Visiting Cueva del Esplendor on Horseback From Jardin, Colombia

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One of the top attractions in Columbia is the Cueva del Esplendor, a unique natural landmark where a waterfall cascades through an opening in the ground, into the dark abyss of a cave.

Most people opt to visit Cueva del Esplendor either by jeep or hiking, but for those who want a more relaxing and gentle way to see this natural wonder, then the best way to visit is by horseback.

people horseback riding in field on mountain
Credit: Deposit Photos

We opted to take a 6 hour horse ride to Cueva del Esplendor because it sounded like a perfect way to spend the day.

When our guide suggested an option to do the first half of it in a jeep, we scoffed at the idea. Absolutely not! Horses all the way.

We never regretted the decision, until the next day when our aching limbs reminded us of what it’s like to sit on horseback for six hours…

And here’s why…

Where is Cueva del Esplendor?

Cueva del Esplendor
Photo Credit: Sean @ LivingOutLau

Hidden amidst the majestic Colombian Andes lies the captivating Cueva del Esplendor. This enchanting waterfall, nestled within a cave, is located just outside the charming pueblo of Jardin.

Jardín is located in a valley, which is surrounded by low lying mountains dotted with coffee and banana plantations.

To reach this natural wonder, you must either hike along muddy mountain paths for 12 miles (which takes around 7 hours there and back) or get a lift in a jeep for 45 minutes, followed by a 30 minute walk.

Alternatively, you can ride on horseback from Jardin, which is how we visited Cueva del Esplendor.

The journey is well worth it, and no matter which method you choose to get there, you’ll be glad you made the effort to go.

How To Visit Cueva del Esplendor

The cave sits at 2,300 meters above sea level inside la Cueva del Esplendor Natural Reserve.

There is an entrance fee to visit the cave, even if you go alone and hike, which pays for the care, maintenance, and operation of the park.

To book tours or to organize your entrance ticket, you should visit the Cave Office in town. Here you can purchase your entrance ticket, insurance and a ranger for 20,000 COP. The price of transport is additional.

The route to the cave is quite wild and rugged and not easily marked, so we recommend going with a tour guide so you don’t get lost.

You can also book tours with the official tour agency in Jardin by contacting them on Whatsapp.

Our Experience Riding Horseback to Cueva del Esplendor

The ride up to the waterfall was beautiful and quite possibly the highlight of the entire Colombia trip.

The trail climbed up above Jardín, a town located 4 hours south of Medellin, which provided us with a bird’s eye view of the city.

Lush mountains, valleys, and forests surrounded us. It was as if we’d donned glassed painted with green.

Sceneries along the way to Cueva del Esplendora
Sceneries along the way to Cueva del Esplendor

The trail was steep, rocky and muddy, and at any second we expected our horses to slip and stumble.

Slip and stumble they did, but somehow we managed to hang on.

people on horseback Cueva del Esplendora
Cueva del Esplendor

We went up, higher and higher traversing along the side of a mountain. Soon we couldn’t see Jardin anymore.

What we saw instead were coffee and banana plantations replaced by rolling grazing farmlands dotted with the occasional farmhouses.

We finally realized this is why people raved so much about Colombia. This was the landscape that we came to see.

It seems that every turn brought us to even a better view.

After a 3 hour of mostly uphill ride, we got off the horses and followed our guide on foot. We went down into a slippery ditch covered with trees and then we heard it…

The thunderous sound of water that could only mean one thing, we had made it to Cueva del Esplendor.

What is Cueva del Esplendor?

Cueva del Esplendor is a captivating waterfall nestled within a majestic cave. The natural phenomenon was caused by the powerful impact of a waterfall above which carved a hole on the ceiling of the cave below, which now creates a window for the waterfall to stream through.

The water rushes in with such force that the whole cave was filled with tiny water sprays.

The deafening sound of the waterfall echoed around the chamber. The light streaming in from the hole reflected off the water giving the scene an almost surreal experience.

I think the picture would speak for itself.

person standing looking at waterfall coming through cave roof at Cueva del Esplendora
Cueva del Esplendor

We quickly got drenched from all the water sprays and it was cold inside the cave. You can swim inside the pool created by the waterfall, but it’s freezing, so not many people brave it.

We decided it was too cold to hang around for too long, so after taking pictures, our guide signalled (it was so loud we couldn’t hear each other) that it was time to head back.

The ride back was slightly worse than the way up because our horses were stumbling and sliding with the steep terrain.

There were times when we were tempted to get off the horses and walk instead as we were so scared of tumbling over and having the horses land on us.

Maybe having 4 legs are not necessarily better, eh?

Tips for Visiting Cueva del Esplendor

Before you go, here are some tips we suggest for visiting Cueva del Esplendor:

  • Wear sunscreen. You spend a lot of time in the open sun on the journey to Cueva del Esplendor, so you will want to protect your skin from the harsh rays.
  • Wear pants, not shorts. If you plan to ride horseback like us, this will help protect your thighs from chaffing.
  • Start early. Plan to visit Cueva del Esplendor early in the morning to beat the crowds and enjoy the serenity of the cave and waterfall.
  • Wear sturdy shoes. Even if you take the jeep and the short hike, you will want sturdy, closed-toe shoes. The hike to the cave can be challenging, so make sure to wear comfortable, sturdy shoes to navigate through uneven terrain.
  • Pack essentials. There are no cafes or restaurants, so bring plenty of water, snacks and essentials to keep you going throughout the day.
  • Hire a local guide. A guide is not only useful for directions, but also to provide insight into the region’s history, point out hidden gems, and ensure your safety throughout the trip.
  • Respect nature. Be mindful of the environment and leave no trace behind. Avoid littering and follow any guidelines or restrictions set by local authorities.
  • Walk slowly and carefully in the cave. Be cautious of slippery surfaces and take care to avoid potential falls.
  • Plan for bad weather. Check the weather forecast before your visit and come prepared with appropriate clothing layers in case of sudden changes in temperature or rain showers.

Final Thoughts

The morning after our horseback riding experience to Cueva del Esplendor I was massaging the tender area on my inner thigh, when I heard Jack mutter beside me, “we’re never going to have kids because of that horse ride, you know?”

Yep, it was a bumpy ride!

Would we recommend a horseback trip to the Cueva del Esplendor then? Absolutely, if you really don’t want to walk and jeeps make you nauseous.

Honestly, unless you’re an experienced horse rider, or have groins made of steel, we recommend that you take the jeep.

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