Pretty Pueblos Part II: Jardin (of Eden)

Central plaza (Jardin, Colombia)

Colourful chairs and tables fill the central plaza

From Jeric贸 to Jardin, we embarked on a 3-hour adventure via the traditional ‘chiva’ bus to the nearby village Andes (COP 11,000/pp), and then took a 30-min taxi (COP 4,000/pp) from Andes to Jardin.

Cathedral in central plaza (Jardin, Colombia)

The central plaza

After we got off the crazy bus (and just so we’re clear, I’m referring to the crazy-colourful bus and its crazy driver..not the passengers), we arrived at the closest thing to paradise on Earth.

Colour buildings (Jardin, Colombia)

Colourful building of Jardin

We had arrived at our next pueblo: Jardin. It was rumoured that the earliest discoverers of this village stumbled across it and, amazed by its natural beautfy, called it a garden. And I can see why – its literally a modern-day Garden of Eden. Mountain vistas, lush green valleys, and crystal clear mountain rivers from all angles.

Mountain vistas (Jardin, Colombia)

Beautiful mountain vistas

As was with Jeric贸, neither Lonely Planet or Rough Guides makes any mention of the pueblo, so foreign tourists rarely visit.

Curious locals (Jardin, Colombia)

Jason and I were mild celebrities in Jardin. These kids came up to us and asked if they can take pictures with us. We happily obliged. They didn’t ask for our signatures though.

This perfect combination of breathtaking natural beauty, mild climate, and ‘not-a-single-souvenir-shop-in-sight’ makes this village an ideal place to stay for a couple of nights.

Cathedral in central plaza (Jardin, Colombia)

Sunset over the central plaza

Jason and I took a quick ride out of the village centre on one of the (what locals affectionally call) “motoratones” or motor-rats, because they resemble little rats on wheels.

Motoratones (Jardin, Colombia)

One of several motoratones聽in the village

We arrived at ‘La Trucheria’ or the trout farm which I thought was going to be kinda cheesy. I was totally proven wrong when we discovered we got to fish for our own trout!

La Trucheria (Jardin, Colombia)

La Trucheria (or trout farm)

Jason finally caught the ever-elusive fish that’s haunted him since last summer!

Fishing for trout (Jardin, Colombia)

That is one proud man!

I technically caught a trout first but I screamed so loudly in excitement that I think I scared the fish off the hook and onto the ground, where he flopped around for a few frantic seconds before gratefully escaping back into the pond.

Fishing for trout (Jardin, Colombia)

I caught one too (before Jason did!)

Cleaning the trout (Jardin, Colombia)

Cleaning station

We got the fish cleaned right there, and afterwards, brought the fish to the restaurant on site for them to prepare the freshest, tastiest trout I’ve ever had!

Trout bounty (Jardin, Colombia)

Me holding up our bounty!

Our just-caught trout meal (Jardin, Colombia)

The mouthwatering trout we had for lunch. This was only half of it, since we caught 4 trout.

One of the top hiking destinations nearby was to ‘La Cueva del Esplendor’ (Cave of Splendour). There are number of ways to get to the destination: hike, horseback ride, rappel down the waterfalls. We booked our horseback ride to the cave through a local guide, Jaime (pronounced HY-mee). (Ask around town for him – there appeared to be only 2 main guides who offer this tour.) I was excited to try my hand at horseback riding again…my last experience was pretty scary and I got eaten alive by mosquitoes so I didn’t really enjoy it that much.

Jaime's finca (Jardin, Colombia)

At our guide’s finca

We arrived at Jaime’s finca (or coffee farm) and he paired us up with our horses. I got paired up with a handsome white horse named Leonardo. He turned out to be the sweetest horse – responsive and wouldn’t go faster than a trot unless I directed him to.

Jenn on horseback (Jardin, Colombia)

Me looking like I’ve been riding all my life (not!)

The trail we took was a different story…it was slippery, muddy, steep, and at times incredibly narrow. I have a new-found respect for horses. I thought the slippery trail was going to do my horse (and as a result, me) in, but Leonardo was so sure-footed. He never let me down (well, not until we reached end of the ride).

Jason's steed (Jardin, Colombia)

Jason on his steed

The actual views we took in during the horseback ride was breathtaking (or perhaps it was the altitude?). The views of the endless Andean mountain range were spectacular. Pictures do not do them any justice whatsoever.

Andean scenery (Jardin, Colombia)

Andean scenery

Horseback trails through Andean mountains (Jardin, Colombia)

Horseback trails through Andean mountains

When we reached the end of the trail at another finca, we tied up our horses and took a pretty difficult trail through the dense foliage to get to the waterfall. The trail by foot was equally slippery and muddy, and we found ourselves having to hang onto nearby vines and branches for dear life. An older American lady that was with us had to be lead down personally by our guide. Jaime was great – really patient and wanted to make sure the entire group was always safe.

Jaime the guide (Jardin, Colombia)

Our guide, Jaime.

But all the work was worth it. The sight that greeted us was breathtaking – seriously our group took in a collective gasp. Like a ray of light, the waterfall rushed down through a hole in the roof of the cave, sending up misty droplets into the air.

The cave of splendour (Jardin, Colombia)

The cave of splendour

Jason was the only one brave enough to face the icy cold water and he took a quick dip under the falls. Crazy, this guy! 馃檪

Waterfall swimming (Jardin, Colombia)

Jason shivering swimming in the waterfall

The cave of splendour (Jardin, Colombia)

Jason and I in front of La Cueva del Esplendor

Instead of taking the same muddy trail back up to the second finca, a small group of us (the two of us and a young American couple who were spending a few months in Central America and Colombia) were allowed to walk up a section of waterfall. Pretty cool and, at times, a little scary as we jumped from rock to rock in our borrowed galoshes.

Climbing up the waterfall (Jardin, Colombia)

Climbing up the waterfall

We met up with the guide and the older American couple at the second finca and remounted our horses for another beautiful ride back through the mountains. This time, Leonardo decided to be a bit more daring and would often walk right on the edge of the trail, so there was nothing but a steep drop on one side of us. He lost his footing briefly at one point, and I nearly peed my pants! After that, I led him away from the ledge.

Riding through the Andean mountains (Jardin, Colombia)

Riding through the Andean mountains

We had a wonderful lunch of chicken, yuca, potato, rice, cornbread – all wrapped up within banana leaves when we returned to Jaime’s finca. Sooo good!

Our delicious homemade lunch (Jardin, Colombia)

Our delicious homemade lunch

Sunset over the central plaza (Jardin, Colombia)

Farewell Jardin, Colombia

Jardin has definitely been one of the highlights of our trip so far. Make sure to stop in for a few days if you’re ever in Colombia.

Psst: Missed Part I of Pretty Pueblos? Click here.

Pretty Pueblos Part I: Jeric贸

Jerico, Colombia

Overlooking the village of Jerico

From the advice of other travel bloggers, we decided to spend some time off the beaten path in the Antioquia region. This region contains an endless number of pueblos (or villages) that will allow the weary traveller to kick back and enjoy a slower pace.

Jeric贸 is one of the many pueblos in the coffee zone, just 3.5 hours south of Medellin. We spent a day in the little village (approx population 13,000) enjoying the sunshine, the mild climate, and the company of incredibly friendly people.

Parque Reyes (Jerico, Colombia)

Most cities or villages have a central plaza where all the locals congregate to catch up on gossip or just to people-watch. Jeric贸 had a very pretty central plaza, named Parque Reyes.

People-watching at a cafe (Jerico, Colombia)

We drank a lot of coffees at this cafe. It had the perfect vantage point for people-watching people in the central plaza.

This charming little village also had a meticulously-maintained botanical garden, ‘Los Bolsos’.聽 It was pretty impressive.

Bridge to botanical garden (Jerico, Colombia)

The bridge that led from the village to the botanical garden.

Botanical garden (Jerico, Colombia)

Flowers in the botanical garden

The botanical garden, ‘Los Bolsos’, is located at the base of El Salvador.聽 The pathways will eventually lead up top the top of El Salvador, where stands Jeric贸’s own statue of Christ.聽 From here, you can take in breathtaking, panoramic views of the village and surrounding mountain vistas.

Panorama from the top of El Salvador (Jerico, Colombia)

Panorama from the top of El Salvador

We met a friendly local up at the top who tried to teach us about the village’s history. Too bad his lecture was entirely in Spanish 馃槢聽 He offered to take some pictures of us though.

Christ statue at the top of El Salvador (Jerico, Colombia)

Christ statue at the top of El Salvador

We stayed up at the top enjoying the breeze and the views for awhile.

Christ statue at the top of El Salvador (Jerico, Colombia)

Jerico’s own statue of Christ, at the top of “El Salvador”

Top  of El Salvador (Jerico, Colombia)

This is me imitating the statue. No, just joking..I’m not sure why I’m posing like that.

Asian tourist (Jerico, Colombia)

This little girl cozied up to Jason and wanted her picture taken with the rarely-seen Asian tourist.

Top  of El Salvador (Jerico, Colombia)

Jason pondering life’s mysteries….or what to have for lunch.

On our way down we saw this beautiful wild horse just horsing around (haha). He was a little scary since he was humongous! He almost charged me at one point and I freaked out!聽 It took a lot of coaxing from Jason to get me into the same photo frame with him after that incident.

Scared of the wild horse (Jerico, Colombia)

Scared of the wild horse

We were wandering the small streets, when we were stopped by an older gentleman. He guessed we were from Canada (We must’ve been in the middle of asking a question, eh?) and told us that he lived in Toronto for years! Say wha?!? What are the chances of bumping into a local who used to live in Toronto but now lives in this tiny little village??

Decio the Canadian/Jerico local (Jerico, Colombia)

Jason, Decio and Decio’s friend Jaime.

Jenn & Decio (Jerico, Colombia)

Jenn & Decio

His name is Decio and he was born in Italy, lived in Toronto for years, but has now located to Jeric贸 where his wife was born. It was great to be able to converse with a local in English so we spent the afternoon with him, enjoying coffee in the central plaza and walking around the beautiful streets.

Weekend market (Jerico, Colombia)

Vendors set up on the weekend in the central plaza, Parque Reyes

Typical Antioquian architecture (Jerico, Colombia)

Typical Antioquian architecture: colourfully-painted doors, window frames and balconies.

Cobblestone staircases (Jerico, Colombia)

Flower-lined streets, cobble-stone staircases, more colourful houses

Decio invited us into his home to show us the view of the mountains and his cattle farm from his rooftop terrace.

Panorama from Decio's balcony (Jerico, Colombia)

Panorama from Decio’s balcony

Pretty cool to see what a local’s home looks like. All in all, Jeric贸 is a must see. Go before its overrun by tourists 馃檪