Visiting Santander in north central Colombia should be on everybody’s list. It is home to stunning nature and a few of the countries top tourist destinations: El Cañón del Chicamocha, Barichara,  San Gil and Las Gachas in Guadalupe.

San Gil

Just 300 kilometers/185 miles from Bogotá lies San Gil. It is known as Colombia’s extreme sports hub and has tons of fun activities to do in and around it.  Some of the abundant activities to get the adrenaline pumping are:  white-water rafting, bungie jumping, paragliding, and a ropes park, just to name a few. An option for those who want to do it in more days or want, can stop in Barbosa which also has nice attractions around it and a lovely hotel to stay in Turrim Dei Boutique Hotel

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How to Get there

You can get buses from Bogotá for 50.000 COP for the close to 6 hour bus ride. An alternative is from the capital of Santander, Bucaramanga which takes 3 hours, 23.000 COP.

What to Do

-Visit el Parque Gallineral, perhaps the landmark spot of this city and region is the famous Gallineral Park.  Its emblematic trees with hanging moss are spectacular along the river. The park has up to 4 hectares of stunning nature and even natural pools for swimming, entrance fee is 6.000 COP

White-water rafting with Rafting al Extremo in the Rio Fonce or Suarez with Rafting al Extremo , 60.000 COP

Bungee jumping with the best bungee jump in Colombia from 70 meters over the Rio Fonce with Colombia Bungee, 80.000, or 130.000 for a couples/two person jump.

-Visit the Parque Nacional del Chicamocha to see the famous canyon. Also visit the Guane people museum, the monument to the Santander people who helped win the Independence, and don’t miss the roundtrip cable car ride over the Canyon to Mesa de Los Santos.

-Paragliding
with Paravolar Colombia over either Curiti, or more recommended a once in a lifetime flight over the Cañón del Chicamocha, 200.000

-Xplorer Colombia, just a few minutes outside of San Gil combines is worth a stop. Lovely setting with views, restaurant and bar, with a course of ropes that is a lot of fun and even includes rappelling down the side of the mountain for the most adventurous.

Where to Eat

There are a few affordable places to eat around the Main Square and Park, such as El Balcón.
For more special or tasty meals we had good experiences at Mathambre and GringoMikes.

Here is a link to typical food in Santander for you to try:
https://www.uncovercolombia.com/blog/food-in-santander-colombia/

Where to Sleep

For a more quiet and beautiful place I recommend Camino Real San Gil. It is around 2km from the city square, it has a lovely garden, friendly staff and reasonable prices.

Barichara

Barichara is one of the prettiest if not the most, and best preserved towns in Colombia. It dates back to the 1700s and is famous for its yellow stones used to construct almost everything in town is a cultural landmark in Colombia. It’s cobblestone streets are home to picturesque houses painted in bright colors and is both charming and relaxing. It is also famous for having visitors come back to live in this tranquil town or have people stay longer than expected!
Visiting Santander without Barichara would be a big mistake!

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How to Get there

Just 21 km and around half an hour away from San Gil, local buses go early and often for 6.000 Cop.

What to Do

1. Stroll. The best way to explore this cobblestone paved town is by foot. Let yourself get lost exploring this gorgeous town as there are beautiful houses, churches, shops and landmarks all around.

2. See the sunset from El Salto del Mico, as it has a beautiful view overlooking a cliff to the nearby mountains and towns.

3. Take a walk back in time to Guane, an even smaller untouched colonial town just 9km via the old ancestral path Camino Real. It passes nice views of the valleys and mountains along the way. It is around 2 hours each way and can also be reached via local bus that runs a few times a day, or when you wish in a Tuk Tuk.

4. Visit the galleries and projects in town. For instance,  Taller de Papel to see how local women make paper from all sorts of different materials from cannabis to pineapple. In the back is a lovely garden with a few of the plants used to make the paper. Another recommended stop is the Taller de Oficio where you can take a 2 hour/2 month course as a good excuse to stay in this Shangri-la. Other notables worth visiting are the Aljibe Book Shop and the  Jardin Invisible gallery.

5.  Eat, drink and be merry. Barichara has had an explosion of gastronomic offerings

Where to Eat

Perhaps the most unique dining experience, is Shanti which is the best rated restaurant in town.
It is by appointment only and prepared by the chef and owner Carolina, who is a delight to talk to.

Other memorable dining experiences include Épice . If you need a guilty pleasure, Baku had nice pizza.
Here is a link to typical food in Santander for you to try when you are visiting Santander:
https://www.uncovercolombia.com/blog/food-in-santander-colombia/

Where to Sleep

Casa Betel a new boutique hotel has a great location a few blocks from the main square. It is beautiful, quiet and the rooms are spacious, service is great, and breakfast is delicious.

Las Gachas

Tucked away next to a lovely town called Guadalupe, is a formation of several natural pools along the river that is called Las Gachas. While the pools are lovely, perhaps the most impressive are the surroundings. Waterfalls, rivers, mountains, lush vegetation full of fruit and flora, friendly people,  and good food. Surprisingly, Las Gachas is not famous in Colombia so make sure to visit it before it becomes touristic when visiting Santander.

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How to Get There

There are many options for arriving from Bogotá and Bucaramanga, most going through Oiba.
Direct buses from Bogotá that leaves at 10pm takes 7 hours and costs 65.000, and from Bucaramanga 35.000 and takes 5 hours, leaving at 1pm. Otherwise if you get to Oiba, you´ll be able to find several options for getting to Guadalupe and Las Gachas.

What to Do there

-Visit El Balneario Las Gachas, get there as early as you can as I’ve seen and heard it can get crowded.
-The Caballero Waterfall nearby is both beautiful and impressive
-Visit the charming nearby town of Guadalupe

Where to Sleep

Terrazas Hotel is the best hotel in the area and closest to visiting Las Gachas by foot, and it has a swimming pool, good food and a friendly staff.

Where to Eat

There are a few options for snacks and fast food in this area outside of Guadalupe but the hotel Terrazas
has the most options, including vegetarian one´s that aren´t easy to find in this area.

These and many more are the reasons why you can’t miss out on visiting Santander, in conclusion: don’t!

If you haven’t visited already, you can make a stop in Chiquinquirá, Boyacá on the way back and smack in the middle of the main square is a recommended hotel, San Marcos.

Visiting Caño Cristales, the most beautiful river in the world in Colombia

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