Although I haven’t been to every town in Antioquia, I’m still going to go ahead and agree with the others who have said Jardín is the most beautiful one in this region of Colombia. I mean, would you expect anything less of a town that is called “garden”?
I wouldn’t say that Jardín is a secret anymore. I ended up here precisely because I had read about this “secret” in several other travel blogs whose authors raved about a hidden little gem that “doesn’t appear in the guidebooks”. Since lately I’m becoming more and more interested in those kinds of places, I had to check it out. It did not disappoint. While there is no denying that tourism has arrived to Jardín, it is certainly much further off the beaten track than, say, Salento or Guatapé, and therefore a breath of fresh, Andean air.
I didn’t realize until my crazy curvy, three and a half hour long bus ride from Medellín that I was heading deep into the Andes, one of the longest mountain ranges in the world. The last sixty kilometers or so were particularly stunning and the dramatic scenery helped keep my mind off my swashing stomach as I held onto my seat. Taking in the eerie, vastness of it all with so much room to hide, I thought about all the things that had gone on back here in secret over the years. It gave me chills.
But, I forgot about them when I got dropped off in the main square of Jardín, the least frightening little place you could ever imagine. A cowboy town if I ever saw one, every other character standing around looks like they could be the guy off the Folger’s coffee can (Juan Valdez):
The resemblance is uncanny
There are 14,000 people living in Jardín and I think half of them are cowboys. The local pastime is hanging around the square, people watching and drinking beers (and amazing coffee!) in the prettiest plaza I have seen in Colombia.
I originally came to Jardín for two nights but ended up staying the entire week, and I probably would have extended it even longer if I didn’t have a border crossing coming up quick. Despite the fact that rainy season is beginning and I was ducking in and out of sporadic showers the entire time I was there, the place was just so peaceful, inviting and adorable it didn’t matter if I was indoors or out. The feeling remained the same.
Like all of the little towns in Antioquia, Jardín is charmingly decorated with brightly painted, wooden, colonial houses and flowers. We’re in the heart of coffee country, so there is limitless java to enjoy. I really can’t complain about sitting inside of cute little buildings all day drinking coffee while I wait for the rain to pass.
I asked our guide from the coffee farm tour why it is that all the houses are painted with such beautifully vibrant colors. I figured there was some kind of city ordinance due to the uniformity of it all. “No” he tells me “it’s a matter of personal expression and taste. Just like women do their make up.” “Oh, just like that huh?” I laugh to myself. What an sweet analogy for him to use.
I haven’t been to a place in Antioquia yet where every local person didn’t seem surprised and delighted to see me, including the capital city of Medellín. Jardín was no exception. I literally could not walk down the street without someone stopping to say hello. A man stopped his truck in front of me as I was about to cross the street. “Hello!” he cried beaming from the window. “Welcome to Colombia!” I don’t think I’ve ever felt so welcome anywhere in my life like I have in this country, other than my own home.
Not only is the town of Jardín itself delightful, it is situated right in the middle of the most stunning scenery I have seen in Colombia so far. We are in the heart of the Andes, with vast mountain jungle in every direction. These are ideal conditions for coffee production.
Jardín is coffee country, so naturally a coffee tour was the first thing on my to-do list here. Most tours in Jardín will also include a walk into the Andean countryside. Everyone in this town is growing coffee so you have plenty of options for tours for all budgets. Luckily, I was able to go for free as a translator, an opportunity I’d been looking out for since the beginning of my trip, after I heard it’s common for translators to get to join tours for free as interpreters between the Colombians and non-Spanish speaking tourists (so bilingual people, keep your ears open for these opportunities while in South America!)
I don’t think I could have gotten a better deal. The all-day tour led us back into the mountains to a coffee farm. Here we got to participate in every step of the coffee-producing process, from picking the cherries off the coffee plants to drying the beans and roasting them. On the way our guide pointed out loads of flora and fauna that were unique to this region of the Andes. Jardín, as you might expect, is home to a wide range of exotic bird species. We saw and heard many of them on our walk. Avocados and tropical fruits lined the pathway, which our guide was constantly clearing for us with his machete (yea, you definitely need that guide!) From one of the highest points in the surrounding mountain range, we looked down on the little town of Jardín far below and got a feeling for exactly where we were. The scale was remarkable.
You can learn more about our coffee tour and the coffee-making process here in my photo tour of Coffee Country
If you are not outside checking out the coffee production, then you should be inside drinking it. And if you are going to be inside doing that, you have to do it at Cafe Macanas, hands down the best cup of coffee I have had in Colombia. Not only is the coffee to die for- as well as the pastries that accompany it- the cafe itself is just gorgeous. For example, this picture was taken there:
If you are standing facing the Cathedral, Cafe Macanas is directly to the left of it in the main square.
The local specialty is trout, and there are loads of trout farms in Jardín and the surrounding mountains. Grilled, fried, with garlic sauce… anyway you want it, it’s amazing and accompanied by rice, beans, avocado, banana chips and salad. I actually ate this every day that I was there it was so good. The best one I had was at an actual trout farm, about a 15 minute walk from the city center, called “La Argelia”
Canto de Agua Hostel
Bonus: You are also conveniently located right next to the trout farm and restaurant I just mentioned, “La Argelia”😉
I said as much as I need to say about Jardín I think, the photos can say the rest. Just another very beautiful Colombian experience to add to the list.