Jardín: the Most Scenic Town in Colombia
Jardín is a small town set in the hills of Antioquia with fantastic coffee and a relaxed vibe. Even though it’s one of the most beautiful towns in Colombia, Jardín is not entirely on the tourist trail. Although its architecture can’t compete with Villa de Leyva or Salento, its location in an Andean Valley makes for some incredible views. Jardín has a lovely town square that’s lined with cafes and if you look closely, you’ll notice nearly all the locals, including the elderly, rock their chairs.
After visiting other colonial towns, something I appreciated about Jardín is that the people who live here patronize the businesses in the town square. Some colonial towns feel empty during the week because the historic center is too expensive for most residents. If you’re looking to sip on coffee, enjoy short hikes, and want to visit a lesser-known town, then Jardín is a great addition to your Colombia itinerary.
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How to Get There
There are frequent buses from Medellín to Jardín. Rapido Ochoa is the company and the buses depart from the south terminal in Medellín. The journey takes 3-4 hours and it costs 34,000 Colombian Pesos (COP).
Bookaway is a great resource that allows you to compare the prices of buses and flights, and secure your seat in advance!
What to Do
Cueva del Esplendor – This unique attraction is a waterfall that is so strong, it carved a hole out of a cave. Bring a change of clothes because you can swim in the freezing water. I was under the impression that you need a guide, but later on I met people who hiked there and paid the 20,000 COP entrance. The 4-hour tour costs 60,000 COP and includes transport, snacks, and the entrance.
Mirador Cristo Rey – An easy 40-minute hike for amazing views looking out over the town. Be prepared to walk through a pig farm along the way that smells pretty horrible. A few minutes beyond the lookout point is Cafe Jardín (opens at 10 AM), which has even better views. Some people continue for 30 minutes to Cascada La Escalera, but it’s a rather unspectacular waterfall.
Parque Natural Jardín de Rocas – Even if you aren’t an avid bird watcher, it’s worth visiting to see the Andean cock-of-the-rock. There were nearly a dozen of these beautiful red birds within eyesight when I visited, and it was a very relaxing experience. The park opens from 3-5 PM daily and the best time to visit for birdwatching is after 4 PM. The entrance is 10,000 COP.
Basilica of the Immaculate Conception – The basilica that towers over Jardín is quite spectacular for a town of this size. The turquoise ceiling with intricate details is beautiful.
Where to Eat
Óleo Bistro – A more upscale restaurant serving delicious fish, beef, and pasta.
Donde Andrés – A simple yet tasty menu of the day for 16,000 COP. A fair warning that aguapanela is the only drink available for any menu of the day in Jardín.
Bon Appetit – A quality Italian restaurant with a surprisingly tasty sangria.
Cafe Macanas Dulcería Jardín – An excellent spot for organic coffee and cake after a hike.
La Parrilla de Mi Pueblo – Delicious grilled meat platters and typical Colombian cuisine.
Where to Stay
Sgt Pepper’s Hostel – The best hostel in town is a simple yet pleasant stay. It has a big common area, free breakfast, and friendly owners.
Where to Next
Medellín (5 hours by bus) – Renowned for its nightlife, the city of eternal spring is famed for its history surrounding Colombia’s drug cartels.
Guatapé (7 hours via Medellín) – The most colorful town in Colombia is also home to one of its top attractions, El Peñón.
Salento (10 hours via Riosucio and Armenia) – A charming town in the coffee axis with the best day hike in the country and a tejo bar.