Oozing with charm, Jericó, Colombia is a mountain hamlet in the southern part of our home district of Antioquia. Another officially designated Pueblo Patrimonio (Heritage Town), Jericó had been on our list to visit for a while – and we finally got to make the trip by car in September.
Jericó was our first overnight trip since the beginning of the pandemic, and it was a welcome change of scene after so many months confined to the big city. Without a doubt, this is our favorite rural Colombian town so far (but there are so many yet to see!).
Jericó has many similarities to Jardín, another Pueblo Patrimonio that we visited last year (blog post here). They’re both colorful, picturesque, surrounded by the verdant hills of the northern Andes, and populated by friendly and laid-back paisas (as the people of Antioquia proudly call themselves). However, Jericó is further off the beaten tourist path than Jardín and felt more authentic and local to us (you won’t find a single t-shirt shop there).
We were enchanted with the colorful architecture, rustic and traditional cowboy culture, scrubbed-clean cobblestone streets, and exquisite natural beauty of this little town – so much so that we extended our stay by an extra day! Here are the highlights of our visit to Jericó, Colombia.
Also note: most of the photos are in galleries, so you can click through them one at a time.
Bask in the Aura of Santa Laura
Jericó, Colombia’s claim to fame is that is the birthplace of Santa Laura Montoya Upegui. Canonized in 2013, she was this country’s first saint and founder of a religious order that has spread to many countries. She is venerated for her work amongst the poor indigenous communities of the area, and her sainthood has made Jericó a destination for the devout (instead of t-shirt stands, you’ll see several shops selling Santa Laura statuettes, rosaries, and other Catholic items).
If we’re being honest, the common image of Santa Laura staring beneficently down on an almost-naked indigenous child made us a little squeamish at first. But check out her history and you’ll find that she was dedicated to eliminating racial discrimination and bringing social justice to the indigenous. And for those reasons, she was quite controversial for her times and considered a rebel. How awesome is it that Colombia’s first saint was not only a woman but also a social crusader? Here’s a nice story about her.
Santa Laura’s image is everywhere you look in Jericó. Eve-ry-where.
Soak Up the Local Color
Like so many rural Colombian towns, Jericó is saturated in color – from the surrounding hills dappled with every shade of green imaginable to the immaculate, brilliantly painted colonial buildings. Any day of the week, you’ll see dashing cowboys and cowgirls riding their beautiful horses through the streets in the prancing “paso fino” gait. There is some coffee grown there, but the region is primarily known for leathercraft and beef. Jericó is also the cardamon capital of Colombia, and one of the local delicacies is the many varieties of cardamon candies and sweets.
Get a Bird’s-Eye View
Cerro Cristo Redentor (Hill of Christ the Redeemer) is hard to miss from any vantage point in Jericó. The towering statue of Christ atop the cerro is an easy walk from town. The best way to get there is to hike up through a pretty botanical garden. We spent a lovely morning doing just that.
Experience Jericó’s Artisan Leather Culture
Jericó’s leather workshops are renowned throughout Colombia, but the town is particularly know for its handcrafted carriels. Once used by Paisa cowboys to carry valuables as they roamed the mountains, these accordion-like leather bags are still carried by men in the country towns. They’re also a key piece of gear for the sillateros in Medellín’s world-famous Feria de las Flores parade. The Medellín flower culture and the fascinating history of the sillateros is the topic of one of our other blog posts, here.
Here’s a great article about the history of carriels and their importance in Paisa culture (in Spanish but easy to translate). In addition to carriels of all sizes (I bought a small one to use as a purse), the Jericó workshops carry a huge selection of beautifully handcrafted wallets, belts, and saddles.
- You’ll find the entrance to the Jericó Botanical Gardens in a pretty cul-de-sac at the end of Carrera 3. Admission is free, and as you walk up through the gardens you’ll find a switchback trail that goes right up to the Cristo Redentor viewpoint. Near the statue is a cable car that connects with Los Nubes across the valley. It wasn’t running the day we were there; we’re not sure if this a temporary COVID closure or something more permanent. Also nearby are some fenced-off ancient indigenous gravesites.
- Most of the leather workshops can be found near the Parque Principal (Plaza Bolivar) on Calle 5. Good ones are Carriel Arte Jericó and Agudelo Marroquineria.
- Stop by the Santa Clara Monastery on Calle 1 at the hours of 9-11:45 or 3-4:45 and ring the bell. You’ll be greeted by a sweet-faced nun in a pin-striped apron who will be happy to sell you a bottle of orange wine made onsite by the sisters.
- Just up the street from the Santa Clara Monastery is the Cemeterio Jericó. We always love visiting cemeteries, and this one is nice for a stroll-through.
- Santa Laura’s own church, the Santuario Santa Laura, Parroquia Corazon de Maria, is a Jericó landmark and much more beautiful than the main cathedral (in our opinion). When we visited it was not open to the public (thanks again COVID). Funadores park in front of the church has a great patio restaurant, La Comedia, perfect for chilling out and enjoying a glass of wine and a homemade snack.
- The hike to Cerro Las Nubes. True confession: We started out on this hike but got bogged down in so much mud (and also had our geriatric dogs with us) that we decided to save this experience for another day. But we HEAR it’s amazing. Here’s a post from some other bloggers who did the hike. Next time!
- Plaza De Bolivar, Jericó’s main town square, is bustling with fruit and vegetable stands in the morning and festive food carts at night. There’s always a scene in the parque.
- Getting to Jericó by car from Medellín takes about four hours, mostly due to the massive highway construction project that cuts through that region of Antioquia. (Side note: Colombia is currently adding a mind-boggling 7,000 kilometers of new highway infrastructure that’s all supposed to be completed by 2023). Be prepared for sudden detours and delays, and it’s best to make the trip during the week or on non-holiday weekends. You can also take a bus from the Terminal Sur bus station in Medellín. (At the moment, we’re avoiding public transportation as much as we can to reduce COVID risk.)
- Accommodations. We stayed at – you guessed it – the Hotel Santa Laura , only a couple of blocks down the hill from the Plaza de Bolivar. It’s a beautiful, almost-new hotel that’s spotlessly clean, with scrupulous anti-COVID biosecurity practices and a great staff. And – big plus for us – it’s dog-friendly. Rooms 824 or 932 are spacious corner rooms with fantastic views of the countryside and the Santuario Santa Laura. Another hotel option is Hotel Porton Plaza, right on the Parque Bolivar. Just make sure you ask for a room with windows.
- Jericó has many great restaurants. Our favorites: Tomatito’s (good pizza), Don Rafa (nice cafe on the square with great coffee and excellent, inexpensive breakfast), La Gruta (outstanding garlic trout). Other spots to check out: La Comedia, Tango Algo Mas (very cool tango bar that was COVID-quiet when we were there), Dulces El Jericoano with its huge selection of the local specialty, cardamon-infused candies.