While preparing to write this recap of our awesome weekend in Jardin, Colombia, I saw a post in the Medellin Expats Facebook group (great group by the way – tons of info for people living or traveling in Medellin) that called Jardin an “escape from Medellin.” While I don’t agree with that label as it implies Medellin is a city that needs escaping from, I do agree that Jardin should not be missed if you’re traveling anywhere in Antioquia, Colombia.
What is Jardin?
Jardin is a colorful pueblo about 3 hours SW of Medellin – it’s easily accessible by bus or car, through the former is not recommended for sensitive travelers as it seemed like the only goal for the bus drivers was to gain ground by overtaking other cars on blind corners.
How to get to Jardin from Medellin
We took a bus from the south bus station in Medellin (Terminal Sur) to Jardin – they run approximately every 30 minutes and a ticket was 26,000 COP one way. We chose to book through Rapido Ochoa as they are pretty well known when it comes to bus companies, but there was at least 1 other company offering trips if their times weren’t convenient.
We were on the bus 5 min after buying our tickets, but if you have some time to kill Terminal Sur is a proper mall and it’d be easy to spend 30min-1hr there as you wait for the next bus.
The ride was…aggressive. As I mentioned earlier, bus drivers in Colombia are pretty motivated when it comes to making good time and there was a lot of overtaking, hard braking and going into corners with some serious speed.
Luckily, the landscape was incredible so don’t miss the chance to stare out the window.
We had a brief pit stop about ⅔ of the way for bathroom and snacks, but like the rest of the drive, this also went quickly and another passenger had to insist the driver wait for his girlfriend who had not returned to the bus fast enough.
The bus dropped us off in the main Jardin square, pretty much ground 0 for anything you’d need, and the Rapido Ochoa office is only 2 blocks away when you want to buy your return tickets (we bought them the morning of our return without issue).
Where we stayed in Jardin, Colombia
Instead of staying in town (where there is plenty of options and quite easy to book ahead of time or when you arrive) – we opted for a Finca called Finca Descanso about 5km north of the town (between Jardin and Andes).
While the scenery was stunning, I can’t say I’d recommend this to anyone else – you’ll need a taxi to get back and forth to town (we ended up hitchhiking into town in the morning and catching a tuk-tuk home both nights) and the fact that we were outside of Jardin proper meant that we couldn’t drink the water.
Note: Obviously, the decision to stay in a finca was ours and there are certainly plenty of great options out there if you’re looking to do the same – I’m just not sure if we’d chose to stay in one again.
If you’re looking for a non-finca option, I’ve heard multiple people recommend Hotel Diana which is right off the main square.
What we did in Jardin
Jardin is super laid back and our goal was to take advantage of that as much as possible. Our weekend consisted of 3 main activities: enjoying the square + people watching, hiking to the waterfall outside of town, and drinking coffee.
Here’s more on each:
The central square in Jardin
Like so many other pueblos in Colombia, life revolves around the central square. The square in Jardin is beautiful – in classic Colombian style, it’s surrounded by white-washed buildings made up of bars, cafes, restaurants, and panaderias.
Each business has its own dedicated area in the square with tables complete with matching (and custom-painted) chairs. In order to use these you will need to buy a coffee, beer, or bite but doing so will allow you one of the best seats in the house for people watching.
In the center of the square, you’ll find a fountain that comes to live sometime in the afternoon as well as dozens of flowers and rose bushes (apparently Jardin has an annual flower festival but I couldn’t find any details online.
Tying everything together are the people – everyone that we met in Jardin was quite pleasant (though some seemed jaded by all the tourists). Fashion was quite mid-western and there was something calming about watching crowds of men wearing plaid, cowboy hats, jeans and boots moving through the square.
One of the past times was clearly sitting in the square and enjoying a coffee or beer and either socializing or people watching so we fit right in!
The waterfall hike in Jardin
When we first arrived we befriended two other Americans teaching English in the square and they told us about an easy hike that ends at a set of waterfalls called Cascada La Escalera about 1.5hr out of town.
We actually found the waterfall on Google Maps and headed out the next day after breakfast to see a bit of the country.
Note: if you can’t find the waterfall on the map here are the directions: follow Carrera 2 out of town until it dead ends into Calle 13 and make a left. This road will turn to dirt pretty quickly and you’ll pass the International Hotel on the right and then a few more hotels and fincas as you get further away from Jardin. Keep walking for 30 min to 1 hour until you in-housebridge and turn right immediately after the bridge. Keep going up the hill and after 10-20 min more you’ll reach the waterfall, there’s a sign so you can’t miss it!
In my opinion, the hike was much better than the waterfall itself – it takes you through some scenic countryside and we saw a few farmers out tending their fields.
The waterfall is actually part of a few different cascades and I think we caught it when the water was low because it was a bit underwhelming. I’d still say it’s worth doing just for the hike, though.
Coffee in Jardin
Jardin is probably best known as one of the pillars of Colombian coffee production – the beans grown here are primarily controlled by Nescafe and are exported to help fuel coffee drinkers around the world.
We drink a lot of coffee and were excited to see not only where much of our coffee comes from, but also experience the coffee culture so close to the source.
The first part was obvious as there were coffee plants as far as the eye could see while driving into Jardin. It’s worth noting that coffee tours are common in Colombia and while we haven’t done one, we heard it’s a great way to see the entire process from cultivation through roasting.
In terms of the coffee culture in Jardin, there is a pretty big divide between the locals and tourists. The former opt for a type of coffee called tinto that is available pretty much everywhere in town – it’s quite weak compared to regular coffee but also very inexpensive.
For tourists and coffee lovers, there are some very nice cafes around and we chose to spend our time at two of them right on the square:
Cafe Macanas – a super cool cafe next to the church with an incredible courtyard set back off the square. It seemed like this place is also a bakery and we saw lots of people eating the red velvet cake.
De Los Andes Cafe – my personal favorite as it overlooks the square (make sure to sit on the 2nd floor), does roasting in house, and provides the beans to Stumptown who in turn supplies my local cafe in Atlanta (shoutout to Read Shop!) and it was super cool to trace my caffeine to the source.
Would we go back?
Absolutely, but only if there wasn’t another pueblo on our list. Jardin is incredibly beautiful and it is a great break from city life in Medellin, but with so many other cool towns nearby we’d likely opt for a new one before returning.