On everyone's Salento to-do list is the spectacular Valle de Cocora. No doubt you will have seen the image of this remarkable cloud forest before - it adorns many postcards throughout the country. But, to experience it yourself is something else entirely.
This is our guide on how to get there and how to make the most of your hike amongst the palm trees.
Rising up through the mist, the wax palms - a national symbol of Colombia - tower over their surroundings. At 60m tall, their spindly trunks barely seem adequate to support their height.
With the time of day greatly affecting the weather, the vistas on the hike are as plentiful as the trees; from a morning of blue skies and tropical haze to afternoons of calming mists and long shadows.
It is impossible to take the same photo twice.
which route to hike?
When you arrive, you have two roads to take - the long one and the short one. It really depends on how much time you have, how much hiking you want to do and the time of day you arrive.
the short way
If you're only in Salento for a short time, have arrived at the site after noon or aren't feeling particularly energetic, you can still experience the Valle de Cocora and capture the photo we all go for - simply head straight for the trees.
To take this option, when you get off the truck, walk straight along the dirt track. Do NOT take the path to the right. Follow the clearly marked path for around 1km and you will come to a clearing dotted with the palms.
Spend as long as you like meandering amongst the trees and the lush green grass or walk part way along the track into the hills to enjoy views from above.
Once you're done, simply head back the way you came to catch a truck back to Salento.
This route could be completed in 60-90 minutes.
the long way
For those that want a little more exercise and adventure, we'd recommend the 5-6 hour loop which takes you through the forest, over wooden suspension bridges and along steep hiking tracks. It is from this vantage point you will find the best views.
If you pick this route, you will arrive at the trees after approximately 4 hours. This is the option we took - and we'd highly recommend it as having your final stop being in amongst the iconic trees is something to look forward to.
For this route, when you exit the 4WD, take the path to the right, with signs towards Los Nevados Parque Nacional. It is of course possible to go through the trees first (by following the short route) and do this loop in reverse.
A few kilometres into the hike, you will see signs for a hummingbird sanctuary. Entrance is $6,000 and includes a hot or cold drink (you can even sample the famous hot chocolate with cheese!). It's a nice break and there are a number of birds but, if money or time is tight, we would recommend giving it a miss. To avoid confusion along this section, take note that you do not need to follow the path to the Estrella de Agua, but need to turn left just before the hummingbird sanctuary.
*Update March 2018: Please note there is now an entrance fee on both the left path (path directly toward the trees) and the right path (path along the river) of $3,000 COP. For any other updates required on the Valle de Cocora hike route, please just let us know in the comments.
For those more comfortable on four legs rather than two, horseback is an alternative way to view the valley. On arrival, you will find a number of locals dressed willing to rent you a horse.
Expect to pay $25,000 per hour.
A short drive from Salento, if you're travelling by car then there is plenty of parking on the site. We're afraid we have no idea how much it costs.
how to get there
4WDs leave the main square at the following times - 6.10, 7.30, 9.30 and 11.30 in the morning and take around 20-30 minutes. A one-way fare costs $4,000 per person (updated January 2018). We recommend getting there at least 10 minutes early as they tend to fill up fast!
Also, if you want clearer views, and a quieter hike with less tourists, definitely get one of the earlier jeeps - the 9.30 time slot is probably the most popular and you'll arrive to the Valley en masse.
To return to Salento, you'll find the jeeps in the same spot leaving at the set times every hour on the hour from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.