Jardín, Colombia only recently started to appear on guidebooks like Lonely Planet. In the past, it has only been blogged about by a few travelers calling it an undiscovered beautiful little town where travelers will most likely see very few gringos. It promised to be an authentic experience.
Our bus stopped at the Jardín town square. It is the center of town paved with cobblestones and adorned with large trees offering shade from the hot afternoon sun. At its center stands a water fountain, not currently running, but filled with doves cooing and chasing each other, the males puffing themselves up causing us to laugh a little when they dejectedly walked off after being rejected.
At the northeast end of the square looms a large cathedral allegedly “made of sin.” The cathedral had been constructed using hand carved stone quarried in the foothills of Jardín. During the initial construction, the town priest asked the town folks to bring in stones that were the “weight of their sins” to atone for wrongdoing. It must have been a lively town – the cathedral is massive.
Jardín is indeed a beautiful, small town, but undiscovered it is not. There was not an overabundance of backpackers but there were quite a few when we were there. There were also many tourists from nearby cities.
Walking around town I was enamored by the colorful frontage of the homes, the precise woodwork of window grills, the new construction, and something else… we came here to enjoy the ambiance of a little town and we got exactly that, but to a near perfection that it drove us to the edge of skepticism. It all felt just a little too contrived. Is it possible that the town knows it has been discovered and they have upgraded the facade of the inner squares to portray a quaint, beautiful, little mountain town?
Then one afternoon we walked out of town. The narrow country roads and trails took us up and down the surrounding mountains and the beauty that lay before us was breathtaking. We navigated through the mountainside and continued to stop in amazement at the near-vertical plantations on the steep mountain slopes.
The fitness level required to maintain and harvest these gardens, coffee and banana groves continually impresses me.
Viewing the town from a nearby mountainside further portrayed that small mountain village with the almost-too-huge cathedral in the center, and you can truly see how small it is.
We reflected on the past few days that we’ve spent walking around town, people-watching in the town square, and hiking the surrounding mountains: a lot of men wearing hats walking around or hanging out on the park benches or the chairs outside of bars and cafes, women in their Sunday dresses having coffee and chatting in and outside of cafes, and children running around the streets. It is the laid back attitude, and their going about their daily lives without a hint of being self-conscious about it – it is that which cannot be made up.
This town truly is the authentic, small town gem, but for us the most beautiful part of the gem is the stonesetting, the natural beauty of the valley and surrounding mountains in which the town is set. No matter how well we are able to build homes, cathedrals, and villages, nothing can surpass the work of The Great Artist.