You get used to seeing sombrero topped men draped in colorful woolen ponchos on the streets of Jardín. They are typically relaxing on a corner sipping a locally grown coffee and enjoying a few hours away from the farm. We spent several days in this mountain village during our month in Colombia, and it was amongst our favorite places to visit in the country.
Jardín is a small village, deep in the mountains of Colombia where time seems to have stood still over the last century. The surrounding ridges cradle a cluster of colorful streets, seeming to protect this pueblo from influences of the outside world. Gauchos can be found riding horses through town wearing thick ponchos to protect against the chill. Boasting ideal coffee growing conditions, the neighboring mountains hold a lot more than just agriculture. A series of stunning waterfalls are found in the cool jungle, making for some of the best destination hiking in the country. If you want to escape the city, love coffee, nature and hiking, then a stop in Jardín is a must.
We had come to Jardín at the recommendation of the our friendly Airbnb host from Medellín. She had assured us that this tiny village, seeming much further away than the easy 3 hour bus ride, would be right up our alley. Despite its growing reputation as a worthy travel destination in Colombia, we arrived in a town with almost no foreign tourists. On every corner, people sipped coffee (tinto) from small ceramic cups alongside brightly painted walls as horses trot nearby. It didn’t take us long to see why this was a place to love.
We wandered through the town square, located at the center and anchored by a large and beautiful church. It was a week night, and the square was bustling with life. Restaurant tables were full and spilling into the courtyard, music was playing, and the town was gathered to socialize.
A few blocks from the square, we eventually located our host, Aimé, waiting for us on the step. Staying at her home, La Casita de Colores, we found ourselves on the top floor complete with a balcony view of the surrounding ridge line. She spent the next several days showing us the town, local foods, leading us on hikes and (blessedly) helping us work on our broken Spanish.
Staying in Jardín is a cultural experience in itself. It is a tiny town, so it would be tough to go wrong with the location although staying away from the noisy town square is a good decision. We prefer to stay with locals for a greater level of cultural immersion so we used Airbnb to find a place. While the site now offers mainly hotel rooms in many countries, this was not the case in Colombia where we always found private rooms with friendly locals.
There are many hikes and outdoor activities surrounding Jardín, including mountain biking and paragliding. We opted for some waterfall trekking followed by an afternoon visit to a coffee farm. Early the next morning, we set off into the mountains with our guide and a Colombian couple to search out some impressive waterfalls tucked into the surrounding mountains. With advice from our host, we chose to hike Los Guacharos and Santo del Angelés over the more popular and touristy Cascada del Esplendor. We typically shun guides, but these particular hikes cross private land and cannot be accessed alone. The four of us crammed into the back of a mini jeep, knee to knee and head to roll cage, and began a jarring ride on the rutted dirt road into the hills.
The morning was spent learning (and forgetting) the Spanish names of dozens of local plants as we forged into the mountains. A long, steep and muddy hike later, we arrived at the first of two neighboring falls, Santo del Angelés, which cascades in free fall from a neck craning height onto a rock outcropping below.
The trail crosses the river, without the aid of a bridge, and continues on a treacherously steep and muddy contour around the mountain. After further painful and muggy hiking, we came to the second and arguably more amazing waterfall, Casdcada Los Guacharos. The first and significantly more dangerous vantage is from a small muddy drop off hanging precariously over the falls. The river splits before both cascades disappear into a deep mossy abyss below the vantage with a rainbow of mist bridging their gap.
Another steep climb down the muddy embankment led us to the confluence of the water, which shoots out of the tube carved into the rock. As if in a rainstorm, everything in proximity was quickly soaked by the spray from the falls, making a decent picture very difficult.
After hiking for the better part of a day, caked in mud and covered in scrapes, we hobbled to a coffee farm to reward ourselves for our effort. All of the farms (fincas) surrounding Jardín are small family owned establishments, mostly producing only one or two types of bean. None are easy walking distance from town but simple to visit by catching a ride with any of the moto-ratóns (motor rat, or tuk tuks) from around the square. Depending on which farm you visit, the ride should only be a few thousand pesos in each direction. Alternatively, you can catch a bus to some, which can be arranged by talking with the tourism office in town. Finally, any agency can set up a tour, although it will be overpriced and include the same trip you get from organizing your own transport.
We visited finca Florida, a tiny farm high in the mountains. The owner walked us around her five hectare estate, scurrying the narrow paths and nimbly plucking beans like a women half her age. She explained the difference in quality, from the odd and discolored beans that end up in Nescafe (sold and consumed mostly in Colombia), to the the high end product which gets exported mainly to, well, Florida. As we sipped cups of freshly roasted and pressed coffee, she slyly admitted that she manages on only one cup per day.
The following day, we set off with our host Aimé, hiking to some of her favorite spots around Jardín. She took us to a nearby waterfall, Cascada la Escalera, a few kilometers from town. For those willing to brave the frigid waters, a small pool beneath creates a nice spot for a bath on a warm day.
Continuing the road around the valley, we reached one of the more famous lookouts over the town. Known as the vista Cristo Rey, a large statue of Christ overlooks the village below. There is a small restaurant here serving mostly drinks, which happily concocted us a fresh juice blend as we absorbed the scenery. From there, we followed the steep trail from the lookout straight back into town, avoiding the lengthy walk back around the valley.
That afternoon, as we headed back to what we thought was home, we took a detour to find more waterfalls, a rickety wooden box cable car and a cave filled with bats that swooped around our heads like planes circling King Kong on the Empire State Building.
The next morning, with our heads buzzing from the adventure and a little bit of coffee, we boarded a bus back to Medellín to continue our journey though Colombia.
How to Get to Jardín From Medellín
Jardín is most easily accessible via bus from Medellín. Buses leave from Terminal del Sur, one of the three bus stations in town. There are two companies which service this route, Suroeste and Rapid Ochoa. At the advice of our homestay, we rode with Suroeste which is said to have better service. Tickets, costing 26,000 pesos, are available at terminal window 2. There are several departures throughout the day, but these may change so check beforehand. You are required to show a passport (or picture of it) at the purchase window. The bus ride is three and a half hours and drops near the square in Jardín.
How to Get to Medellín from Jardín
On the return trip to Medellín, we took a mini bus with the same company. They leave a few times daily and take only three hours, although large buses leave more frequently. The schedule is posted in the bus office where you are dropped off, and tickets can be purchased in advance. Mini bus tickets cost 28,000 pesos, 2,000 more than the large bus. Instead of heading straight back to Medellín, try stopping in the town of Andes which is not far before Jardín. We didn’t make it there, but it looks very similar with even fewer tourists. If you go, let us know how it was!
Is Colombia on your bucket list? Then you’ll love these other posts as well:
- The Only Complete Guide to Hiking in El Cocuy National Park, Colombia
- Bogota Self Guided Street Photography and Walking Tour
- Buenaventura, Colombia’s Uncharted Food Paradise Is More Than Meets the Eye
You can also view our Colombia photo gallery with all of our favorite memories from our month in the country.