Jericó vs Jardín | The Battle Between Two Colombian Pueblos

 

Almost three months we’ve spent in Colombia and we liked almost every city and town we’ve visited. It’s hard not to love Colombia. The people, the landscapes, the history… Now, besides intriguing cities like Cartagena, Bogota, and Medellín, there are hundreds of small towns to discover and that’s where you can find the real Colombia. Men wearing cowboy hats, plazas filled with locals chatting and relaxing in the evening, and a sense of calmness and enjoying life we haven’t found elsewhere. 

Both towns are all about horses, cowboy hats and relaxing…

Both towns are all about horses, cowboy hats and relaxing…

We started to discover these pueblos soon after visiting Bogota. Villa De Leyva is one of those picture perfect towns where you can spend days doing nothing. Just stroll around and observe life. Guatapé is another one of those towns, East of Medellín. We liked it a lot but it was nothing compared to what was yet to come… Jericó and Jardín, two pueblos a few hours South of Medellín are towns where we really felt Colombian life at its best. As a photographer, it was a joy to walk around and just photograph daily life scenes.

This is the battle of the Colombian pueblos. Which one do we like more…?

Jericó

From Medellín, it took us three hours by bus to get to Jericó. The ride started out OK but the last part up the mountain felt a bit like a rollercoaster. I guess we have to thank the bus driver for that because he felt more like a race car driver than a bus driver. Anyway, when we arrived, it almost felt like a ghost town. The temperature was a lot cooler and the streets were almost empty.

 
jerico-streets.jpg
 

We made our way to our guesthouse where we had booked a rustic bungalow overlooking the lower part of town. It was one of the best views we’ve had, especially in the evening when the sun started to set. But what about the town itself? Well, it’s all about horses, men wearing cowboy hats, and relaxing around the main plaza. Jericó is a place where it’s hard not to relax…

View from our room.

View from our room.

Hiking up Cerro Las Nubes

But let’s start with some action. Cerro Las Nubes is a mountain overlooking the town and as the name suggests, often covered in clouds. There’s a cable car going to the top but it’s not working since a few years so the only way to the top is hiking. We left in the morning and didn’t see a single soul during the entire hike.

View from Cerro Las Nubes in Jericó.

View from Cerro Las Nubes in Jericó.

When we arrived at the top, the clouds started to roll in even more. At one point it started raining and we had to take shelter but an hour later, we could advance our hike down. We were a bit unlucky with the weather because I think the views must be incredible when it’s clear. Even with all the clouds, it was a nice hike.

Gets really cloudy up there!

Gets really cloudy up there!

Looks nice… doesn’t work.

Looks nice… doesn’t work.

The main plaza of Jericó

But like I said, the main plaza is the real attraction of this authentic Colombian town. While the streets often look empty, in the evening, the plaza fills up and it seems like the whole town gathers there to eat, drink, talk, and relax. It gets crowded sometimes but it never feels like too much or annoying. It’s a great place to just sit and watch life pass by. The plaza and daily life is what makes Jericó a highlight of our trip to Colombia.

Locals relaxing.

Locals relaxing.

More cowboy hats and horses!

More cowboy hats and horses!

From Jericó to Jardín by chiva

Jericó is not the only authentic Colombian town close to Medellín. Jardín might not look far from Jericó in a straight line, but it takes at least four hours by bus and a few hours by chiva. A chiva is a type of public transport that can handle dirt roads and steep climbs. It’s basically an old truck transformed into an open bus. So, that’s what we did: from Jericó to Jardín by chiva. The last 30 minutes, we transferred to a normal bus and when we arrived in Jardín, it felt a bit disappointing.

The (in)famous chiva.

The (in)famous chiva.

The main plaza of Jardín

Jardín has a lot of similarities with Jericó but it feels different. A little rough around the edges, maybe? The central plaza is in many ways the same but it doesn’t have that same vibe and everything feels more touristy. Jericó has a feeling of coziness that Jardín doesn’t have and in a way, it also reflects on the locals. It’s difficult to describe so I guess you’ll have to find out for yourself. Don’t miss these two towns whenever you’re in Medellín.

“Billares” is very popular in pretty much every Colombian town.

“Billares” is very popular in pretty much every Colombian town.

Chiva, horse, cowboy hat.

Chiva, horse, cowboy hat.

Hiking in and around Jardín

But then there are the surroundings and I think Jardín wins in that category. We did two hikes, one on each side of the town and the views overlooking the town are nicer here. The first hike is the one up to the Cristo Rey. Again, there’s a cable car but it doesn't work so the only way to get there is by foot.

View from the Cristo Rey overlook.

View from the Cristo Rey overlook.

It’s not an easy hike because some parts are very muddy. Get a stick to help you balance and it will be a lot easier! Don’t take the short route straight to the statue and back. Take the “scenic route” described here. It’s a little bit harder but definitely worth it. Once you get up to the statue, the view overlooks the whole town.

La Garrucha Overlook

The second hike in Jardín you have to try is to La Garrucha Overlook. It’s a lot easier because it’s paved almost all the way and the views overlooking Jardín are a lot more impressive with the mountains in the back. Again, the hike is described here.

View from La Garrucha overlook.

View from La Garrucha overlook.

And whaddaya know, there’s another cable car here and this one works! Well, it’s actually more like a wooden box pulled up the mountain by a cable but it looks cool. You can take it up or down for a dollar or so but we definitely recommend going up hiking and maybe down with the cable car. The path we took down was a bit tricky because of the rain (Ask around, there are different ones).

 
Portrait of a mango vendor.

Portrait of a mango vendor.

 


Jericó vs Jardín—where to go?

For us, Jericó is definitely a winner. While the surroundings are a tad nicer in Jardín, the town of Jericó itself is so relaxing and inviting to stay for at least a few days. It feels like the more authentic of the two Colombian pueblos and we both loved strolling around the plaza and through the streets.

As a photographer, I also liked Jericó more because it felt like there was more to see. Jericó inspired me more than Jardín but not in a way that you should pick one over the other, both towns have a charm of their own. If you have the time, definitely visit both!

 
ColombiaJoris Hermans