This beautiful and unique cave is one of the top tourist attractions in Jardin and is a popular day trip from the town. About a three-hour hike from the town, or a shorter horse ride, the cave is much more than just a cave: a stream has eroded a hole in the cave roof and a waterfall now falls directly through the cave roof into a pool in the darkness. It’s a surreal yet beautiful sight.
Jardin is a coffee town in one of Colombia’s most important coffee-growing regions, so it stands to reason that the coffee here is really rather good. There are plenty of small local spots to enjoy a hot, sweet tinto (the Colombian name for a heavily sweetened black coffee) as well as some more upscale cafes serving specialty coffee. The best-of-the-best are Cafe Macanas and delosAndes Cafe, both on the main square.
If there were an award for the best plaza in Colombia, Jardin might well take the gold. The architecture is beautiful, but the thing that really sets this plaza apart is all the seating: unlike many squares in Colombia, Jardin’s plaza is filled with little tables and chairs, making it a wonderful spot to enjoy a coffee by day, and a beer by night, and watch the locals ride horses along the cobbled streets.
Jardin’s impressive and imposing church is one of the loveliest in Colombia: a towering neogothic temple, it was, rather amazingly, built entirely from hand-carved stone that was quarried in the hills around the town in 1872. Towering, as it does, over the main square, it’s basically impossible to miss, but take the time to wander around its impressive interior.
Jardin is famous for its wonderful birdwatching (see below), and the best part is that you don’t even have to be a hardcore birder to enjoy the sight of beautiful tropical bird species: just a five-minute walk outside the town is an observatory where you can see wild Andean cock-of-the-rock, easily one of the most colourful and unique birds in the world. They gather every day at dawn and dusk to display for potential mates, and seeing them is a truly unique experience.
A beautiful coffee farm just outside Jardin, Finca Milena operates excellent coffee tours where you can learn about the entire coffee-producing process from plant to cup. It’s also a hotel and is a really wonderful place to stay to enjoy a real Colombian countryside experience. Plus, the food there is to die for.
There are two cable cars in Jardin, one on either side of the town. Both offer beautiful panoramic views of the town and the surrounding mountains, but one is a touch more unique than the other: La Garrucha cable car is an old wooden gondola, operated by a mechanical pulley system. It can be a hair-raising ride, but the experience is one of a kind, and not to be missed.
There are several trout farms in the countryside around Jardin, but the best one is located about 15 minutes away in the neighbouring valley: Estadero El Arka. This farm channels waters from the adjacent river into a series of holding tanks containing different-sized trout. You can pay to catch your own lunch, or simply enjoy the pretty countryside while tucking into a fresh trout at the on-site restaurant.
This trip is for the hardcore birders: in the mountains outside Jardin, there is a population of one of the rarest birds in Colombia, the endemic yellow-eared parrot. This is a large parrot that nests in the wax palms which were once so abundant in this region. The area is now a bird reserve operated by ProAves, and as well as the parrots, it is home to many other unique species such as the tanager finch, dusky starfrontlet and chestnut-crested cotinga.
Another amazing cave in the mountains outside Jardin, the Oilbird Cave, or cueva de los Guacharos in Spanish, is a much more challenging day trip than some of the others listed here, and is definitely not for everyone. It’s a tough mountain hike of around six hours, but the reward for the sweat and sore legs are two stunning waterfalls in the jungle, and a deep cave filled with hundreds of the strange, spooky birds that give the cave its name.