Virtually unchanged for more than a century, the stunning pueblo of Jardín would have to be one of my favourite places in Colombia.
Bright green mountains enshrouded in mist, lush with forest and plantations of coffee and banana. The setting couldn’t be more perfect.
The Neo-Gothic style Basilica Menor de la Inmaculada Conception dominates the town, towering over the cobbled central plaza which is filled with hedges, flowering trees and a colourful confetti of wooden chairs.
Everywhere you look there’s colour – all around the central plaza, the doors, windows and balconies, the hand-painted chairs at cafes and all through the side streets.
The life of the town is its central plaza, where locals and visitors alike gather to socialise, drink their tinto, maybe a beer and natter the day or night away.
Somewhere we spent a few languid hours is María Gitana Taberna, a popular corner cafe. Here you can mingle with locals and watch the people parade from the coveted chairs on the footpath, or tucked inside the main bar as you listen to vintage tunes surrounded by walls scribed with thousands of messages.
María Gitana Taberna, Calle 9, 3-2
For the best espresso in town, head over to the cathedral, enter Cafe Macanas and take a seat in the colourful courtyard by old stone walls and multi-coloured plant pots. They even have a vertical garden of coffee plants.
Try their excellent espresso, or sip on hot chocolate or tea whilst nibbling on cakes, cookies and pastries. Their coffee beans are from Finca La Fortuna in the Gibraltar district.
Cafe Macanas, Carrera 5, 92
If you consider yourself a sweet tooth, walk a few blocks to Los Dulces del Jardín, a confectionary store that’s filled with sweets, preserves, cakes and cookies.
Be sure to try the arequipe, Colombia’s version of dulce de leche. Here at Los Dulces you can try a variety of flavours like coffee, rose and different local fruits.
Los Dulces del Jardín, Calle 5, 52
For an elevated view over Jardín, head to the bottom of Calle 12 to the Cable Aéreo, a cable car that takes you up Cristo Rey hill (9am-4pm $6000 return).
The trip up the hill lasts a handful of minutes, you can get off to walk around the coffee and banana plantation, adore the statue of Christ, or take a seat and admire the spectacular view from the restaurant.
It may seem like a joyride for tourists, but just as many locals use the teleferico to get to and from their homes or farms to the town centre.
The local specialty in Jardín is trout, and you can find a number of trout farms close to the centre of town; one of which is La Argelia. The set-up is located by the Salada River, where it captures some of the fresh flowing water and channels it into several holding tanks; each of which holds different grades of trout.
Additional to the trout farm, they also have a sugarcane mill onsite, where they produce molasses and cane juice using traditional methods.
The best part of the farm is the restaurant where you can enjoy regional and traditional Antiochian dishes, plus some of that trout that’s grown just metres away.
Enjoy it simply fried with garlic, crumbed or as I had it – stuffed with shrimp and cheese. Wash it all down with a cooling glass of guandolo – panela (unrefined sugar), water and some kind of citrus juice.
Check the map for location.
Trucha frita (17,000)
Trucha, queso & camarones (25,000)
Pepperoni, onion, garlic & pesto (19,000) for grande.
Jardín doesn’t have a wealth of restaurants that are open for dinner, but one that is also makes the best pizza in town. As they only have five tables, I’d say to get in early at Cafe Europa, order some vino, a couple of pizzas or pastas (13,000) and enjoy the candlelight and Johnny Cash tunes.
Cafe Europa Pizza, Calle 8, 4-02
Cañon de cerdo (pork, patacon, arepa, salad; 16,000)
If a home-style grilling is more your scene, step inside Las Brazzas Asadero and choose from nine typical Colombian dishes. It’s all about the meat, so herbivores needn’t bother.
There’s beer or vino to wash down your grilled meat, so kick back on the not-so-comfortable benches, watch some local television and await the meat sweats.
Las Brazzas Asadero, Carrera 4
Get the Expreso Alcala colectivo in Filandia (check map for bus stop location) to the town of Pereira. It runs every hour, on the hour, takes 40 minutes and costs 6,300 pesos per person.
In Pereira bus station, get the Flota Occidental bus to Peñalisa via La Pintada. It leaves at 10am and arrives in La Pintada at 2.15pm; cost 24,000 pesos per person. You do need to get off the bus in La Pintada and get another colectivo to Peñalisa, which costs 10,000 pesos per person and takes an hour.
In the tiny hamlet of Peñalisa, cross over the road and flag down the Rapido Ochoa colectivo to Jardín. It arrived within 2 minutes of arriving in Peñalisa, so it all comes down to timing. The final leg to Jardín took about 1 hour.
Check the map for bus and colectivo stop locations.