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 how to have an unforgettable stay in Colombia.
Whenever Kim and I talk with others about attractions near Medellín, they go on-an-on about Guatapé, rave about Jardín, and say Rio Claro is a must. But Jericó?
Everyone’s suspiciously hush-hush about Jericó.
They say nothing more than, “Oh sure, Jericó’s nice,” or “Yeah, I hear Jericó’s pretty too.” Lonely Planet doesn’t even mention it in any of the 352 pages of its Colombia travel guide!
Either Jericó 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, Jericó’s been our favorite. Here’s why, plus everything you need to know, including the top things to do in Jericó, where to stay, where to eat and drink, and how to get there from Medellín.
Jericó, Colombia Guide Outline
Take it With You!
Download this guide of things to do in Jerico, plus the complete guide on where to eat, in PDF format.
Things to Do in Jericó
Before You Go:
Watch Jericó: The Infinite Flight of Days
Get inspired to visit Jericó and learn about the local culture and way of life by watching Jericó: The Infinite Flight of Days. This 2016 documentary about the lives of women from Jericó 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 Jericó. Copies of the DVD are for sale throughout the town or you can watch it at Las Cometas Hostel (see: Where to Stay in Jericó).
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 Jericó (…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 Jericó’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 Peñón and Jericó has… this coffee farm.
Obviously it’s more than just a coffee farm.
It’s a coffee farm at the end of the world.
Perched atop a Peñón-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 Las Cometas Hostel (see: Where to Stay). For just 59,000 COP he’ll take you on a tour of the farm which includes transport to and from Jericó (45 min each way), a stop at another awesome viewpoint, a very sizable if not exactly delicious lunch made by the family that lives on the farm, and 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.
El Scientifico Loco:
La Nohelia Coffee Tour
John Wilmar, owner of La Nohelia, is the best encapsulation of Jericó’s bright future as a tourism destination.
He was born and raised on this farm a few kilometers outside Jericó, where his family has grown coffee for over 100 years. His ambitions outgrew the town, so he moved to Medellín 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 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 5-year-old 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 Jericó tourism.
Get Your Head in the Clouds:
Hike Cerro las Nubes
Cerro las Nubes is the hill that serves as a backdrop to Jericó. 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, Jericó 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 Jericó when he was 8, returned to 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 Jericó’s 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 $2.99 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 the find the way on your own.
Where to Eat
There are many artisanal treats to try and restaurants to dine at in Jericó 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 Jericó’s best restaurants and hidden artisanal foods here.
Where to Drink
Jericó’s Best Coffee:
Jericafé (a.k.a. El Cafe y El Bulevar)
[April 2019 Update: Brady has informed us in the comments that Jericafé is now sadly closed. If you find a different cafe in Jerico worth recommending in its place, please let us know.]
Technically Jericafé is the name of the coffee farmers association whose products this café sells. The café’s official name is El Café y El Bulevar, but around town everyone calls it Jericafé anyways.
Clearly they spend more time worrying about making delicious coffee than on marketing.
Whatever you call it, it’s the best place in Jericó town to try and buy locally brewed coffee, enjoy the delicious little marzipan treats that come with the coffee (which Kim mentioned in her eating in Jericó post), and maybe even get some work done.
Quite simply, the coffee here is better than the much more famous café in town, El Saturia. Don’t take my word for it. I won’t name names, but a certain “Coffee Hunter” from a certain taste test we did on the best coffees in Medellin visited Jericó the weekend before us and told us El Saturia’s coffee was so over-roasted it tasted like Aguila Roja. Burn! (Pun-intended, of course.)
That’s not to say El Saturia isn’t a nice place to hang out and learn about coffee. It is. Check it out for sure, but go to Jericafé to get a taste of Jericó’s best cuppa José.
Hint: Algo Más = Beer
Tangos y Algo Más
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 Más 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.
Join the Crowd
El Parque Principal de Jericó
On evenings, weekends, and frankly whenever, Jericó’s 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 cafés on the northwestern side of square is the place to see and be seen.
On the above map I listed El Carriel Café specifically because, based on our limited experience, it is THE meeting spot. First the owners of Rincon Paisa suggested we sit for a drink there then, not more than an hour later, another friend, a local filmmaker named Edward (check out some of his shorts here), called to chat over a tinto. And where’d he propose we meet? El Carriel of course!
Where to Stay in Jericó
Perfect for Affordable Privacy in Town:
Cabañas El Rincón Paisa
From the street El Rincón Paisa doesn’t look like much. It’s a wall with a door. Kim and I actually doubted our decision to stay there when we first approached it.
Those doubts vanished as soon as we walked through the door and entered into an Alice-in-Wonderland-like new dimension.
The interior of El Rincón Paisa is a delightful courtyard full of kitschy decorations, little gardens, an open-air kitchen, cobblestone paths and stairs leading between the hotel’s 12 wooden cabins, and gorgeous views of the surrounding hillside.
The cabins themselves were spacious and comfortable, though nothing fancy, with their own hot water showers and balconies with views. Just as importantly the owners, Fabian and Patricia, and their staff were delightful and helped us enjoy a great stay.
And for those of you who have yet to learn Spanish, don’t worry. Fabian lived in the US and UK for over 30 years before returning to Jericó, so he can help.
At 80,000 COP a night for the two of us including a nice breakfast, Cabañas el Rincón Paisa is a good choice for a couple or group of friends looking for a quiet, comfortable, and unique stay right in Jericó’s center.
Perfect for Social Travelers and Backpackers:
Las Cometas Hostel
Only six months into its existence, Las Cometas Hostel is already flying high. (FYI: “Cometa” = Kite. The name is related to Jericó’s 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 Medellín. He saw Jericó’s 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.
Las Cometas’ rooms are no-frills but its inner courtyard is a nice quiet place to chill and drink some delicious French press coffee, which comes straight from the coffee farm at the end of the world (see: Things to Do). And when your batteries are recharged, Jorge offers all sorts of tours—some free, some paid—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, Jericó (see below).
Las Cometas Hostel is also the only place we saw other foreigners during our stay in Jericó. This might be appealing to those of you traveling on your own or who speak minimal Spanish.
Centro Ecoturistico la Nohelia
If you want to stay right 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 site 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 Jericó), 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 that has 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.
Jericó to Medellin (and Back Again)
Getting to Jericó 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 26,000 COP each ticket when we went) beforehand by calling the phone number listed here.
- 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 Jericó and on the right on the way back. Those have the best views of unbelievably-shaped Cerro Tusa.
Buses returning from Jericó to Medellín 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.
On the way back the driver can let you off directly at Envigado or Poblado metro stations, if that’s where you’re heading.
Take it With You!
Download this guide of things to do in Jerico, plus the complete guide on where to eat, in PDF format.
Use this map to find your way to all the highlights mentioned below. Even better, if you follow our guide to using Google Maps offline, you can download it directly to your phone!
More Antioquian Adventure!
Many people who visit Jericó spend time in Jardín too. 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 Jardín 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.