It’s tricky to write about the best things to do in Jardin, Colombia without using clichés like quaint, charming or picturesque. Jardin is all of these things.
When you first arrive in the colourful village, you’ll find yourself on a small, cobbled road lined with colourful buildings. You’ll breathe fresh mountain air while Jeeps roll into town from the local farms. Late in the afternoon, old men in cowboy hats and ponchos sit at street side tables sipping beer, while children play in the streets.
Located 4 hours from Medellin, high in Colombian coffee country, it’s a far cry from the chaos of the city. And while once far off the beaten path, its popularity is growing.
Still, many travellers only stay for a couple of days. So unaware of how many great things there are to do here.
Don’t make that mistake. Here are the best things to do in Jardin, Colombia.
What to do in Jardin, Colombia
Jardin hasn’t yet hit the tourism boom as other towns in Colombia’s coffee region, at least not for the gringos. That being said, it is a bustling weekend spot for locals from Medellin and other nearby towns.
At first glance, the sleepy town doesn’t appear to offer a lot more than the selection of lively cafes and restaurants lining the town square. However, the locals will proudly proclaim the many activities there gorgeous valley has to offer.
Take in the Spectacular Views
The landscapes in this part of Colombia are some of the most vibrant in the country. Rolling green mountains and deep valleys surround Jardin and make for some amazing views.
One of the best spots to take it all in is up at Cafe Jardin. Sip on some local coffee while taking in the breathtaking scenery.
Even if you’re short on time, going for a short walk to some of the nearby viewpoints needs to be on your list.
Go Paragliding in Jardin
While there are many great places to view Jardin from above, none compare to seeing it while flying overhead.
Paragliding is an incredible way to take in the stunning landscapes from a totally different perspective. It’s also wildly fun and strangely calming.
If you’re unfamiliar, paragliding is like a hybrid of parachuting and hang gliding. You run towards a ledge and the chute carries you into the air. But don’t worry, flights are tandem, so you’ll have a professional doing all the work — all you need to do is sit, relax, and take in the views.
Even if, like me, you’re not great with heights, it’s still worth a go. I did it in Medellin and had a blast.
The Paragliding Shop is a popular place to organize your experience.
Check Out the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
It’s impossible to visit Jardin without seeing the Basilica in the centre of town. With its towering twin spires, the Neo-Gothic church is an iconic fixture of Jardin.
Though as impressive as it is from the outside, the interior is equally so. With its massive, vaulted ceilings and intricate tile work in blue and golden hues, this Basilica is a humbling work of art.
Pro Tip: A perfect time to visit is during the mid-afternoon. Take in all of the wonderful details while taking refuge from the hot sun.
Bike the Colombian Countryside
If you’re feeling fit and want to stretch your lungs, a great way to explore the surrounding area is by renting a bicycle.
Although many of the dirt roads outside of town are too rough for cycling, the paved roads outside of Jardin are smooth and perfect for riding. If you don’t mind a few steep hills, it’s an excellent way to explore the greater area.
We recommend heading East of Jardin to La Trucheria, a trout farm and restaurant a little over 5 kilometres from town. Work up your appetite on the ride and enjoy a delicious lunch before venturing back to town.
This shop is a highly-recommended place for bike rentals.
Explore the Jardin Bat Cave
On the outskirts of town to the north, along a winding trail, you’ll find a wooden door in the face of a small cliff face. Inside, you’ll wander into a twisting man-made cave system. The way is spacious, with plenty of room to stand — but you’ll want to keep your head low in here, as it’s filled with thousands of bats.
Hanging from the ceiling, huge clusters of bats huddle together in twisting masses of black fur. Dozens of them swoop eerily close to you constantly but never make contact.
For the non-squeamish, pushing through the tunnels to the other side of the hill, you’ll find a small waterfall which is nice for a few photos.
Bring a flashlight (torch). It’s dark in there.
Visit a Local Coffee Farm
One of the best ways to experience one of the world’s best coffee regions is to visit a local coffee farm. Wander through the coffee fields while learning about the entire coffee process from berry to cup.
This is a fantastic way to visit with proud local farmers while learning about one of Colombia’s most important industries.
At the end of it all, sample some of the freshest coffee you’ll likely ever taste!
Cool Down at Cascada La Escalera
A short distance North of Jardin is Cascada la Escalera, a series of multiple waterfalls cascading down a cliffside. While the pools at the bottom are too shallow for swimming, the falls are often soft enough to stand under. This makes for a refreshing cool-down on a hot afternoon.
Getting to Cascada la Escalera is a simple, 40-minute walk from Jardin on a mostly flat road north of town. The road winds through scenic terrain and farmland.
For the adventurous, contact local tour companies about rappelling down the face of the falls.
Get your Photography On
Jardin is one of the most photogenic places in Colombia — and that’s saying something. The brightly-coloured facades of the colonial architecture, the towering basilica, and the rolling landscapes are a photographer’s dream.
Spend a few hours or an entire day snapping shots of the brilliant scenery, wildlife and proud locals at work and play.
Bird Watching in Jardin
Not only is Colombia one of the most bio-diverse countries on the planet, but it also has the world’s largest diversity of birds. It’s no surprise to learn that Colombia is a great place for bird watching.
Among the many colourful birds you’ll find in the hills around Jardin, the Andean Cock-of-the-rock is the most notable. With its vibrant red plumage and oddly-shaped head, it’s one of the more unique birds you’re likely to come across.
It’s easy enough to try your luck on your own but if you want a proper birding tour, try this company.
Sample the Locally-Grown Coffee
If you enjoy a nice cup of coffee, you cannot visit Jardin without sampling its local pride. Some of the world’s best coffee is grown in the mountains here, and the local cafes offer a variety of delicious options.
Stop in for breakfast or a snack, read a book, catch up on work or even just sit quietly as you sip on some of the finest coffee you’ll ever taste.
See a Show at the Municipal Theatre
Found in a nondescript building on the north side of town is the Teatro Municipal de Jardin. Over 100 years old, it recently re-opened after having been closed for nearly a quarter century.
Although most of the performances are in Spanish, it’s a great venue to catch a local film, live talk or musical performance.
Check out their Facebook page for details and show listings.
See the Spectacular Cueva del Esplendor
Cueva del Esplendor is one of the most popular attractions in Jardin, and for good reason. High in the mountains north of town, a waterfall pours into a large cavern from a hole in the ceiling. The sight alone is worth the visit, but you can also take a plunge into the cold mountain pool.
The cave is on private land but part of the entrance fee includes a light lunch and a cold beverage at the owner’s property.
The easiest way to get to Cueve del Esplendor is by joining a tour. Almost every agency in town provides this option.
It is possible to hike to hike from Jardin but it’s uphill a lot of the way and quite some distance. Alternatively, you can hire a driver to take you there and you can hike back to Jardin afterwards. Some drivers will only take you as far as the closed gate
One thing to note is that while access on horseback is no longer an option – as part of the new restrictions – there is a small river you must wade through to reach the cave. Just something to consider when dressing for the hike.
Ride La Garrucha, the Jardin Cable Car
Jardin has two cable cars, one on either side of the valley. The north cable car is a fairly modern system that brings visitors to the Statue of Christ. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, it was closed and seemed to be for quite some time.
The other cable car is a much more exciting – albeit questionable – ride. Nicknamed the rusty garden shed, the name holds true. The ride itself is a little shaky but it’s a fun way to reach the hills above town.
If you’re short on time or hiking isn’t your thing, you can simply ride the cable car up to the little cafe and take in the brilliant views before riding back.
Prices seem to fluctuate heavily from source to source. But for the two of us, the ride cost 7,000 Pesos (about 2 USD), one way.
Soak in the Atmosphere of Plaza del Libertador
Unlike some of the other towns in this beautiful region of Colombia, Jardin seems to hold onto the essence of the small-town vibe. While that’s not to say places like Salento and Filandia have lost the charm, Jardin Colombia just seems to have a little more.
Relax in the town square under a tree on one of the colourful chairs and sip some delicious locally grown and roasted coffee while nibbling on a freshly baked pastry. Return in the evening while horses prance in the streets and music engulfs the square from the many cafes. Sit back and mingle with the locals over a few cool beers as the evening winds down.
Go Horseback Riding in Jardin
The clip-clop of horseshoes on the streets can be heard from dawn to dusk in Jardin. A popular mode of transportation in the hillsides, owners will often prance their ponies past the bars and cafes for onlookers.
For a small fee, horses are available to ride through the town for a few minutes, a fun perspective to check out the buildings. Another option is to take a horse on a tour of some of the surrounding countryside.
The staff at most hotels and hostels can arrange a trip.
Catch Your Lunch at a Trucheria
The coffee region of Colombia is also famous for its freshwater trout. The cold, clean waters of the mountains provide a perfect environment for the tasty fish.
While it’s easy to find trout at one of the many great restaurants in town, some of the trucherias (trout farms) around town allow you to fish from their ponds and catch a fish yourself. They’ll prepare and cook the fresh trout while you sit and enjoy a drink.
Now, is it really fishing if it’s from a farm? Some may argue no, but it’s a unique experience either way!
Hike to the Statue of Cristo Rey
On the north side of town, you can head up to the statue of Cristo Rey (Christ the King) by following Calle 13 out of town and through the valley. Stick to the road, eventually, it will do almost a full 180 and begin climbing.
Alternatively, take a left when you see the sign for La Argelia Tucheria. Follow the road up past the trout farm and you’ll find a rough cow path winding up the hill which will eventually meet up with the previously mentioned road. Take a left and follow the road until you reach the next left and follow it down to the statue.
Once you reach the statue, you can hike back down beneath the cable car (which was not operational during our visits). There are a couple of different paths to follow, we’re not sure where they all lead – other than down. We chose the one on the left of the viewpoint. Stay left at the first turn and a right at the second. You’ll eventually pass by a farmhouse near the valley floor where you’ll see a bridge over the stream beyond the house to the left.
If you don’t already have it, download the Maps.me app. It has these little roads clearly marked for you.
Hiking in Jardin, Colombia
Arguably one of the best activities is hiking the landscapes surrounding the village.
There are several simple routes, in the form of small dirt roads, that leave right from the edge of town. Each one leads through beautiful farming communities on different sides of the valley.
Short Hike from Jardin to the Cable Car
At the east end of Carrera 6, a stone path through a tunnel of trees is the beginning of another great walk. Continue straight when the path meets up with the road and take a right at the split. The road winds down passing some small waterfalls and crosses the river before climbing back up.
After the first bridge crossing, there are several short trails you can follow, but eventually, you’ll want to get back on the road that winds up the hill. Eventually, you’ll make your way up the winding road and head through some beautiful farmland with banana trees and fields of tomatoes. Small farmhouses will dot the countryside and you’ll pass several smiling locals who can help point you in the right direction.
A great way to complete the circuit is to follow the road back to town via the newly constructed bridge on the south end. A better option, in our opinion, is to head to the cafe for a snack and a beer before heading back to town on the old cable car.
Hiking from Jardin to Cueva del Esplendor
As mentioned earlier, it is possible to walk from Jardin to Cueva del Esplendor. Follow Calle 13 north of town until you reach the road that connects Cascada la Escalera to Cafe Jardin. Halfway along this road, there is a path on the north side of the road. This path winds up the hillside and through beautiful landscapes in the mountains north of town.
The path isn’t found on Google Maps but is well-marked on Maps.me. If you’re taking this hike, it’s a good idea to have that app and to have the region downloaded for offline access.
Note: The hike takes a couple of hours and is uphill a lot of the way. We suggest hiring a ride to Cueva del Esplendor and making the return trip along this hike. That’s the way we did it and it made for a lovely afternoon.
Where to Eat in Jardin
Fresh, Local Trout
As mentioned above, trout is famous in this area and if you’re a fan of fish, you can’t leave without trying some. It’s offered in nearly every restaurant, but why not go straight to the source?
If catching your own fish isn’t your thing, you can still head to one of the great farm/restaurants and enjoy some delicious trout. We ate at Trucheria Montemar on multiple visits to Jardin. The place was all but deserted aside from the two women who worked on-site, but they happily prepared an amazing meal of fried trout, plantains, salad and sauces – all from scratch while we waited.
Treat Yourself at Jardin’s Famous Sweets Shop
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, Dulces de Jardin has you covered. Famous throughout the region for its rich desserts and candies using local ingredients, it also has a small cafe attached where you can sit back and enjoy a coffee with your snack.
Our favourite is one of their specialties, Arequipe, a thick milk and sugar-based paste, similar to a thin fudge. We picked up a jar of the delicious mocha-flavoured for only a couple of dollars and devoured it by the spoonful.
Indulge in Delicious Colombian Cuisine
Seeing as though this is a farm town, there are a lot of hard-working folks around here and the food shows it. Many restaurants around town serve the typical huge portions of very hearty meals usually involving huge amounts of meat and carbs.
Gloria and Donde Andrés are two great restaurants popular with locals. They’re simple spots with typical Colombian menus and huge portions of incredibly flavourful food at great prices.
Where to Stay in Jardin, Colombia
Gulupa Ecolodge — A spectacular and wildly popular ecolodge overlooking Jardin.
Hotel Valdivia Plaza — Nice, upscale hotel right on the main square.
Candileja Hostel — Clean, simple hostel with a relaxing garden area.
Sgt Pepper’s Hostel — Hugely popular hostel for backpackers, near the main square.
Find more Jardin accommodations on Booking.com.
The Best Time to Visit Jardin
Temperatures in Jardin and the entire Antioquia region of Colombia are wonderful year-round. There’s a reason Medellin is known as the “City of Eternal Spring.” Average lows hover around 12(54) and highs around 23(73), rarely changing from month to month.
The two biggest factors to consider when travelling to Jardin are rainfall and annual holidays. The highest rainfall happens from late March to mid-June, and late August to November. However, the weather is generally still comfortable during these months.
As for crowds, things get incredibly busy over Christmas, Easter and the first two to three weeks of January, when most Colombians take holidays. And as Jardin is a popular weekend getaway for people in Medellin, it is much quieter during the week.
How to Get to Jardin, Colombia
Get to Jardin from Medellin
The easiest way and how most people visit Jardin is via Medellin. Several buses leave daily from Medellin’s South terminal and cost around 26,000 COP. Try to snag a window seat for this 3 1/2 to 4-hour journey, as the views are breathtaking!
Heading back to Medellin, a similar schedule is available in the opposite direction.
How to get to Salento from Jardin
If heading to Salento or Filandia, catch the Chivas to Riosucio at 8 a.m. from the same place you arrived, the cost is 20,000 per person. This “bus” is an incredible ride through some very sketchy mountain paths and is a thrilling experience in itself. Be aware that there are no closed doors or windows on these buses, so dress warm – it can get quite cold at altitude, especially if it rains. This is one of the most interesting ways to travel in Colombia!
The roughly 3-hour ride will get you to Riosucio around noon, where you’ll transfer to another bus heading to Pereira. This 3.5-hour journey is on a regular bus and costs 18,000. From Pereira, catch the final shuttle to either Filandia or Salento for roughly 6,600 COP. This final leg is under an hour.
How to Get to Jardin from Salento
If coming from Salento or Filandia, simply travel the route in the opposite direction. The only important thing of note is the Chivas only runs from Riosucio to Jardin at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.