered ourselves in blankets and began the walk to a nearby river, on the way to which we would pass the famous valleys and, if I was lucky, find somewhere to be sick.

The walk to the river was beautiful. To each side the valleys stretched dramatically into the horizon, with the distinct wax palm trees standing up proudly in gangs. Clouds covered the bulk of the hills and we tried to take some photos without getting our cameras wet. We arrived to the river pleased with what we’d seen, all in agreement it was quite unlike anything we’d witnessed before and that the diversity of Colombian landscape was something incredible to behold. We stayed by the river for a while before beginning our walk back. Even with what we’d already seen, we weren’t prepared for what was coming.

As we walked back out into the valley we discovered the rain had finished and the sun had come out in full force. We each stopped, jaws dropped and in sync we slowly reached into our pockets for our cameras. The mud path, full of puddles, was sparkling in the light; the rolling hills surrounding us were no longer obscured by clouds but instead glimmered with the wet grass; the wax palms didn’t just stand, they jutted out into the sky, looming over the valleys like lost souls, giving us a view that took our breath away. We took hundreds of photos between us, trying to capture not only the view, but also the moment itself, when furious rain is followed by brilliant sunshine.

It could have been the fresh air, it could have been the walk, but walking out that forest and into this spectacular, awe-inspiring view, I completely forgot that sick feeling.

Until the journey back, that is.


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Guest Saturday, 31 January 2015


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