Jericó - Why it’s Worth to Discover Colombia Off the Beaten Path
Colombia off the beaten path - Jericó
A Guide for Female Solo Travelers to take your eyes off the “Lonely Planet” and dive into the Unknown
Let’s face it, at first going off the beaten path in Colombia might not sound like the best idea - especially for female solo travelers (who definitely already have a lot to handle with annoying cat calling when staying in the touristic centers of the country) .
Even though Colombia has a bad reputation when it comes to safety affairs, the country’s safety has merely improved during the last ten years, making it a popular destination for travelers from all over the world. The beauty of the scenery in comparison to buzzing cities as Bogotá or everyone’s favorite, “the city of eternal spring” Medellin, the charm of the culture in contrast to the latest history Colombia has been facing and most of all the warm friendliness of the people are just a few among many reasons why backpacking Colombia has become such a big deal in recent years.
From wild nights out in the quarter of El Poblado, to early (and quite exhausting) hikes through the stunning Cocora Valley and chilled beach days in the hippie-town of Palomino, Colombia offers a perfect package for every kind of traveler and every stage of traveling. After spending a month backpacking through Colombia I can only confirm that.
In the heart of the coffee region
It is really easy to follow the “established backpacking routes” and still have an amazing time in Colombia. This is thanks to the fact that Colombia already has so many “must-dos” and you basically add a dozen places to your “must-see list” after every hostel conversation. Security concerns (and maybe a slight lack of Spanish language skills from my side), can also be a defining factor when deciding to follow the “established backpacking routes” instead of wander off the beaten path. I still decided to go off the beaten path when spending two weeks in the municipality of Jericó, straight in the heart of Colombia’s coffee region, Antioquia. Not only was it a great option to give my mind, my backpack and obviously my poor back a break (even though transport and streets in Colombia are super smooth compared to the experiences I had previously in Central America) but also to discover authentic Colombian culture.
Jericó in a nutshell: Not mentioned in the Lonely Planet or any other travel guide and the only reason why locals know the town (which was built in 1850 by a man who was part of the Libertarian army), is because Colombia’s only saint, “Saint Laura” was born there. Back when it was founded, Jericó was planned as the capital of the department and was supposed to be an important city in the region. Because of the great expectations for Jericó, the founders made the effort to select people with a high educational background to populate the new city. This is one of the main reason for the high amount of churches, museums and schools. It is also the reason why Jericó is fondly entitled as the “Athens of the South West of Antioquia”. This all led to me falling in love with the idea of spending some more time in this small town located 3,5 hours and some very winding roads away from Medellin and discovering Colombia in a safe way off the beaten path.
A home away from home: Las Cometas Hostel
Being the only hostel in Jericó, the amazing Las Cometas Hostel, managed by the even more amazing Jorge, gives a hundred percent to make its residents have the best time possible. With a population of 12.000 inhabitants and a super cute town square that offers great Colombian snacks like arepas, Jericó seemed to be a good place to stay, and I wasn’t disappointed. Jericó is not only rich in authentic Colombian culture but it’s also placed in the middle of nature and therefore a perfect starting point for various activities. Among my favorite activities were a slightly risky sunset hike to “Los Nubes” (“The Clouds”) and a visit to a regional coffee farm.
Ever since its beginnings, Jericó’s economy has been based on coffee. That fact does not only justify the excessive amount of amazing coffee consumed every day, but also the amount of local Siete Café fairtrade coffee bought (which actually doubled the weight of my backpack). In Jericó, not only do you drink and buy coffee, you also learn how it is produced. Jericó is also home to Dulcearte de Chocolate”, an amazing little chocolaterie. The owner, Lina, teaches you how chocolate is produced and you even have the possibility to get a little creative with chocolate. What didn’t make its way into my bag, but is definitely worth mentioning is the “carriel”. The “carriel”, a small leather satchel which is usually worn by men in the region, is one of Jericós cultural highlights. It’s not only part of the traditional folkloric dress of the region but it’s also used in modern businessman fashion.
All in all, taking a break from chasing every existing “must-do“ Colombia offers and choosing to discover the country off the beaten path was the best decision I could have made. I definitely experienced a less touristy and more authentic Colombian culture. I got to see beautiful places, I met amazing people, I made unforgettable experiences and I got the opportunity to practice my más o menos Spanish language skills. Backpacking Colombia for a month gave me the peace and time to reflect on everything that I experienced on my 2,5 months Central and South America journey. And even if it sounds pretentious, it made me feel like I found a hidden gem that belongs to my Colombian experience only (obviously blending out the fact that of course other travelers have visited Jericó before and will do so in the future) and made me fall in love with Colombia even more.
Like it? Pin it!