Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Sonja Bricker.
Ornate wooden balconies, blossoming trees and roses, an imposing stone cathedral and the aroma of roasting coffee made my first impression of colorful Jardín. The second was of brightly painted doors, window trim, chairs, tables, shutters, even flower pots.
Of course, the groups of senior men in wide brimmed hats drinking coffee from porcelain cups were also impossible to miss.
For that first hour I was simply speechless. This was Jardín? Why hadn’t I visited earlier?
More About Jardín and How to Get There
Founded in 1863, at an elevation of 1750 meters, Jardín has remained largely unchanged for the last 140 years. The colonial architecture predominant throughout the area has been assiduously maintained, long before the arrival of tourists.
The 14,000 inhabitants clearly have a tradition of pride in their town, evident in the flowers, spotless streets, abundant smiles.
Only 134 kilometers from Medellín, getting here is an easy three hour microbus ride, four hours in a standard bus. There are two bus lines that leave from Medellín’s southern terminal: Transporte Suroeste Antioqueño Andes-Jardín and Rápido Ochoa.
The price ranges from 20,000 to 30,000 pesos ($6.75 – $10). I took a 9 seat microbus to Jardín and a full size bus back to Medellín. I definitely preferred the microbus, due to the faster travel time.
Where to Stay in Colorful Jardín
I arrived on a Monday afternoon. The main square was bustling with locals drinking coffee but I saw virtually no foreign tourists. The half-dozen charming hotels that ring the plaza were nearly empty (I went and checked out five). I could have easily picked any room I liked for about 45,000 pesos (US$15, all with private bath, colonial furniture, some with views of the plaza).
Most hotels charge per person, not per room. My favorite was the Valdivia Plaza with its elegant woodwork. However, Hotel Jardín was quaint too.
Whichever hotel you choose, be aware that the rooms with the best views are also the noisiest, particularly on weekends when the town fills with tourists. Just off the plaza there are many other options, Hotel La Casona looked beautiful and lovingly restored.
After sipping a 1,500 peso perico in the gorgeous interior garden at Café Macanas, taking dozens of flower and architecture photos, I decided to seek out my hotel.
For the next two nights I was staying at Hospedaje La Boira, a spectacular 1.5 kilometer walk (or 3,500 peso tuk tuk ride) from town. Recently featured in the New York Times , it has only three rooms. My room, the Yrsa, was 110,000 pesos ($37) a night. It was comfortable but small. The spacious Cristal suite with private balcony for 200,000 ($67) would be a worthy splurge for two.
My Recent Experiences in Colorful Jardín
That first afternoon I began to wander, hopeful to find some local attractions. Sure enough, I first stumbled upon La Garrucha. Basically a garden shed on cables, it takes you from town, over the Rio Volcanes and up to a lovely viewpoint in about three minutes. Round trip cost 5,000 pesos (US$1.75).
The air in Jardín is intensely aromatic: roasting coffee, roses, orange blossoms, manure. I started walking uphill, under interlaced branches, absorbed in the breathtaking views. This is hilly, fertile country, perfect for growing coffee. In fact, Jardín is in the heart of Antioquia’s coffee belt, the largest-volume coffee producer of Colombia’s 32 departments.
There were coffee trees everywhere, but also vast tracts of bananas, tomatoes, avocado, and mandarins. Several times I stopped and talked with locals on the road, asking about points of interest. I was repeatedly told about a waterfall further along, although exactly how far or what it was called no one could tell me.
After 45 minutes of climbing I saw a magnificent waterfall – in the far distance. As it was approaching sunset I reluctantly turned around and headed back. Then, in the deepening light I saw a pair of barranqueros andinos, or Highland Motmots, one of the most beautiful birds I have ever seen.
Apparently, Jardín, just like Minca, is a birder’s paradise. (Actually, Colombia is the birdiest country on earth, with more than 1,950 species, almost 20% of the world’s total). Even the casual observer without binoculars or a field guide will see dozens of colorful birds, including the bright red Andean cock of the rock and the russet-backed Oropendola, with its distinctive long, hanging nests.
Further down the road I waved at one of the families I’d talked to earlier and they beckoned me closer. Their young son came running out to meet me. He carried half-dozen mandarins between his outstretched palms. I gratefully accepted them.
Serendipitous encounters like this happened frequently during my short stay in Jardín. The open friendliness to share seems second nature to the locals.
Things to See and Do
Although the famous Cueva de Esplendor is closed indefinitely (general misuse and contamination of the property) there is similar waterfall cave, the Cueva de los Guacheros, that can be visited with a guide. Furthermore it is accessible by horseback or on foot.
Jardin Ecotours located within the Jardín es Tuyo hotel on the main plaza can arrange this trip. They can also arrange local coffee farm tours, para-gliding, birding, trout farm visits, waterfall rappelling and short horseback rides into the countryside. There are numerous other guides, ask at the tourist office (Carrera 3N 10-10) which is just off the main plaza.
Food choices in colorful Jardín are numerous and all reasonably priced. My first night I had an excellent dinner at Los Colores and the second at Creperia Trigo y Centano. Café Europa is popular for pizza and Parilla y Costilla is known for their steaks.
For fresh trout be sure to try La Argelia, a trout farm and restaurant on the outskirts of town. If you are lucky enough to be there on the right weekend (every second) you’ll also be able to watch panela being made in a traditional sugar mill on site.
Finally, for sweets cravings seek out Dulces del Jardin, a café and artisanal shop that sells chocolate, jam, arequipe, cookies, cake and candy all made in house. The main location is at Calle 13 #5-47 with a smaller shop on the main square.
The Bottom Line
With its colonial architecture, spectacular scenery, friendly people and varied outdoor activities, colorful Jardín really is a must-do trip from Medellín. One night won’t be enough; I highly recommend two or even three nights.
Sonja is from Whidbey Island, WA. She has traveled to 46 countries but never wanted to settle down in any of them until she discovered Medellin. She is currently living here in Medellín for six months until she figures out how to be a permanent resident.
Antioquia is no longer the # 1 producer of coffee in Colombia. Since 2012 it was surpassed by Huila, which is located in the southern Andes of Colombia. I guess that fact came from the New York Times article that showed the coffee farm with the blue bench at Yellow Hill and had a few other facts wrong.
Thank you for correction. I did indeed use the New York Times article as a reference.
The photo shown is not of La Garrucha but of the Teleférico. The Garrucha is a very rudimentary wooden box used as a Teleférico and it’s on the other side of town, the southernish part of town, closer to De los Andes Café, while the Teleférico is on the more northern part of town, closer to Hotel Jardín.
The caption beneath the photo does not state it is La Garrucha, it simply says “Cable Car.” The copy below the photo describes La Garrucha as a garden shed type structure which clearly does not describe the cable car in the photo which has a more modern look.
The architecture in Jardín is more republican style than colonial since most of these coffee towns date back to the 1800’s when it was no longer considered colonial times since Colombia had already become a Republic. Most of the towns around Antioquia that have some traditional architecture preserved have republican or Antioquian style architecture (founded in the 1800s) with the exception of Santa Fe de Antioquia that has in fact colonial architecture and dates back to 1541.
The Casa Museo Clara Rojas Peláez is a museum in Jardín that strives to preserve and transmit history and culture. Their website has a section on architecture and points out the semi-gothic style of the Immaculate Conception, the colonial house which is now the Albergue Santa Ana, the Municipal Theater and Puente Pizana which both reflect the architecture of the colonial period. Although Colombia was a republic at the time of Jardín’s founding there are many houses and points of interest that reflect colonial style architecture.
Thanks for the info. I got this info from an architect who specializes in architectural heritage while he was the Heritage Director of the town of Sonsón.
By the way, the restoration of the Old Theater in Jardín will certainly be another great reason to fall in love with Jardín and it’s “colonial style” republican architecture. ; )
Very nice article. Definitley gives me an idea of what I can see and do in Jardin. Made me want to pack my bag and get on a bus!
Thanks Sonya, I always enjoy your writing style.
I agree! This is a great article that makes me also want to pack a bag and go to Jardin.
Thanks for the great article. I look forward to visiting and spending time In Jardin.
Nice article…makes me want to pack a bag and micro bus to Jardin. It seems like a nice pueblo that time has left alone…very nice in today’s neon/fast-paced world. It is encouraging to find a spot that is still tranquil, lovely and mostly untouched by the outside.
Hello Sonja! I read your story and no wonder my Colombian wife wants us to move to Jardin. She knows well that place. so she says it is possible to find a place where to live. I am asthmatic, so I want us to move somwhere from Medellin, not far from it, but where the air not contaminated and where we can make walking trips as we both love walking and hiking.
One thing in your writing I was wondering. How can you tell who is tourist? If we put on outdoor clothes, and go hiking, so are we tourists or like foreigners. During my 4 years in Ecuador, Colombia and Peru, so far nobody has come to ask me anything in English, only in Spanish, And I prefer not to look like tourist for my own safety.
Thanks for the article. Made me want to pack my bags.