Colombia’s Antioquia region has no shortage of charm. Spanning the country’s northern Andes, Antioquia is home to the sprawling city of Medellín, where many long-term travelers base themselves for an extended stay in the country. Medellín’s young creative class has started so many businesses that the city has been named one of the world’s most innovative. But at the end of the day, it’s another big city you’ll eventually need a break from. While lots of travelers take a trip to the beaches of nearby Guatapé to escape the hustle, going south to verdant Jardín is actually a better option. Here’s why.
It’s the place to try the best of Colombian coffee
Jardín is a small Paisa town south of Medellín. You’ll first be captivated by its lively main plaza, accessible nature, and friendly locals. Colorful colonial buildings line the narrow streets and frame the city’s central square, where locals in dusty blue jeans and cowboy hats sip coffee streetside at all hours. Jardín feels largely untouched by Colombia’s recent tourist boom, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty going on in this small town in the Andes.
Jardin is located in the middle of the eje cafetero, the coffee axis, so sitting over a strong cup of joe is a way of life here. Despite being among the world’s leading producers of coffee, most of the country’s best has historically been exported. Jardín is a place where locals and visitors can try the good stuff, with many specialty cafés opening in recent years to service the growing appreciation and interest in locally sourced coffee. Cafe MonteSer, in the center of town, has excellent house-roasted coffee and gives you the option of pour-over, Aeropress, siphon, or French press. Within walking distance, you’ll find nearly a dozen additional spots to grab a cup including delosAndes Cafe and El Cafe 1935, both cozy spots that are great for conversation.
Walk by the Basilica de la Inmaculada Concepcion
The town’s most notable structure is the massive Basilica de la Inmaculada Concepcion, which you’ll undoubtedly walk past en route to just about anywhere in town. Built in 1872, you can enter the Catholic basilica until 8:00 PM, but the best photos are taken from the surrounding gardens and square. Also worth a few hours is a guided tour of the Cueva del Esplendor, a cave with a massive waterfall pouring through a hole in the rock ceiling. Tours run daily, though in an effort of conservation, only 40 people per day are allowed to enter.
Day hikes abound
Jardín shines in a lot of ways, but it’s the town’s accessibility to scenic mountain day hikes that makes it the best day trip from Medellín. Go in almost any direction outside of the pueblo, and you’ll find winding country roads dotted by colorful casitas, broad-leaved banana trees, and lazy grazing livestock. If you have only a day or two in town, try these trails, both accessible on foot from your morning stop for coffee. Use the MapsMe app to see these two trails and plenty of others in Jardín.
Cristo Rey: The Cristo Rey is a mirador, or viewpoint, overlooking the city on the northern edge of town. Named for the large Jesus statue marking the overlook, Cristo Rey requires a steep uphill sprint but rewards hikers with views of the valley below and a mountainside cafe near the top. To get there, take the walking trail from Calle 11. You’ll head down a very steep, rocky path and past a large oak tree dripping in moss. Pass over the wooden suspension bridge, and the trail will climb upward.
La Garrucha Loop: This four-mile loop includes the La Garrucha scenic overlook and two waterfalls. There’s also a cable car that services La Garrucha, so it’s possible to take the gondola up and hike down from there. The hike follows gently sloping gravel roads outside of town lined with fragrant lime trees, sleepy bungalows, and sweeping bougainvillea. Follow the full loop to end up back in town.
Getting to Jardín from Medellín and finding a place to crash
The easiest way to arrive in Jardín is to take a RapidoOcho or Suroeste bus from Terminal Sur in Medellín. Buses run just about every hour and cost around $8. The quoted time to Jardín is three hours, but it can take up to five or six depending on traffic, landslides, roadslides, and construction. However long the trip, expect a beautiful, bumpy ride. Antioquia is a mountainous region of Colombia, and the ride to Jardín is a winding one. Motion sickness medication is a good idea if you’re prone to car sickness.
Unlike other big-name Colombian destinations, Jardín doesn’t have a ton of options when it comes to lodging. Located a few blocks from the main square, Sgt. Pepper’s Hostel is a good pick for cheap and comfortable accommodation. The second-floor patio is flanked by views of the surrounding mountains where you can lounge in a hammock and read a book. A bunk in the shared dorms runs about $11 while a private room is just over $30, and breakfast is included. Ayahuasca Casa Artistica is a hostel and guesthouse located three kilometers outside of town and has excellent reviews. Guests rave about the tranquil setting and friendly owners. You can stay for as cheap as $8, but prepare to share because there are no private rooms available.
For something a bit nicer, the Hotel Jardín starts at $85 per night and the Balcones de Parque starts at $45. Airbnb is available, but options are quite limited, and you likely won’t be in the city center.