The pretty little coffee town of Jardin in the mountains of southern Antioquia department is one of Colombia’s Heritage Towns and arguably one of the nicest small towns to visit in the whole country. A charming mix of traditional architecture, stunning natural scenery and friendly local people, Jardin is worth visiting for at least a few days – but if you have only 24 hours to enjoy the town, here are some ideas for an itinerary to maximise the experience.
Just one full day doesn’t leave much time to experience all of Jardin’s many attractions (for example, a half-day trip to the Esplendor Cave and waterfall is probably out of the question), but there is plenty you can do in Jardin in 24 hours. It’s best to arrive around lunchtime, which would mean leaving by bus from Medellín in the morning, as the trip takes around four hours. Once you’ve checked into your hotel, head out to the main square to enjoy the wonderfully authentic and laid-back atmosphere. Sipping on a fresh coffee surrounding by men in ponchos and cowboy hats, you’ll feel like you’ve arrived in the real Colombia.
Spend some time exploring the pretty streets of the town, as well as popping into the huge church in the main square. There’s also a little museum of Jardin’s history in the same square – the Casa Museo Clara Rojas Pelaez – which is worth a visit to learn a bit more about the town and see some charming black and white photos of how it used to look. Then, at around 4pm, wander down the road out of town to the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock Reserve. Jardin is famous for a ‘lekking’ (display) site of these magnificent red birds, and in the late afternoon they treat visitors to a show, making an almighty racket and offering up just about the best views of the species possible in South America.
For a relaxing evening, stake a claim to a table in the main square to drink some beers and enjoy watching the locals show off on their beautiful horses. There are plenty of local restaurants dotted around the square (make sure to order fresh trout, the typical local dish of the region).
The next morning, grab a coffee and pastry from Café Macanas, a lovely little café on the main square, and then visit the Jardin cable car. There are two different cable car systems in Jardin, one on either side of town, but the La Garrucha cable car is far more unique than the other: an old wooden gondola, operated by a mechanical pulley system, it’s not for the fainthearted, but riding up on it is a wonderful experience. The views from the top are just as good, with the whole of Jardin laid out before you, nestled in the green mountains of the Coffee Region.
Once you’ve enjoyed enough of the view, ride the gondola back down into Jardin and pay a visit to De Los Andes Café, also in the main square. This excellent café is operated by the nationally famous Los Andes coffee brand, and serves delicious local coffee, freshly roasted and prepared on site. Jardin is a coffee town, and there’s no way you can visit without at least sampling some of its best product.
There’s still time for an early lunch before heading off, so grab a tuk-tuk (the local version of a taxi), and ask the driver to head for Estadero El Arka, a trout farm about 15 minutes out of town. A pretty little farm which channels water from an adjacent river and breeds trout in a variety of tanks, the restaurant offers guests the chance to either catch their own lunch or simply order a dish of freshly prepared trout. Order some lunch, and enjoy the lovely surroundings, before heading back to Jardin and continuing on your Colombian adventure. Just 24 hours may not be very long to spend anywhere, but with this itinerary, none of your time in Jardin will be wasted.