Jardín is a truly delightful and vibrant Colombian town, surrounded by lush green mountains. You can spend days (or even weeks) exploring the surrounding countryside, finding beautiful waterfalls and enchanting caves. Cowboys roam Jardín’s picturesque streets. The main square is packed with locals chatting and drinking coffee at the colourful bars. We spent 2 weeks in this paradise, and wish we could have stayed longer. Here are the best things to do in Jardin, Colombia:
11 Unmissable Things To Do In Jardin
1. Cueva del Esplendor (Cave of Splendor)
I’ve seen a heap load of waterfalls throughout my travels, but Cueva del Esplendor is pretty special. Inside the cave a waterfall rushes through a hole in the cave roof. The waterfall glitters and is illuminated in the sunlight. It’s pretty magical.
You can trek or horse ride up to this cave. Do speak to the friendly and helpful tourist information in Jardin about getting a horse and guide.
Worth the trek up to Cueva del Esplendor
We trekked up to Cueva del Esplendor. It’s not an easy trek by far, with lots of up hill on a difficult path and it will take you the entire day (6-7hours). However, it is worth it for the absolutely stunning views you get on the way.
How to trek to Cueva del Esplendor
To get there, walk to the Revolucion Bananero cafe and turn right up the road. After a while, head over a bridge noted on maps.me as a place to see the cock-of-the-rock birds. You might spot a cock-of-the-rock, but they only tend to be around here in the early evening (4:30-5:30pm).
Carry on up the road from the bridge and go past Creo Eco Lodge. You’ll get to a house on your right next to a big cross. Turn right at the house and follow a smallish road up which turns into a path. You’ll be on the maps.me route.
Follow all the crosses until you get to the top of a mountain and reach a big field. Ignore the big cross on the left hand side of the field. Continue following the route right. After a while, the maps.me route ends for some reason. Follow the path and signs and use maps.me to keep broadly in the right direction towards Cueva del Esplendor. You’ll see a private property sign in a boggy field, ignore the sign and head up the field, past a duck pond to a house.
At the house you can buy your tickets for Cueva del Esplendor. They will provide you with a guide to explore the cave and you get a bottle of water included in the price. Bring plenty of snacks as there is nowhere on the way to get any food once you pass Revolucion Bananero.
How to get back to Jardin from Cueva del Esplendor
To return to Jardín you can take a jeep or walk down the road into town. It’s a fair way back (9km) but a pleasant walk downhill along decent paths.
Follow the maps.me route down the hill. At the very end you’ll have to turn right, off the road, go down a slippery path and cross a very dodgy looking bridge. You’ll come out near the hospital. If you don’t take this route, you’ll have to make your way along the road which is longer.
Price for Cueva del Esplendor: 20,000 COPs
2. Have A Beer In The Plaza
El Libertador Park (which is more like a plaza) is the heart of Jardin. Everyday locals gather here to sip coffee and put the world to rights. Cowboys lean their chairs back against walls, watch the world go by or trot through the plaza on their horses.
I recommend joining them by grabbing a beer at one of the cafes and sitting out in the early evening. It’s truly a unique and authentic experience.
Price: The cheapest beer we had in the plaza was 3,000 COP ($0.89 USD), but you won’t pay much over a dollar at even the more ‘expensive’ places!
3. Paragliding in Jardin
Jardin is surrounded by some of the greenest countryside you can find. You can paraglide off one of the mountains nearby and soar over waterfalls, coffee and banana plantations, jungle and Jardin town itself like a bird. I even had some andean condors enjoying my slipstream!
We’ve been to a fair few places where paragliding is the ‘thing’ to do. From Lima in Peru to Pokhara in Nepal. But Jardin is by far one of the best places we’ve done it. The conditions are perfect. The views are incredible. Paragliding in Jardin is affordable and you don’t have to share the sky with a gazillion other paragliders like in other places. Due to the good conditions, getting a long flight is easy. Remember to take a travel sickness tablet if you get motion sickness!
Price: We did paragliding through Parapente Jardin for 110,000 COP ($32 USD) per person which is very reasonable. For an extra 20,000 COP you can use their GoPro too. This company was a little disorganized but good when you get up in the sky. You can also learn to paraglide yourself in Jardin for around $540 USD. It takes 8-14 days to learn. You can learn through Club Escuela Parapente Jardin.
4. See the cock-of-the-rock
No, this is not me suggesting for you to do something rude! The Andean cock-of-the-rock is a bird with a hell of a lot of personality. The males are the most striking, with their proboscis like bright red heads. The females are more understated and are a duller brown.
There are two main places in Jardin to see the cock-of-the-rock bird and watch them squabble amongst themselves, bob their heads and make their distinctive (and really weird) bird calls.
Firstly, there is a reserve called Parque Natural Jardín de Rocas. Secondly there is a bridge (which you can find on maps.me) where you can see them for free. Just search for cock-of-the-rock on maps.me. We saw them at both the reserve and ‘in the wild’. I recommend going to both. You can get really close in the reserve as they have a viewing area and you are guaranteed to see them.
Price: Free if you go to the cock-of-the-rock bridge which you can find on maps.me. Make sure you visit between 4pm – 5:30pm as that’s when the birds are about doing their thing!
Entry to the cock-of-the-rock Parque Natural Jardín de Rocas costs just 10,000 COP (around $3 USD) per person. Again, do note the reserve is only open from 4pm – 5:30pm as that’s when the cock-of-the-rock birds are in the area.
5. Have a beer with breathtaking mountain views (and visit Cristo Rey)
Jardin really offers some amazing views. Cafe Jardin is situated on the mountainside, right next to the big ‘I Love Jardin’ sign. It’s much classier than it sounds, don’t worry. You can get very affordable beers at Cafe Jardin and jaw-dropping views.
On your way up, you can take the cable car up (Teleférico de Jardín) and visit the Cristo Rey (the big Jesus statue on the hillside). Then carry on walking up the road after the Cristo Rey, bearing right to get up to the Cafe Jardin.
Although this is a great spot to see the sunset, do make sure you leave before it gets dark. It’s a bit tricky getting down the hill in the dark and the cable car by Cristo Rey stops running in the evening. The route up to Cristo Rey is marked on maps.me for Jardin.
6. 4 epic waterfalls hike (Salto del Angel)
This was one of the best day hikes we did in Jardin. The hike is extremely varied and takes you to 4 stunning waterfalls. You go past quaint farms and plantations, up the green mountains and into jungles and forests. It’s a moderately hard hike, but totally worth it.
You can do this trek independently. Or if you don’t feel comfortable with that, do it as a tour with Jardin de Adventura. If you do it as a tour, it is my understanding they take you a different way.
How to do the 4 waterfalls hike
This trek will take you 6-7 hours, so get out early. Download maps.me (for offline maps and walking routes) and download the Jardin area map. From Jardin, you need to head to the cock-of-the-rock bridge, and just after you cross it turn right up the road behind the little juice cafe.
Within 15 minutes, you’ll get to your first waterfall, Cascada la Escalera. Follow the road past the waterfall until you reach where it ends at a house. There is a walking route on the right side of the house. Here it is:
Caída del Dragón (Fall of the Dragon)
Then you can just follow the route on maps.me. You go through farmland and then get into the jungle. The second waterfall you will reach is Caída Del Dragón, which is a pretty cool and long waterfall, which winds itself up the mountain.
Keep heading up the mountain, following the path. Every so often head along the small paths on your left to get a glimpse of the waterfall from a different angle. You will pass through a forest, which wouldn’t look out of place in the English countryside. At the top, you will reach a small clearing. You need to go through it and take the path on the right which leads down the hill.
At this point the trek gets a little bit more hardcore. You will head down into the jungle and have to climb your way down certain sections using the ropes that have been installed to help trekkers. It’s pretty fun! The path will then split and you should explore both ways.
Cascada cueva de los Guacharos
When you head down the hill (the path on the right hand side), you’ll find more ropes to climb down. At the bottom you will discover the stunning cave waterfall, Cascada Cueva De Los Guacharos. Clamber over the rocks to the cave to get the best view.
Salto del Angel waterfall
When you head to the left hand fork, you’ll quickly reach some rock pools. You’ll have to cross the river (e.g wade through!) and head up a slightly poorly marked path. It’s about 200m up the river to get to Salto Del Angel waterfall.
To get back to Jardin follow the route you came along.
Things you will need for this trek:
- Good sturdy waterproof trekking shoes.
- If you want to reach the Salto Del Angel waterfall, you are going to need swimming shoes and swimming shorts.
- A raincoat as Jardin is prone to ridiculous, random heavy rainstorms.
- Trekking poles.
- Water, snacks and lunch.
7. Do a coffee tour
Jardin is in the heart of the coffee region in Colombia. Coffee fincas (farms) patchwork the mountainsides. If you are not satisfied with just drinking rich, flavoursome Colombian coffee, you can do a coffee tour at one of the fincas in Jardin.
We did coffee tours in both Salento and Minca, so didn’t feel the need to do one in Jardin. In Jardin, Finca Milena does coffee tours. It is owned by a couple called Martha and Gustavo and has wonderful reviews.
8. Rappel down a thundering waterfall
Who would have thought Jardin was such a place for cool outdoor activities? Well if this type of thing floats your boat, you can rappel down one of Jardin’s beautiful waterfalls. You can do this daredevil activity with Jardin Aventura.
Price: The activity takes around 3 and a half hours. For 2 people it costs 120,000 COP ($37 USD) per person, for 3 or more it costs 100,000 COP ($30 USD) per person.
9. Trek to La France waterfall
Yes, this is another waterfall, but it’s actually more a damn lovely trek. I swear Jardin is a secret trekkers paradise, and the best thing is you can do most treks completely independently.
On this route, you will visit 2 different waterfalls. Follow the maps.me (an offline map app you can download) route to the La France waterfall. You’ll get some incredible views and go through both forest and jungle.
Annoyingly the maps.me route runs out just before the La France waterfall, but all you need to do is head through the jungle in the right direction. There is a path you can follow.
Do note, although it looks like you can get up to Cueva del Esplendor from this route, you can’t. You need to follow the route I suggest above.
10. Horse riding tours around the scenic Jardin countryside
A popular thing to do in Jardin by both international tourists and tourists from other parts of Colombia is to do a horse riding tour. Many of these go up to Cueva del Esplendor but some take different routes through the lush green mountains that surround Jardin.
We didn’t do any horse riding in Jardin as I am not the biggest fan of it, I much prefer hiking. But of the horse riding tours we saw, the horses looked healthy and well looked after. I recommend popping into the tourist information in Jardin and asking them to arrange a tour for you if you fancy doing one.
11. Cascada del Amore walk & the old fashioned cable car
This is a shorter but scenic walk, and only takes a couple of hours. You can bird spot, enjoy the stunning scenery around Jardin and perve on people’s cute colourful houses as you will explore the more rural village parts of Jardin. At the end of the walk you can take the somewhat rickety cable car called La Garrucha down the mountain.
To do this walk, follow the path on maps.me (the offline map app) route that leads to Cascada del Amore. Follow the path around to the La Garrucha cable car. It’s more of a metal box strung up than a cable car, but it is certainly an experience to ride in it.
Price: It costs 4,000 COP ($1.23) to take the cable car.
Getting around Jardin
The main form of transport in Jardin is private tuk tuks (auto rickshaws). Why this is the case is beyond me. Many of the roads are unpaved and it’s a mountainous area. Tuk tuk journeys in Jardin can be a fairly nail biting experience and your tuk tuk might get stuck going up a hill. But it’s good fun and affordable!
A small number of real sized taxis exist in Jardin, e.g proper cars. We heard there were about 3 of them in the whole town. You can order one from the tourist information in Jardin.
There are 2 cable cars in Jardin, which help you get up the mountainside. The cable cars are called La Garrucha and Teleferico. These tend to stop running at 5:30pm though.
Accommodation in Jardin
We stayed in both the town and on the hillside and can see the appeal in both. Being in the town means you are close to the cafes, bars and restaurants in Jardin. At certain times of year, Jardin is prone to epic rainstorms, so being able to easily and quickly get back to our accommodation on a rainy evening was helpful!
However on the mountainside your money goes further and you can stay in accommodation that has some truly stunning views. To get up to the accommodation based on the hillside you can take the cable cars or a tuk tuk.
Accommodation on the mountainside
We stayed in La Tangara Hostal on the mountainside. The views were spectacular, colourful birds fluttered around the gardens, the rooms were nicely decorated and the shower was warm (which is sometimes hard to find in Colombia). The breakfast wasn’t particularly exciting and the wifi didn’t work particularly well, but we enjoyed our stay here.
Accommodation in Jardin town
In Jardin town, we stayed in Casa Hotel Porton Campestre which was just on the outskirts. Again the breakfast was nothing to write home about, but the room was comfortable, there was warm water and the wifi was good (for Colombia). It was conveniently located and affordable.
Restaurants in Jardin
There is a selection of different restaurants in Jardin. Some offer food more popular with tourists such as pizzas, burgers, pasta and such. Others offer more Colombian local dishes such as arepas, fried plantains and rice. We tried a mixture of both, with our favourite restaurants being:
This is not the crappy chain restaurant you get in the UK! It’s a locally owned pizza place. There is a bit of a competition going on between Bella Italia and Cafe Europa (below) on who serves the best pizza in Jardin. Well we tried both and Bella Italia wins hands down. Their pizza is delicious, probably some of the best I had in the 8 months I spent in South America.
This little vegetarian place is out of town which means it sadly doesn’t get much footfall. It’s located in a wooden hut which has incredible views across the mountains and Jardin. They grow cute little plants on the balcony, make their own peanut butter and serve banana pancakes with melted chocolate on top that are out of this world. Revolucion Bananero is also pretty good for lunch and was probably my favourite place to eat in Jardin.
If Consulado Vegetal was based in London or New York it would be a hipster’s paradise. This is not to put anyone off, it really is a lovely place. Chiquely decorated, Consulado Vegetal takes Colombian dishes and adds a delicious hipster spin on them. Their orange peel hot chocolate is to die for.
Cafe Europa’s pizzas might not be quite as good as Bella Italia’s, however this place does serve tasty food and has a nice atmosphere. It is teeny weeny, so it is always pretty packed with tourists. Often there is even a queue!
Roots has friendly staff and offers a selection of food such as pizza and burgers. We only managed to get there once as they were doing refurbishment work, but we had a tasty meal there.
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