All the travel guidebooks recommend Guatapé as a ‘must-do’ day trip from Medellin. But if you are looking for a longer weekend break – to a destination with fewer backpackers – then the valley pueblo of Jardín is just the ticket.
Jardín (pronounced har-deen and English “Garden”) is one of the most well-kept colonial towns in Colombia. Most noteworthy, it’s virtually unchanged architecturally for the last 140 years. This quaint pueblo is bursting with vibrantly colored houses which pop-out against the surrounding green of the banana-leaf and ceiba tree-covered mountains.
Located 83 miles (134 km) south-west of Medellin, it’s a place where men ride down the unpaved side streets on horses with cowboy hats. Where locals congregate around the central square on a Saturday night. And where it is okay to take life a little bit more slowly.
For those wanting a quiet retreat from the bustle of Medellin, it’s a perfect getaway. The pueblo with less than 20,000 people offers both the tranquility of whiling-away the day in a hammock or reading a book. In addition, it offers nature lovers a haven of outdoor adventures.
So, no matter what your desire, there is something to keep you entertained in this little corner of Antioquia. Here is a selection of things to do:
Horseback Ride to Surrounding Waterfalls
Equestrians will enjoy taking a horseback ride through the countryside. You can see one of the many waterfalls in the area including the Cascada Del Amor (Waterfall of Love). Several operators around town offer the trek, so just ask around. The cost is around 60,000 COP for a three-hour trek.
For a shorter journey, you can easily take a quick trot around the main square. A 10-minute trip should only set you back 5,000 COP.
Taste the Local Sweets at Del Dulces Jardín
Love locally produced food? Then head to Dulces de Jardín on Calle 13, between Carrera 5 and 6.
It was founded in 1995 by Jardín native Mariela Arango Jaramillo. This expansive store front sells an array of delicious homemade jams to tiny biscuits. The star of the show here though is the arequipe (natural caramel sauce).
Made with sweetened condensed milk and natural flavorings, Del Dulces Jardín offers shelf upon shelf of different flavors of arequipe from coffee to chocolate.
If you aren’t sure which one to buy, the staff will happily let you sample some options before purchase. Also, there are some fresh pastries for sale that you can eat right there in a sun-drenched nook reserved for exactly that purpose.
Rent Some Bicycles and Explore
Just off the main square, you’ll stumble upon a small bicycle shop that rents wheels by the hour.
Look for the red, white and blue Ciclo Diego sign. Get your rental and pedal out of town towards the Camino de la Herrera. The gravel road starts near Calle 13 and Carrera 6 and winds its way past the Waterfall of Love before crossing a bridge.
Here you can verve off towards the left on a grass trail that leads to the river. Kick your shoes off and enjoy the crystal-clear waters. It’s too icy for swimming, but great for refreshing tired feet.
Travel Across the Gorge in a Makeshift Cable Car
There are two sets of cable-cars in town. For the adventurous, head to the older and cheaper Estacion Garrucha. This mode of public transportation is affectionately described as a metal garden shed that pulls you 1,850 meters up to the hill by some tenuously held cable wires.
This four-seater box rattles its way past banana plants before crossing a deep river gorge. Not for the faint-hearted. Originally installed to provide farmers and locals a quicker and easier way into town, it has become a tourist sightseeing ride.
The round-trip costs around 6,000 COP and takes around 3 minutes each way. At the top, there is a perfectly situated small bar where you can purchase a cold cerveza (beer) and take in the views of the red-roofed city below.
However reportedly the newer cable car is recently closed but the cheaper La Garrucha cable car pictured above is open.
People Watch in Parque el Libertador
By far, one of the best things to do in Jardín is just hang around the main plaza and people watch.
Parque el Libertador evokes classical colonial city planning with a large church fronting the plaza and the perimeter lined with two-story hotels, cafes and bars. The locals come here to shop and socialize at the weekends making it the heart and soul of the town.
With every square foot covered in brightly decorated wooden chairs and tables, it is a great place to have a cup of coffee or a beer or some helado (ice cream) and watch the world go by.
Marvel at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception’s Architecture
The twin towers of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception provide a dominating landmark in Jardín. The church was built between 1918 and 1942. Parishioners brought hand carved stones from a quarry as penance for their sins. The half-Gothic style has an even more impressive turquoise tiled interior.
Watch the Gauchos Prance on Their Paso Finos
If you are lucky enough to be in Jardín on a Friday or Saturday night, then you are in for a rural treat.
As the sun fades, you’ll start to hear the the dancing of horse hooves on the closed off cobbled streets. Turn around in your wooden chair. And you’ll see the gauchos donned in their best checked shirts and crumpled cowboy hats prancing their prized Paso Finos (meaning fine step) around the square.
Paso Finos are a unique South American purebred that is known for their smooth trotting gait that in showmanship mode has the horse’s legs moving in a rapid, piston-like action. Men, women and children all strut their stuff by trotting their mares up and down the streets in the most captivating clickty-clack and clop-clop-clop. It’s a festive atmosphere not to be missed.
Tour a Local Coffee Plantation
The southwest part of Antioquia is one of Colombia’s major coffee-growing regions. Various local fincas offer small tours of their coffee plantations that are nestled into the Andean hills.
Finca Milena is one establishment that offers tours that demonstrate the painstaking process of how the bean gets from the crop to your cup. For information and reservations, call Martha at 311 398 1236 or Gustavo at 314 734 3900. Overnight lodging at the finca is also available. If possible, include lunch in your tour. Martha is an excellent cook!
Where to Eat in Jardín
For a small town, Jardín has a surprisingly large amount of both traditional and Western style restaurants and coffee shops. You can find everything from Italian pizza to fried local trout to the traditional platter of Bandeja Paisa.
On Saturday night, the square bustles with street food vendors where you can pick up a cheap meal of empanadas, buñuelos, arepas and papas rellenas, an irresistible deep-fried potato ball stuffed with savory meat and spices.
For Sunday brunch, head to Cafe de los Andes located on the corner of Calle 10 and Carrera 5 at the main plaza. This second story establishment offers an open terrace with views over the square where you can indulge in locally-grown coffee and a ham and cheese bagel.
For that afternoon coffee pick-me-up and a slice of carrot cake, Cafe Mancanas on the square is not to be missed. Located on Carrera 5 halfway between Calle 9 and Calle 10, it is also a great spot to people watch.
Where to Stay in Jardín
Jardín has only recently started to appear on the backpackers’ and foreign tourists’ trail, so most accommodations are basic and cater more to local Colombian tourists. However, there are several options:
Hotel: Hotel Jardín is one of the best located accommodations in the city with a prime spot on the northwest corner of the main square.
This 100-year-old traditional Spanish-style hacienda if full of traditional charming features like a central courtyard and wrap-around balconies. Completely restored in 2012, it offers 10 fully equipped apartments and 14 rooms.
Cabanas: If you’re after a more natural setting, then opt to stay in one of the duplexes at Cabanas Filo de Oro.
Operated by Hotel Jardín, these two-story rentals offer more basic accommodations. But they are great for a group of friends that don’t mind sleeping in bunk-beds and sharing a bathroom. The breathtaking views from one of the many hammocks on the broad terraces make up for the clean, but basic facilities.
Hostels: Two hostels have recently opened up in town. Sgt. Pepper’s Hostel is a converted traditional Antioquian house that is situated over two floors offering a mix of double ensuite rooms and six-bed dormitories. Located just a couple of blocks from the main square, it provides the best location if you are looking for quick access to nightlife.
Canto de Aqua Hostel is located outside of town in a colonial-style building with a 15 minute walk into town. There is one private room with ensuite bathroom, but the rest of the accommodations are made up of three-bunk dormitories.
Another hostel option in Jardín is Finca Hostel Condor de los Andes, which is located few blocks from the town center.
Location of Jardín
How to Get to Jardín
Jardín is 83 miles (134 km) southwest of Medellin, along curvaceous mountain roads with spectacular river vistas. Expect the journey to take around three to four hours depending on transportation mode and number of pit-stops.
By Bus: Buses to Jardín leave from Terminal del Sur in Medellin. Two different companies offer services to the colonial town. Tickets with Rapido Ochoa can be purchased from booth #34. And they offer allocated seats and have six daily buses. The second bus company – Transporte Suroeste Antioqueño – sells tickets from booth #2 and also has six buses daily. Both services charge around 25,000 COP one-way.
Also, we have a guide to the Medellín bus terminals.
By Taxi: Sharing a taxi with four people from Medellin is also commonplace and rates are competitive.
The Pueblos Near Medellín
We have been looking at the pueblos worth visiting near Medellín in a series on this website. So far, we have looked at eight pueblos near Medellín:
- Guatapé – a very popular pueblo near Medellín known for its huge rock and lake.
- Jardín – a tranquil get-away from Medellin that boosts breathtaking mountain views and less tourists than Guatapé.
- Jericó – a picturesque pueblo known for its religious attractions, well-preserved colonial architecture and heritage, generous nature all around, hiking, paragliding, amazing landscapes and much more.
- Santa Fe de Antioquia – known for its well-preserved colonial architecture and cobbled streets.
- El Carmen de Viboral – the heart of Colombia’s ceramics industry.
- San Carlos – a hidden gem surrounded by rivers, waterfalls and nature.
- Abejorral – another hidden gem surrounded by waterfalls and dazzling landscapes with many opportunities for hikers and rock climbers.
- Barbosa – an overlooked pueblo very near Medellín with streams, waterfalls, natural swimming pools, hiking, horseback riding and many other things to do.
We plan to look at several more pueblos near Medellín.
We also looked at Salento, which is a popular pueblo in Colombia’s coffee region that is definitely worth visiting.
The Bottom Line: Jardín
Jardín is is one of the most well-kept colonial towns in Colombia with breathtaking mountain views and less tourists than the popular pueblo of Guatapé. It’s a great place for a weekend getaway from Medellín and is worth visiting.
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