Jardin and Salento are two of the prettiest towns in Colombia, and if you have chance to make it to both, then I highly recommend it. If you are a little short on time, hopefully you can make it to at least one of these beautiful places.
Getting to Jardin from Medellin
Getting to Jardin from Medellin is super easy. Just take a taxi to the terminal del Sur and take a direct bus to Jardin for 20 – 25,000COP. The 4 hour journey is absolutely beautiful as you curve your way round the Colombian countryside.
Jardin is only small but it’s beautiful coloured streets will blow you away. A destination that is currently off the tourist track but probably not for long! This quaint little town is a true reflection of the real Colombia and you can imagine it hasn’t changed much over the years.
We booked a cute little place a few minutes’ walk from the main square. We found Casa Hotel Portón Campestre on booking.com and it was absolutely perfect. You have views of the countryside, super comfy beds, hot showers and a delicious breakfast for an extra fee.
The best time thing to do in Jardin is people watch. At the weekend, the main plaza comes alive with locals dressed in cowboy hats and ponchos, all drinking in the many bars around the picturesque square. There are also food vans too for grabbing a quick cheap bite to eat.
Food choices are quite limited in the town and not many hostels offering cooking facilities. We ate at Café Europa both nights we were there as the food was excellent. The first night we shared a pizza and the second night we went for pasta. Food is reasonably priced and was the only busy restaurant in town.
There are 2 different cable cars that you can take in the town, one which represents a rickety old shed takes you to a viewpoint of the city for 4,000COP and the other takes you to the Jesus Christ statue for 6,000COP, unfortunately, on our visit the cable car to Jesus was closed to tourists. You can walk to the viewpoint instead but I was feeling really unwell this day so decided to give it a miss.
Getting to Salento from Jardin
This journey is quite an adventure! Start by taking the 8am bus to Rio Sucio (I say bus loosely, it’s a wooden bus with no doors or windows so take warm clothes). The journey takes 3 hours and costs 19,000COP. Next change to a regular bus from Rio Sucio to Pereria at 11.30am for another 3 hours, cost 17,500COP and finally a 1 hour journey from Pereria to Salento at 3pm for 7,000COP. If you miss any of the connections there are buses later in the day.
If you have just arrived from Jardin, the first thing to strike you is the amount of tourists! No longer off the beaten track you have now arrived in the ‘coffee triangle’. Salento is a very beautiful town with amazing landscapes and tons of hostels, bars, restaurants and gift shops.
The main reason why people visit Salento is to hike Cocora Valley and it is one of my most favourite hikes to date. Cocora is famous for its huge wax palm trees that stand tall at up to 60m. To get there, jump on one of the 4WDs which leave the main square from 6.10am – we went for the 7.30am car but there are tons of cars leaving all the time. One way to Cocora costs 3,800COP per person and takes around 30 minutes.
When you arrive at Cocora, there are 2 options to hike the wax palm trees. You have the short way or the long way. We decided to hike the long route which takes around 5-6 hours and is super beautiful. There is a small entrance fee of 3,000COP.
If you decide you want to hike the short route, once off the truck, walk straight along a dirt path for 1KM and you will see the sign for the wax palm trees on the right hand-side. Time for this route will take around 60-90 minutes depending on how long you spend at the wax palm trees.
If you decide to hike the long route, when you get off the truck, you will see a gate to your right-hand side with lots of maps, take this route through the forest and over rickety wooden bridges and finish at the stunning wax palm trees. You can also take the short route option if you want to start with the palm trees, just continue on the trail and you will end the hike where you got off the truck.
To return back to Salento, just jump in one of the trucks heading back in to town.
Visit a coffee farm
You can’t really visit Salento and not visit a coffee farm. We decided to visit Don Elias organic coffee farm and had a lovely English speaking guide to talk us through the production of the coffee beans.
The best coffee in Colombia is exported out of the country but you can enjoy a cup of the best quality beans on this tour.
Cost for the tour is 10,000COP and includes a 30-45-minute tour and a free cup of coffee at the end. You will also have the chance to buy coffee that is processed by hand at this small coffee farm.
To get there, cross the yellow bridge and keep walking for around 1 hour. You will pass a few other coffee farms along the way buy Don Elias is signposted. Tours start whenever there are people waiting, we only waited 10 minutes for our tour.
Jardin and Salento were amazing places to visit and I would highly recommend to anyone planning a trip to Colombia. It won’t be long until everybody knows about Jardin…. You have been warned!
If you want tips on other parts of Colombia, you can check out my previous guides here.
Keep on wandering!