Near the small mountain town of Salento in central Colombia lies a valley called Cocora, which is famed for the enormously gigantic wax palm trees growing there. This type of palm tree can grow up to a height of 60 meters (200 ft) and is recognized as the national tree of Colombia.

It’s baffling to me why a palm tree would grow so tall. What could possibly be the evolutionary benefit? Perhaps these trees used to be surrounded by forest, as there’s no reason for them to be competing for light today.

To get a sense of just how tall these trees are, scroll down the picture below. At the bottom, you will see a small horse for scale. This is actually a full-size horse that’s scratching its bum on the trunk. I think it’s safe to say this palm tree is truly enormous.

Horse for scale.

Besides marvelling at these giant trees, there’s also some nice hiking to be had around Cocora Valley. One path leads to Acaime nature reserve, and it follows a stream through the jungle and features a series of unstable Indiana Jones-esque footbridges accross the river. There’s also a hummingbird sanctuary halfway down the route.

It was quite rainy and misty when I was there, which caused the mountain range to peek through the clouds in cool and mysterious ways.

To visit the Cocora valley, get on one of the many regular vans departing from Salento. Hiking to the butterfly sanctuary and back takes about 2-3 hours.

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