There are countless reasons to visit Medellín – the vibrant culture, stunning cityscape, rich history, friendly locals and unique experiences – and recently, more and more travelers have been uncovering the perks of Medellín’s location. As the capital of Antioquia, Medellín has fast and easy access to a range of pueblos (towns) across the department; meaning foreigners can spend more time exploring beyond the city in the smaller, rural areas of Colombia. While Guatapé tends to dominate the lists of day trips from the City of Eternal Spring, Jardín is as equally beautiful and interesting, without the tourist crowds.
Whether you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Medellín, or simply see more of Colombia, here’s your guide to Jardín, including what to take, how to arrive, activities and where to eat.
What to bring
– Practical shoes
– Sun cream
– Waterproof jacket or umbrella
– Warm layers
– Reusable water bottle
– Swim suit
– Spanish words and phrases
How to get there
Buses to Jardín run from Terminal del Sur (the south bus terminal). There is no metro station attached to this station (unlike the north terminal), so you’ll need to take a taxi. Once at the station, the bus company that goes to Jardín is Rapido Ochoa. The ticket desks should display ‘Jardín’ on the window but if you’re unsure, just ask an employee. Buses leave fairly regularly, so you shouldn’t have any issues buying on the day but if you’re traveling over the weekend, aim to purchase your ticket early in the morning.
The journey one-way costs around $26.000 COP and you won’t be able to buy a return ticket until in Jardín (we recommend doing this soon after you arrive to ensure you have a seat back). The route from Medellín takes roughly 3.5 to 4 hours, and, like most Colombian bus journeys, follows mountainous roads, so it’s best to get a seat near the front of the vehicle and next to a window to avoid feeling sick.
Things to do
Cave of Splendor (La Cueva de Esplendor)
A ‘must’ for any hiker and adventure-seeker, this enchanting cave is famous for the river that crashes through the top, forming a 10-meter waterfall which cascades into a small pool below. However, reaching the cave isn’t easy. Dedicated walkers can take the six-hour difficult trek up the hillside, or there’s the option to rent private jeeps and horses, but the last section of the journey has to be done by foot. Your accommodation should be able to book transportation for you to the cave for around $70.000 COP.
Jardín is in the heart of Antioquia, meaning lush countryside and plenty of horses. From just walking around the town, you’ll notice the crowds of Colombian men wearing full cowboy attire and parking their horses alongside the nearest tienda – it’s the local way of getting around. To really see the authentic Jardín, complete with rolling hills, waterfalls, wildlife and coffee farms, explore the surrounding area on four legs!
Tours vary in time and cost depending on your guide but shouldn’t exceed $30.000 COP. Some agencies have package tours you can book in advance but these tend to be a lot more expensive. Instead, ask your hotel/hostel and they should be able to arrange a day out with a local for a more than reasonable price.
To see Jardín from a bird’s eye view, there’s a cable car that run over the town. It’s more like a colorful shed on a wire, and travels a small distance over the treetops and stream to a restaurant and lookout point perched on the hill. Admittedly, this cable car doesn’t feel particularly safe but there’s never been an incident with it and the views are well worth the sweaty palms! The round-trip costs $4.000 COP and is best when the sun begins to set.
There’s a second, more modern cable ascending from the town to Cerro Cristo Rey (a hilltop with a statue of Jesus atop it, also accessible by hiking), however, this has been closed for a few years and doesn’t show signs of re-opening. Nonetheless, the journey up the hill on foot has sweeping sights of the plantations. Once at the top, there’s a small café to get a drink and watch the world go by.
Reserva Natural de Rocas
This small reserve is perfect for nature-lovers visiting Jardín. Located on the edge of the town, every morning and evening, native Peruvian birds known as gallitos de las rocas fly in and display their fabulous red plumage in attempts to attract a mate. They also dance and screech throughout the ritual, making the whole performance both bizarre and fascinating. Admission is $4.000 COP for foreigners and the walk to the reserve is quick from the town but fairly steep.
Where to eat
Dulces del Jardín
Calle 13 #5 – 47
After a long day of exploring, treat yourself to the impressive selection of cakes, desserts and candies at Dulces del Jardín. Originally founded in 1995, the restaurant is best known for its arequipe (a Colombian sweet consisting of milk and sugar) and colorful interior. Stop by for a quick sugar fix or to buy souvenirs from your time in the town.
Calle 8 #4 – 02
A quaint restaurant with a big following, most nights see Café Europe with a line of hungry visitors waiting outside. The menu is basic but delicious, serving up freshly-made pizzas and pasta with a variety of toppings, alongside great wine. The restaurant has a particularly cozy feel and very welcoming staff.
Carrera 5 # 9 – 43 Parque Principal
The place to be for the best coffee in town, Macanas uses locally-grown coffee beans to ensure every cup is sealed with flavor. There’s additionally a range of cakes and pastries, as well as traditional Colombian breakfast options like arepas, chicarrón, eggs and avocado. The outdoor seating is ideal for warm days, and the walls are lined with multicolored flower pots, making the café a photo-worthy destination.
You can also book tours if you don’t want to miss anything and get the best experience out of Guatapé.