I arrived in Jardin late December ready to spend some quality time with my stepmom, sister and half-brothers and begin our process of healing after our dad’s passing. Nature has an incredible power to heal an aching heart. Fun in the outdoors was exactly what we needed and so it began!
I had the opportunity to explore some of the best and most popular hikes in this beautiful town with my siblings:
El Camino de La Cruz & Mirador Cristo Rey
The hike up to La Cruz, an icon of Jardin, follows a rocky and often muddy trail through dense wet jungle. It is marked by 14 crosses; which resemble a “viacrucis” or “the way of the cross” pilgrimage. This trail is popular with devout Catholics from the region who come together on May 3rd each year to climb it as a way to repent and find forgiveness for their sins. The trail ends at the Giant Cross or the iconic La Cruz at the top of the Vereda (hill) la Salada.
It was our very first time hiking together as five siblings in Jardin, or anywhere for that matter. It took us around three hours to complete the trail counting various breaks along the way for photos and rest. The trail was muddy as expected due to the frequent afternoon rains of December. Once at the cross we decided to hike further up through the dense forest on the hill just behind it. Once we reached the true highest point we stopped for a break and dedicated a special prayer to our father.
To return to Jardin we opted for a different “shortcut” through thick and wet jungle on the steep side of the mountain. This turned out to be quite a difficult traverse as we had to use the hanging branches and vines from the trees as ropes to avoid sliding off cliffs. We all had a good laugh through it all except for our youngest brother who was in charge of taking care of our oldest sister who kept sliding down the trail losing control due to her poor choice of footwear.
For directions on how to complete this trail, read my post- El Camino de La Cruz
We eventually made it down and back onto a dirt road that took us to “Cafe Jardin”, a great place to enjoy yummy treats and stunning panoramic views of Jardin.
Salto del Angel y Cueva de los Guacharos
My siblings had to leave Jardin except for one of my brothers who invited me to do a nice long trek in the surrounding mountains. We decided to check out another popular hike to “El Salto del Angel” waterfall and “Cueva (cave) de Los Guacharos”, also known as “Ruta de Las Siete Cascadas”. This would be part of our training to get ready for other hikes we wanted to do in the area later that week.
At one point we took the wrong part of the trail and ended up deep in the jungle in the middle of a downpour. We couldn’t find the right way up the mountain to eventually go down into the cave. We finally decided to turn around as the rain kept falling and we feared a landslide could happen at any moment.
On the way out of the jungle and as we headed back to the main trail we were lucky to run into Alex- Guide and Owner of the hostel Luxural Jardin and Jennifer and Luis- avid Trekkers and Travelers from Cuesta Arriba.
Luckily they were on their way to the Salto del Angel and invited us to join them.
The hike takes approximately 5 to 6 hours roundtrip, depending on how wet the trail is and the number of brakes you take. The trail passes through several waterfalls (or cascadas), the first one is seen shortly after beginning the hike on the dirt road- “La Escalera”. The trail continues on through green pastures and eventually heads deep into the jungle where you begin to see the other waterfalls- “Las Tres Gargantas”, “Pozo Dorado” and “Las Tinajas”.
Our guide Alex took us down a slippery and steep path to get to a high vantage point from where we could admire the joining of two rivers and the impressive and powerful waterfall of “El Salto del Angel”.
We climbed up again and continued on through the jungle until we reached the famous cave known as the sanctuary for the Guácharo bird. It was incredible to see the powerful waterfall flowing over the cave.
You can carefully make your way on the slippery rock around the giant pool to reach the deepest part of the cave where you can see and feel the power of the waterfall from behind. The water is very cold but great for swimming on a hot summer day. That day was definitely not hot enough for me to get in but the others did.
This hike is a perfect adventure for those who love getting dirty! It will be wet, slippery and challenging most of the time. It requires physical dexterity as there are sections of the trail where you will need to use the vines from trees to avoid slipping off cliffs. The trail is not marked and offers many detours. This hike is rated as strenuous and should be done with a local guide who knows their way through the jungle well. The cost is around COP$120,000 (approx. US$35).
Cueva del Esplendor
The rest of our siblings came back to Jardin with their partners and joined us on another great trek to “Cueva del Esplendor”. This time around we decided to hire a local guide Mauricio to avoid getting lost. We followed the first part of the El Camino de La Cruz up to the creek where the trails split. We took the trail to the right to continue going further up into the mountains to the Northeast. The trail follows a rocky path, sometimes muddy due to the frequent rains. It affords great expansive views of the Veredas (hills) on the right side.
You will eventually get to the top of the mountain where the trail will veer towards the left and continue on through green and lush pastures. This is where the trail gets a bit tricky as it gets lost in the tall grass. This is where your guide’s knowledge definitely comes in handy.
The trekking is both challenging and beautiful eventually bringing you to the “Vereda La Linda” a protected natural area serving as refuge to the cave. You must stop at the colorful house at the top of the hill to register as a visitor and pay the entry fee of COP$20.000. You will need to know your passport number.
They also have a restaurant here where you can get delicious local drinks, snacks and coffee. Once you are well rested and hydrated a local guide from the reserve will take you down the hill and onto the path that leads through the jungle, a series of small waterfalls, and subsequently the stunning cave. This part of the trail will be slippery and challenging so make sure your shoes have good traction.
It is hard to describe the beauty of this place… The sound of the strong waterfall flowing through the hole and landing into a large pool. The beams of sunlight illuminating the rushing water. It will all leave you speechless. It’s easy to see why they call it the “Cave of Splendor”. It is truly a spectacle of nature. This picture definitely does not do it justice.
The entire hike can take anywhere from 3 to 4 hours one way plus the time you spend inside the cave. Be sure to head back on the trail by 2:00pm at the latest.
You can also reach this magnificent place by car. Just drive up to the “Alto de Las Flores” and hike for about an hour to the house that manages the reserve. Or for a third option, you can hire a tour from Jardin which will drop you at the house and will charge around COP$70.000 (approx. US$20).
After meeting Alex the guide that led us to Salto del Angel and Cueva de los Guacharos, we knew he’d be the perfect man to help us plan our next adventure- “Chorros Blancos”. This is another popular tourist attraction to see yet another stunning waterfall. We paid COP$100.000 (approx. US$28) for the full package which included the pick up from our house, the horse-back ride to the reserve, lunch, and subsequently the guided trek through the jungle to reach the waterfall. Although the waterfall is located inside the municipality of Andes, the journey begins in Jardin.
After an hour ride up the mountain in an all-wheel drive vehicle we reached a beautiful house located high up on the “Alto de Las Flores”.
We all got on our horses which were assigned to us based on our horse-back riding experience. Our guide Don William walked alongside our horses the entire time so he’d be ready to help anyone at a moment’s notice. The trail was considered “extreme” as it was narrow, rocky, muddy, with lots of deep holes, and even up’s and down’s through slippery rocks where we had to follow specific instructions on how to manage the horses so they wouldn’t slip and fall backwards losing the riders in the process.
The panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the famous Farallones de Citara all throughout the journey were absolutely incredible!
After about an hour we reached a house that manages the reserve where we left our horses while we went on a short trek to reach the waterfall. But before hiking, we enjoyed a traditional “fiambre” lunch composed of rice, chicken, sweet plantain, an egg, and a potato, all wrapped inside a banana leaf.
After lunch we headed up the mountain with our local guide. After climbing for about twenty minutes we reached an entry point into the jungle and began to descend deeper and deeper into the jungle. We eventually reached a dark natural tunnel in the rock; which we had to crawl through to reach the waterfall. We exited to a beautiful water curtain.
We continued down the trail to reach the base of the waterfall and one of the bigger pools carved out by the water, and the only one where swimming was allowed.
The water flows down for approximately 230 feet (70 meters) creating various waterfalls and pools along its path. After enjoying the water for a while (at least my brothers did while I took photos), we headed back up and our of the jungle. We rode our horses back to where the jeep was parked waiting to take us back to Jardin.
All of these four places were truly magical. I highly recommend experiencing all of them when you visit Jardin.
Here is a great video from Travel Life Experiences to get an idea of the Jardin landscape.