I’m sure those of you who are familiar with my excellent time-management and organisational skills won’t be surprised to see me still writing about places I visited seven months ago. If not, bear with me and just imagine we’re still in June.
Before visiting Jardín I had read somewhere that it is widely believed to be the most beautiful town in Colombia – quite the claim – and I can confirm that this is completely true. Jardín is a small town in the south of the Antioquia department, a three hour bus journey from Medellín. As I was coming from Manizales (the capital of neighbouring Caldas) it made sense to me to visit Jardín on my way up, as opposed to going to Medellín and then back out again. Unfortunately in Colombia things aren’t always that simple and what often appears to be an uncomplicated journey and overall sensible time-saving decision on the map, isn’t always so in real life.
To get to Jardín from Manizales you must first get a bus two hours to Riosucio (much nicer than its name suggests) and from there a three hour bus to Jardín. What I didn’t anticipate (and of course, the only way to find this out is at the bus station) is that there are only two buses a day from Riosucio to Jardín. One at 8 am and one at 3 pm. I arrived in Riosucio at 4 pm. Fortunately it’s a nice enough place to be stuck in for a night, especially when you can do so for as little as 15 00 (£3.80) in Hotel del Palacio.
As always in Colombia, the fact that a road exists on the map does not necessarily mean it is a road. About 15 minutes out of Riosucio and the”road” turned into little more than a track. The views were incredible, as you can see below, but the route is not recommended.
Fortunately, Jardín was most definitely worth the journey. It is picturesque in the extreme: a town with a population of 15 000 people, quietly nestled in the lush green coffee growing hills of Antioquia. The whole place is alive with colour: the buildings, flowers, tables and chairs outside the cafes and bars (of which there are hundreds). Unfortunately, my photography skills didn’t quite manage to capture those vivid and dazzling colours for which it is so well known, yet Jardín truly is a very beautiful place and one that embodies the sunny spirit of this wonderful country.
On the Sunday I spent there the town was filled with families leisurely walking around or people sitting outside the numerous bars that surround the plaza, whiling away the hours. I even saw a surprising amount enjoying a spot of aguardiente, that most Colombian of poisons, at 11 am. There was a relaxed and cheerful feeling about the place (and one that you’d be hard pushed to find in a similarly sized English town) that was more than a little catching, though not enough to tempt me to partake in their early morning enthusiasm for guaro.
Aside from all the lovely cafes and restaurants, there are lots of things to do in the countryside surrounding the town. Little after arriving I befriended a nice local called David, who very kindly offered to show me around. We walked along the Caminata de Herrera way, which was beautiful, crossing a river, through banana fields and leading to a popular bathing spot on the river where there’s a famous rock called the charco del corazón – a tiny heart-shaped pool where Jardín’s answer to Romeo and Juliet apparently used to meet, until one day they mysteriously disappeared.
There are lots of other interesting places nearby, such as caves and walks, but they didn’t fit into my six hour schedule. I did, however, have time for a ride in Jardín’s cable car, which I found to be a lot older and more rickety than I would’ve liked. At the top, other than a lovely view of the town, there is a small cafe and apparently a footpath. The cafe is great, though I can’t comment on the state of the footpath as it began raining almost as soon as I stepped out of the cable car. And, with the rain, my exploration of Jardín came to an end.
It is undoubtedly a very quaint, beautiful and welcoming place. The people are among the friendliest I have met in the country, and in what is statistically one of the happiest counties in the world, that really is saying something!