Is This Supposed to Be a Secret?
This post is part of Everything to Know Before Visiting Medellin, a collection of no-B.S., unique guides to an unforgettable stay in Colombia.
Whenever Kim and I talk with others about attractions near Medellin, they go on-an-on about Guatape, rave about Jardin, and say Rio Claro is a must. But Jerico?
Everyone's suspiciously hush-hush about Jerico.
They say nothing more than, "Oh sure, Jerico's nice," or "Yeah, I hear Jerico's pretty too." Lonely Planet doesn't even mention it in any of the 352 pages of its Colombia travel guide!
Either Jerico isn't that interesting or they're hiding something.
Answer: B) They're hiding something.
Of all the Antioquian towns we've visited so far, Jerico's been our favorite. Here's why, plus everything you need to know, including the top things to do in Jerico, where to stay, where to eat and drink, and how to get there from Medellin.
Jerico, Colombia Guide Outline
Things to Do in Jerico
Before You Go:
Watch Jerico: The Infinite Flight of Days
Get inspired to visit Jerico and learn about the local culture and way of life by watching Jerico: The Infinite Flight of Days. This 2016 documentary about the lives of women from Jerico has aired to rave reviews in film festivals around the globe.
If you can, watch it before you go to get hyped up for your trip. Otherwise, don't worry. You'll have the chance when you're in Jerico. Copies of the DVD are for sale throughout the town or you can watch it at Riverside Hostel (see: Where to Stay in Jerico).
A Redeeming Quality:
Cristo Redentor Viewpoint
Get a lay of the land by making the Christ the Redeemer viewpoint the first thing you do upon arriving at Jerico (…after you check into your hotel, stupid.)
The walk up the hill is not strenuous at all and only takes maybe ten minutes, so wear whatever you want. Better yet, most of the walk goes through Jerico's botanical gardens, which are an attraction in their own right. And the view of the town from the top is actually better than it is from Cerro las Nubes.
The Coffee Farm at the End of the World:
Las Cometas Arcoiris Tour
Guatape has El Penon. Jerico has… this coffee farm.
Obviously, it's more than just a coffee farm.
It's a coffee farm at the end of the world or the most beautiful coffee farm in the world.
Perched atop a Penon-like monolith alongside stunning cliffs that dive down thousands of feet into the Rio Cauca valley below, and with a beautiful waterfall beside it, this coffee farm is like something out of the Pixar movie Up. Or Avatar? Or Jurassic Park? Anyways, it's like some movie with unbelievable scenery.
Neither my words nor our photos can do it justice. You have to see it for yourself.
To visit the coffee farm, talk to Jorge from Riverside (see: Where to Stay). For just 160,000 COP, he'll take you on a tour of the farm which includes transport to and from Jerico (40 min each way), the coffee farm itself, a stop at another awesome viewpoint, a large and delicious lunch made by the family that lives on the farm, and a short walk from the farm down to refreshing Cascada Arcoiris (Rainbow Falls).
On the way back from the tour, ask Jorge to let you jump out at Quebradona falls for a quick dip and photo shoot. Here you will also visit one of the oldest "fondas"- a traditional bar from 180 years ago.
El Scientifico Loco:
La Nohelia Coffee Tour
John Wilmar, the owner of La Nohelia, is the best encapsulation of Jerico's bright future as a tourism destination.
He was born and raised on this farm a few kilometers outside Jerico, where his family has grown coffee for over 100 years. His ambitions outgrew the town, so he moved to Medellin for a career in Finance. Then, five years ago, he realized his mistake, took off his suit and tie, put on a cowboy hat and rubber boots and came home to get into the family business.
Combining the modern outsider's perspective he gained from years in the city with his family's history of traditional coffee farming, John Wilmar is pushing for a revolution in Colombia's coffee farming and tourism. He designed and built a beautiful eco-pyramid treehouse to lodge tourists (see: Where to Stay), stopped selling his beans to cooperatives, and set up his own coffee brand.
Next up, he's building his own roasting facility and lab to run his own (sometimes crazy) coffee experiments.
John Wilmar will explain all this to you and more on this tour.
Note: It's best to do this tour if you know a little bit of Spanish. At least for now. In a couple years, John Wilmar's precocious daughter, whose English is already better than her dad's and who's already in love with the family business, will probably be running the show. Like I said, La Nohelia encapsulates the future of Jerico tourism.
Get Your Head in the Clouds:
Hike Cerro las Nubes
Cerro las Nubes is the hill that serves as a backdrop to Jerico. In only a couple hours you can hike up to the top and walk along the ridge to see amazing views of Cerro Tusa, Cerro Bravo, Rio Cauca, Jerico town, and all of Southwest Antioquia.
There are a few alternatives to explore Cerro las Nubes:
Let Jaime be Your Guide
If you want to practice your Spanish, get your ear talked off with information, and not get lost, let Jaime be your guide. Jaime is a quirky eco-warrior who, after moving away from Jerico when he was 8, returned to his birthplace fifty years later "like a salmon" to spend his final years (and, based on his newest 6-month-old child also spawn some more offspring).
Jaime also compared himself to another animal, salmon's mortal enemy, the eagle, telling another licensed guide he's too much of a free flyer to be tied down by getting the requisite certification. He already knows everything that needs to be known anyways.
In all seriousness, though, Jaime's doing important work to protect Jerico's natural environment through the Mesa Ambiental organization, which is fighting against mining and dirty farming in the area. By supporting Jaime, you'll be indirectly helping protect Jericos natural beauty for generations to come.
Oh, and if you're lucky you might also be accompanied by an assistant guide, Daga, a street dog that loves doing the hike as much as the town loves her.
Sunset Hike with Las Cometas Hostel
Jorge said we made a mistake by hiking Cerro las Nubes in the morning. The best time to be up there, he said, is at sunset. He then went on to wax so poetically about the incredibly colorful sunsets from Cerro las Nubes, which he said are different every time, that I kinda thought he was hitting on me.
To join Jorge on a sunset
date walk, sign up for group hikes he runs from his hostel (see: Where to Stay) for 25,000 COP each.
Go On Your Own
If you rather do the hike on your own, I advise you at least download the hiking app Wikiloc and pay the small fee for a three-month membership. That way you can use your phone's GPS to follow the route markers that Jaime took us through, here.
Going up is straightforward, but one section toward the end of the hike is literally called "The Maze," so I would advise against trying to find the way on your own.
Where to Eat
There are many artisanal treats to try and restaurants to dine at in Jerico that, by the end of our stay there, I'd given the town a new nickname: Jeri-gordo (gordo = fat).
Just a few of the must-try items are wine and cookies you buy directly from the nuns at a convent, cardamom marzipan made by a local teacher and her daughter, and the famous seven-layered cake, postre jericoano.
We couldn't fit the whole smorgasbord here, so we made it a separate post. Read about Jerico's best restaurants and hidden artisanal foods here.
Where to Drink
Cafe Jerico Riverside
Cafe Jerico Riverside is the perfect place to have a delicious cup of coffee and get some work done. The coffee is sourced from a local coffee farm, which you can actually visit on the Riverside Cascada Arcoiris Tour. Riverside has a coworking space that offers fiber optic wifi so you will always stay connected. There is nowhere better to sip some coffee, enjoy views of the surrounding countryside, and finish some work.
A trip to Don Rafa Cafe will make your morning. In terms of coffee, the cafe lives up to its slogan, "De la finca a la taza."
Whether you are a cappuccino person or an almond milk latte person, Don Rafa has it all. Located right on the town plaza, this is the perfect place to people-watch as you sip your coffee. Also, the breakfast here is not to be missed. Options include crepes, quiche, omelets, croissant sandwiches, and more. If you have more of a sweet tooth, the pastries and cakes here are to die for.
Casa Arte Unico
Arte Unico is a unique space, as its name suggests. The Cafe is run by a local Antioquia sibling duo, Yolanda, who manages the store, and her brother, a painter and sculptor. Arte Unico displays Colombian artists and offers delicious coffee, so if you are looking for an interesting experience, this is the place to go!
El Saturia is considered the pioneer of espresso coffee in Jerico, and for a good reason. This cafe is perfect for grabbing a cup of coffee, getting some work done, and enjoying the environment. This is a local favorite, so you will feel like a true part of Jerico here! We recommend getting the medium roast, as the dark roast can be almost too strong sometimes.
Tangos y Algo Mas
(Hint: Algo Mas = Beer)
With one wall covered with photos of the famous tango artist Carlos Gardel, and the other with floor-to-ceiling beer bottles, Tangos y Algo Mas is equal parts ode to tango and beer, just as the name implies.
Located a few blocks outside of the main town nearby a couple other stops on our recommended artisanal food tour, this bar's an atmospheric place to grab a beer, chill out to some tango, chat with the owner, and take a couple pics.
El Parque Principal de Jerico
On evenings, weekends, and frankly whenever, Jericos main square is packed with locals sipping their choice of tinto, beer, or booze. Put on your finest cowboy hat, jeans, and boots, and join them.
In particular, the covered row of bars and cafes on the northwestern side of the square is the place to see and be seen.
Where to Stay in Jerico
Perfect for Social Travelers and Backpackers:
After 5 years working in Jerico for a more sustainable form of tourism, Las Cometas Hostel has rebranded to Riverside Ecoliving. And yes, It is already flying high and navigating. (FYI: "Cometa" = Kite. The name is related to Jericos annual Festival de la Cometa, which takes place in August.)
The hostel is run by the ambitious, friendly, and fun owner, Jorge, a young guy from Medellin. He saw Jericos huge potential and came out to be part of it. He speaks English fluently and has traveled extensively himself, so he's a perfect guide for the town.
Riverside rooms are exclusively designed by travelers for a real travel community and an inner "tranquilo" feeling with its inner courtyard, which is a nice quiet place with a view of the Canyon of Rio Piedras. Perfect for breakfast, yoga, and delicious French press coffee every morning, which comes straight from the coffee farm at the end of the world or Cascada Arcoiris Farm (see: Things to Do).
And when your batteries are recharged, Jorge offers all sorts of toursâ€”some free, some paidâ€”including tubing down the nearby river, coffee farm tours, sunset hikes, and guided city walks. For a quiet night you can watch Jorge's copy of the highly-regarded documentary, Jerico (see above).
Riverside is possibly the place with the most foreigners during your stay in Jerico. This might be appealing to those of you traveling on your own or who speak minimal Spanish. After the pandemic, a big community of Colombians like-minded travelers has also been coming. So there is always a great opportunity of meeting great people to talk with in the different spaces of Riverside.
For the Best of Both Worlds:
Cabanas y Flores
Can't decide between staying in Jerico or the surrounding countryside? Look no further! Cabanas y Flores is only a quick walk from the town, yet offers unique private cabins for rent.
These cabins house 1-6 people and have a small kitchen, private parking, space for hammocking, and breakfast included. Cabanas y Flores offers great views of the sunrise over the Cauca River Canyon and the sunset over town.
And don't worry about running out of things to do here! The property is right next to the botanical gardens and Cristo Redentor, which offers arguably the best view of the town. The property is surrounded by forest, perfect for going for a stroll, and you might even spot local howler monkeys. The property itself offers Turkish-style baths, a swimming pool, billiards, board games, and an area for barbecuing.
Centro Ecoturistico la Nohelia
If you want to stay on a coffee farm, stay at La Nohelia.
About fifteen minutes outside of town, La Nohelia's spunky owner John Wilmar built a beautiful eco-pyramid treehouse out of local materials: guadua (Colombian bamboo), coffee tree wood, and rocks from the nearby river. It's quite the sight to behold.
The pyramid's interior is not as gorgeous as its exterior. The rooms are pretty basic with shared bathrooms below, but it's fresh, friendly, and certainly unlike any other place you've ever stayed at
At Nohelia, you can hike to nearby waterfalls, get a tour of the coffee farm (see Things to Do in Jerico), hang out with John Wilmar and his family, eat some coffee-sauce chicken, drink a lot of delicious coffee, and enjoy even more peace and quiet.
Here's a promo video John Wilmar participated in with some cool aerial shots of La Nohelia and a couple other highlights we mention in this guide: Cerro las Nubes, Quebradona and Arcoiris Falls, and the town's main square.
Hotel Rio Pedros
Hotel Rio Pedros offers lovely rooms at a reasonable price. Right off the main square, you are only a walk away from restaurants, cafes, museums, and all Jerico has to offer.
The hotel has private rooms, wifi, balconies with lovely views, Turkish baths, and free breakfast provided by Tomatitos. Rooms for two people start around 165,000 pesos.
Jerico to Medellin (and Back Again)
Getting to Jerico from Medellin is straightforward. Go to Medellin's Terminal Sur, which is a couple kilometers west of El Poblado metro station, and get your tickets from booth number 18.
Buses leave every hour or so. Check departure times and prices (it was about $36.000 and shared taxis are taken from $45.000) beforehand by calling the phone number listed here.
Also, if you are traveling from Salento, Manizales, Jardin, or others, finding out how to get to Jerico can take hours, but not anymore if you enter to arideto.com; a startup headquartered in Jerico for improving the transport services in rural areas. You can find routes even if they require many types of transportation, delivery, and private transport services.
- If you are coming from surrounding locations such as Medellin, Jardin, Salento, or Cali, check out Arideto.com to get information on traveling to and from Jerico with options such as private cars straight from the airport.
- Ask for tickets going through the town of Bolombolo. This is faster than the alternative route through Fredonia. Depending on the type of vehicle (sometimes it's a 9-seater minivan, sometimes it's a big bus) it takes 2.5 to 3 hours.
- Request seats on the left side of the bus going to Jerico and on the right on the way back. Those have the best views of unbelievably-shaped Cerro Tusa.
Buses returning from Jerico to Medellin leave from the same place as you'll arrive, on the block between La Gruta restaurant and the main square. There's an office there where you buy your tickets or you can also arrange a pick up in your hotel.
On the way back the driver can let you off directly at Envigado or Poblado metro stations, if that's where you're heading.
More Antioquian Adventure!
Many people who visit Jerico spend time in Jardin tooâ€”and for good reason! It's a similarly beautiful little Antioquian town. The food's not as good, but the surrounding hills are more lush. You can read our experience and recommendations for Jardin here.
Another much lesser-known nearby town worth checking out is Venecia. It's best known for being the base for hiking the famous pyramid mountain, Cerro Tusa. Read our guide to Venecia here.