Jericó: A Hidden Gem Three Hours from Medellin

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Jericó (photo: Jason Dalsgaard)
Jericó (photo: Jason Dalsgaard)

Guest blogger Roisin gives us an update on Jericó, a pueblo with much more to offer than just religious tourism.

Editor’s note: This post was updated on August 13, 2018. The original post was published on March 12, 2015.

“Make sure you run, all the way to the edge.”

“The edge…that edge?!”

“Yes – then it’s simply a matter of jumping off.”

I stared at the precipice which was then shrouded by cloud. It was hard to imagine anything being “simple” about jumping off what felt like a 20,000 foot cliff into the unknown. I took a deep breath and tried to untie the knot of both anxiety and excitement in my stomach. Better do what the man says, I thought, as I sprinted towards the edge. The feeling of my feet slowly leaving the earth and being carried by the wind through the clouds – and the view that was slowly revealed – quickly helped to dispel any fears I had of tumbling into the abyss below.

The cliff where the paragliders begin their flight
The cliff where the paragliders begin their flight

I was paragliding in Jericó, a pueblo about three hours outside of Medellin. A month ago, if someone had asked me what was in Jericó, I would have said “too many churches.” And that isn’t entirely untrue; after all, Jericó has 14,000 inhabitants and 16 churches. But this little town has so much more to offer than just that, and is quickly overtaking places like Jardín in its reputation as the best pueblo to visit from Medellin.

History of Jericó

Jericó’s  religious significance was cemented as the birthplace and home of Madre Laura, Colombia’s first patron saint. Catholicism remains a strong part of the identity of the town, with nuns and priests helping to run schools and educate the children that live there.

The church beside Hostel Las Cometas
The church beside Hostel Las Cometas

Jericó is also known for its colourful houses and ornate balconies. In fact, the first line of the Jericó city anthem is “grato nido de amores” – which means “cherished love nest” in English. This came from a regular pastime of young lovers, flirting with each other from balcony to balcony.

Things to Do In Jericó

Paragliding

Jericó is undoubtedly one of the best places in Colombia to go paragliding. The proximity of San Felix to Medellin means that many travellers passing through the region opt for this instead. But, for those willing to make the extra effort, the views around Jericó are incomparable. Here, you can soar past huge, lush mountains, through the valley and across the Piedras River. There is nothing quite like flying through the thick clouds, next to the eagles who make this beautiful region their home.

Some of the views you can catch while paragliding
Some of the views you can catch while paragliding

Flights can be organised through your accommodation or by contacting EcoLand, a restaurant and business located directly next to the starting point. Prices start from around 115,000 COP ($40.78).

Hiking

There are a range of hiking options around Jericó, and more open up every day. One of the easiest and shortest options is to hike to the large statue of Jesus which stands upon a peak bordering the town. From this height, you can see the entire town and the scope of the nature which surrounds it.

The view from the hills outside of Jerico
The view from the hills outside of Jerico

Another option is Cerro Tuza, the biggest natural pyramid in the world. From a distance, Cerro Tuza’s shape seems too surreal to exist. However, this hike is not for the faint of heart. It takes almost three hours to reach its peak and is an almost entirely vertical walk.

My favourite hike by far was the walk up to Las Nubes. Though challenging in parts, the view from the peak is undeniably worth it. Opt for either a sunrise or sunset tour. We went at sunrise, accompanied by Jorge, the manager of Hostel Las Cometas, which has the privilege of being the only hostel in town. It takes around 40 minutes to reach the summit, depending on your physical fitness, and the walk is beautiful every inch of the way. From the top, you can see the mountains and the river as well as the peak of Cerro Tuza.

The view from atop Las Nubes
The view from atop Las Nubes

Horse Riding

Horses are important for the town of Jericó. You get used to seeing them everywhere. On our last night, we even saw locals cantering around the town square bareback, fuelled by copious amounts of aguardiente. Whilst that might not be for everyone (a girl from our hostel tried this and got her jeans covered in horse sweat), there are more tranquil and scenic options that are available.

Horse riding around Jerico
Horse riding around Jerico
The view you can see whilst horse riding
The view you can see whilst horse riding

Hostel Las Cometas organised our horse riding trip, which started from the outskirts of the town. It is impossible not to feel like a cowboy when trotting through almost-deserted streets only dotted by men sitting on their porches, wearing traditional hats and chewing on toothpicks. This also grants another opportunity to admire the spectacular natural beauty that Jericó is blessed with.

Sample The Local Produce

Whilst in Jericó, it is important to try the local delicacies, some of which are unique to the region. Among these are Luisas, delicious cakes made with honey, panela and guava paste.

Local Jerico delicacies
Local Jerico delicacies

Jericó is also said to have some of the best street food in Colombia. As a vegetarian (which continues to be the bane of my life in Colombia), I couldn’t say for sure whether this was the case. But I did try one of these papas rellenas or stuffed potatoes, and wanted about three more even though I’d already had dinner.

There is also the opportunity to visit a chocolate manufacturer, who will explain the different types of chocolate to you. This was followed by a blind test in which you got to try the chocolate and guess which type it was. It was a fun game which I ended up winning, probably because it involved eating chocolate, and because the prize was chocolate.

Outside of food, Jericó is famous for a particular type of bag called a carriel. This was the bag of choice for arrieros, messengers who travelled from town to town by mule. This bag has since become an icon of Colombia, even appearing in the logo for Juan Valdez. The main selling point of the bag is the many pockets it contains within an extremely small space, and was also used as a pillow whilst the arrieros were on the road. This includes secret pockets, which were used to hide tokens from la otra – the mistress of the arriero.

A shop specialising in traditional carriel bags
A shop specialising in traditional carriel bags

Explore the Town

The town of Jericó is home to a wealth of museums and historical points of interest. The real star of the show here, though, is the town itself, which must be one of the most beautiful pueblos in Colombia. Every street and corner is worthy of a photograph. Within the town, you can spot typical architecture in the colonización antioqueña and republicana styles.

Calle of 100 Steps
Calle of 100 Steps
Typical architecture in Jerico
Typical architecture in Jerico

This is a town which is home to creatives. As such, here you will find Calle de los Poetas – Poets Street. You will also find the street of 80 Steps and of 100 Steps, which is lined with small tiendas where you can pick up an empanada or two. The town square represents the perfect place to sit down, relax with a coffee and people watch.

The Faces of Jericó

It is an important and rewarding experience to meet the locals in a pueblo such as Jericó. Many of the characters I met seemed to be straight out of a Márquez novel. There was the town poet, the foul-mouthed movie star, and the man who was so ticklish that even his wife was forbidden to touch him.

Local men wearing traditional hats in Jerico
Local men wearing traditional hats in Jerico
Juan David, who has been paragliding for 11 years and working as an instructor for 6 years. When asked why he chose his profession he says, “I wanted to feel like a bird”.
Juan David, who has been paragliding for 11 years and working as an instructor for six years. When asked why he chose his profession he says, “I wanted to feel like a bird”.
Julian Ivan, who has been writing poetry and creating artisanal crafts for the last 10 years
Julian Ivan, who has been writing poetry and creating artisanal crafts for the last 10 years

Chila is a bona fide movie star, having acted in the movie Jerico: The Infinite Fly of Days, which is about the town. She writes and performs poetry, much of it foul-mouthed. She is also a huge fan of aguardiente, and sees herself as being blessed by God to be able to live out her twilight years in Jerico.
Chila is a bona fide movie star, having acted in the movie Jerico: The Infinite Fly of Days, which is about the town. She writes and performs poetry, much of it foul-mouthed. She is also a huge fan of aguardiente, and sees herself as being blessed by God to be able to live out her twilight years in Jerico.
J J Pelaez, one of Colombia’s finest stone sculptors, who specialises in depicting reptiles
JJ Pelaez, one of Colombia’s finest stone sculptors, who specialises in depicting reptiles
Lina, the owner of EcoLand. Before the current restaurant, the site was a small horse stable. Once Lina reinvented it and began to publicise it as a place to paraglide, professional paragliders decided to move from San Felix, outside of Medellin, to Jerico. Perhaps they agree with Lina’s sentiment on the town: when asked why she decided to make Jerico her home, she said “as soon as I came here, I just felt like I found my place”.
Lina, the owner of EcoLand. Before the current restaurant, the site was a small horse stable. Once Lina reinvented it and began to publicise it as a place to paraglide, professional paragliders decided to move from San Felix, outside of Medellin, to Jerico. Perhaps they agree with Lina’s sentiment on the town: when asked why she decided to make Jerico her home, she said “as soon as I came here, I just felt like I found my place”.

Where to Sleep

We stayed at Hostel Las Cometas, who helped to make the experience so magical for us. The manager, Jorge, took us around the town on hikes and helped us in every way possible at the drop of a hat. He also made a fantastic smashed avocado on toast for our breakfast. The hostel is in quite a unique setting, at the foot of a large church, with a small, cosy garden to chill out on hot days.

Breakfast at Las Cometas: smashed avocado on toast
Breakfast at Las Cometas: smashed avocado on toast
The courtyard of Hostel Las Cometas
The courtyard of Hostel Las Cometas

A private room at Las Cometas costs around 45,000 COP ($15.96), and a bed in a dorm room is available from around 23,000 COP ($8.15).

For a more upmarket option, I would recommend Hotel El Despertar. We stayed in a bedroom with a hammock, which was a nice touch, and the showers were piping hot. It also features a hot tub which overlooks the surrounding scenery. The hotel is just a couple of blocks from the main plaza and also includes traditional Colombian breakfast, which was a welcome addition after our sunrise hike to Las Nubes.

The hot tub with a view at El Despertar
The hot tub with a view at El Despertar

A private room at El Despertar costs around 200,000 COP a night for two people ($70.90).

Where to Eat

My favourite restaurant by far in Jericó was EcoLand, which is beside the paragliding site. The menu features traditional Colombian dishes and is complemented by its food truck, which is a bit further up the hill and sells chicharrón, burgers and french fries. At the restaurant, you can order a pork chop or chicken fillet for 21,500 COP ($7.62) or a shrimp rice for 28,500 COP ($10.09). If you call EcoLand in advance, they will even arrange a picnic for you, which is best appreciated with the amazing sunsets observable from the restaurant.

The picnic tables outside EcoLand
The picnic tables outside EcoLand

In town, the majority of the options offer traditional Colombian food. For international food, you can head to Tomatitos, just off the main square. There you can find burgers, pizzas, pastas and woks.

How To Get There

Getting to Jericó is easy, and buses depart from Medellin very regularly. To get there, head to Terminal Sur and ticket booth 18. Go with the company Transportes Jericó, which shouldn’t take more than 3 hours. Be warned, though, that much of the road is windy and bumpy, although a new and faster route will be opening up in 2020.

Getting back is similarly stress free. Simply head to the bus station in the main plaza on the right side of the church, and buy your ticket there. We got a bus back at 12pm, and they seemed to depart every couple of hours until the evening.

The bus tickets will cost around 25,000 COP ($8.85) each way.

Conclusion

Jericó is fast shaking off its reputation as a destination solely for religious tourism. With unlimited potential for adventure sports, places to appreciate the region’s natural beauty and some of the most interesting locals you could ever expect to meet, Jericó should be on the bucket list of anyone visiting Antioquia.

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About Roisin

Originally from Ireland, Roisin has been traveling since the age of 18. She has visited 45 countries and lived in 8, including China, Bolivia, Germany and the U.S. Having spent the last year and a half in Bogotá, she has optimistically left her umbrella behind and is happy to call Medellín her new home. Roisin is an avid writer, runner and ukulele player, and is always happy to meet up with those who share her interests. You can follow her blog at http://adventuresofsheen.com/ or via Instagram.

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LEAVE A REPLY

8 COMMENTS

  1. I love articles like this , it reveals the heart and soul of the country.. One question.. Are there any historical preservation society’s set up to help fix and preserve these churches that are in need of repair?

  2. Que bella alusion a Jerico, una de las mas hermosas del territorio de Antioquia, cuna de grandes personajes, sitio turistico por excelencia; que linda esta muestra de esos bellos parajes, ! Felicitaciones !!!

  3. After reading this great article, we just arrived in Jerico. We took your advice and arrived by bus which was very comfortable and are staying at the same place you found! What a beautiful little pueblo. The Maja. Museum has a free concert every Saturday night which we plan to attend tonight. We ate thrilled to be here and thank you for all of your great articles!!

    • Ingrid,

      Thanks so much for your kind comment! I am so happy that you enjoyed jericó! It’s a wonderful town and area, I didn’t know about the museum’s free concert, I’ll have to check it out!

  4. Hey! GREAT article! Definitely helpful. I’m in Jerico now writing for tourism here and I just wanted to let you know so you can keep things up to date: the cablecar isn’t in use 🙁 for about 5 months now due to lack of funds & caring, i believe, they shut it down until further notice. But it is possible to hike up the mountain to get to Las Nubes… gorgeous views, i might add. and definitely worth the hike!

    Hailey

  5. One girlfriend of mine (not my fiancee) knows well this place and wants us to move there. May be better for avoiding contamination, ever worse in Medellin; and peaceful place? We are also quite religious both.

    If I would take this woman to my wife and move to Jerico, I think we could still have our contacts and friends in Medellin. Not so far from it.

    Is there any idea?

  6. This was a great article about Jerico! I just spent the last weekend at Las Cometas Hostel and Jorge went out of his way to help me book whatever I wanted. I ended up going on a tour of a local coffee farm (run by Jorge himself) and heading to Ecoland for some paragliding and lunch!