San Gil is a city with a population of 50,000 in the Santander region in Colombia. It is known as Colombia's adventure sport capital.
- The bus terminal to major Colombian cities is located two kilometers west of the city center. A taxi between there and the town center costs 3,000 COP or take one of the frequent busetas (1,500 COP). San Gil is on the road between Bucaramanga and Bogotá, hence there are frequent buses to towns along this axis. For other destinations, you'll most likely have to change buses in Bucaramanga.
- * From Bogotá : 35,000 COP / 7 hours
- * From Cartagena : 70,000 COP / 15 hours
- * From Cúcuta : 40,000 COP / 9-10 hours
- * From Medellín : 60,000 COP / 11 hours
- * From Santa Marta : 60,000 COP / 12 hours
- * From Tunja : 20,000 COP / 4 hours / 200 km
- Buses to Bucaramanga leave from the corner of carrera 11 with calle 8 on the river front (20,000 COP / 2.5 hours / 90 km). Consider stopping at the Chicamocha Canyon National Park on the way.
- Local buses to surrounding towns like Barichara, Charalá or Curiti leave from the corner of carrera 11 with calle 15 (Near the bridge).
Rio Fonce in the downtown park El Gallineral
- Parque El Gallineral, Malecón at calle 6. Everyday : 8 am to 6 pm / Pool : 9 am to 5 pm. Pleasant park for a stroll. Also has a swimming pool or you can dip in the Rio Fonce. Entrance : 6,000 COP. edit
- Cascadas de Juan Curi, ☎ 3114893272 - 3168233920 - 3114716121. Beautiful 200 meters high waterfalls outside of town. To get there, get a bus to Charalá from the local terminal and ask to be dropped off at Las Cascadas (4000 COP / 40 min). There are two entrance on the right handside of the road, the second one (blue and yellow sign) offers a more scenic walk along the river and you'll get to see more waterfalls (Entrance : 7000 COP). It's a nice 20 minutes walk to the bottom of the Juan Curi waterfall where you can swim. Your shoes will get wet crossing the water several times and there are ladders and ropes to help you climb. From there take the wooden stairs on the right, follow the track and turn left to go up 60 meters to the middle of the waterfall. Rappelling is possible from there. During rainy weather, consider going early and/or enquire by phone on the flood risk as there may be too much water to walk up the trails to the pools. (6.37229,-73.16518) edit
Tour companies generally offer similar activities and are clustered around the entrance of park El Gallineral. If you plan to go rafting or kayaking on rapids of class 3 and over, check that the guides are certified by the International Rafting Federation (IRF).
- Colombia Rafting Expeditions, Carrera 10 No.7-83, ☎ (57 7)724 5800 / 311 283 8647 (email@example.com), . Organizes all adventure activities as well as being the experts at big rapids and kayaking. Bring cash and passport number. edit
- Planeta Azul, (At the parque El Gallineral), ☎ 7-724-0000 / 310-771-7586 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: 7-724-7679), . edit
- Bungee Jumping (San Gil Bungee Jumping), ☎ 315 8169215. 55km platform jump located over a river a few kilometers from town. If you time it right you can jump while there are whitewater rafters watching you from below! You can get there by bus for 1,000 COP, taxi for about 5,000, or moto for about 3,000. Cost is 25,000 for the jump, and 15,000 for pictures and a video (October 2015). edit
- Play Tejo or Bolo (Comite Municipal de Tejo). Play some games with the locals at the Comite Municipal de Tejo. It is located at the edge of town, just past the bus station. Here you can play Tejo (tossing rock-like disks at an exploding target), or Bolo (similar to bowling, but you throw a small ball at 3 pins). Buy some beers and learn the game from the locals...they are also interested in teaching foreigners! edit
- Colombian Bike Junkies. Mountain Biking Tours, Calle 12 No 8-35 first floor, ☎ 316 327 6101 (email@example.com), . The mountains and canyons around San Gil make this a great area for mountain biking. You can find bikes for hire in town, but for a guided tour ask at Gringo Mikes. They run full-day tours under the name Colombian Bike Junkies including new full suspension Kona bikes and protective equipment, 4WD transfers, breakfast, lunch and drinks and snacks along the way. You get to see some great scenery, and best of all it's about 95% downhill so you can let gravity do most of the work. You don't need to be a downhill guru, but should be comfortable with riding on dirt roads. 160,000-220,000 COP (depending on group size and time of year). edit
- Connect 4 Language School, CARRERA 8 No. 12 - 19 LOCAL 201, ☎ 7242544 - 7242660 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Great little school run by a great teacher called Andres. Offers Spanish classes for travellers. Private tuition for all levels including short conversational Spanish lessons plans so you can learn the basic in just a few hours. They can also organise free language exchange activities with locals. Possible home stays available. edit
San Gil is the pioneering place for rafting in Colombia :
- Rio Fonce, This is the river going through San Gil, it offers an 11 km trip lasting 1h15 min on class 2-3 rapids depending on the season. It suits all kind of public. 25,000 COP.
- Rio Chicamocha, An 1h30 rafting trip with rapids from level 2 to 4. More adrenaline and amazing scenery going through the canyon. Possible to organize expeditions up to 3 days long.
- Rio Suarez, Considered the best, this is a 2 hour and 20 km rafting experience which includes class 4-5 rapids. Experienced rafters. Total trip takes 4 hours. 125,000 COP, pictures and videos included (October 2015).
There are lots of places around San Gil to go for a swim :
- Pozo Azul : Close to San Gil and accessible by taxi, it is popular with locals. 300 meters down river is la Milagrosa where you can jump from rocks.
- Pescaderito : Close to the town of Curiti, it has swimming holes and water slides. Camping possible.
Other activities are caving, parapente, paintballing, kayaking, hydrospeed and rapelling.
There are numerous trekking opportunities in the countryside surrounding San Gil. The following itinerary goes through 3 colonial towns before going down in the Chicamocha canyon and up on the other side. Doing the whole trek in 2 days is possible if you leave San Gil really early on the first morning but it will probably be more enjoyable do it in 3 days and take your time checking out the towns in details. You can also do only parts as there are buses going back to San Gil in every town except Jordan. You don't need to carry food and camping equipment as there are restaurants and hotels in every town. Carry a lot of water and be careful of the midday heat.
- Cabrera - Barichara - Get a local bus from San Gil to Cabrera (4,500 COP in March 2013; accommodations possible at Hospedaje Cabrera 320 304 0125; 15,000 COP/night single with private bath. Other tels for hotel 311 8281006, 320 8005862, 3158977009), it will drop you on the main plaza of the town. Here check out the church. At the upper left corner of the plaza, take the steepest street up (Calle 7) and turn left at the top. Follow the path along the stations of the cross (14 of them). From the top keep on going straight, the path is fairly flat and you'll soon see Barichara in the distance. When you get close to town, you'll encounter the local swimming pool on your right handside (1,500 COP) right before a football/soccer field. Across the street you can see upright stones placed in regular intervals under the trees. These are either meant to secure cattle for 'servicing' or possibly used as an abatoir (slaughter) a long time ago; there are different stories when asking locals. Look out for iguanas taking the sun up on the tree branches. Quite likely you will see several flocks of vultures as well hanging around near the stone bridge. A bit further there is a stone bridge that you have to cross. After a final small climb you're in the town of Barichara. Walking time: 2,5h
- Barichara - Guane - From the main square take any Calle going up the hill until you reach Carrera 10. Turn left towards the ridge. A stone marks the start of the trail, it is an old paved path that was restored 180 years ago by a German Geo Van Leguerke. The path crosses the paved road twice, just cross it. Refreshments are (sometimes) sold at the farm at midway. walking time: 2h
- Guane - Villanueva - To exit Guane, take Calle 6 from the main plaza towards the hill and soon you'll be back on the camino real; you'll be on this for 30 min or so. At some point there are farms on both sides of the path and right after you get to a crossing with a bigger (paved) road, taking that road to the right would bring you back to Barichara, you need to "jog" right a slight bit and then go straight (on the good road) and keep going uphill. Keep on going up through the fields and tobacco farms. Soon after passing a finca named La Ceiba on the left hand-side, you get to a fork with a worn down cross in the middle and a basketball court on the left, veer right there. Less than 5 minutes after, you encounter a needle head turn, take a left towards a hut with a white flag. This is a mirador (and houses a statue of the Virgin Mary) with great views of the canyon and all the ascent you've accomplished. Go back to the dirt road below the mirador and keep on going up. At some stage there will be two farms on the right and what looks like a road going uphill between them, do not turn and keep going straight (actually more of a left), the road goes down a bit towards bare land for 5 minutes and after that is the final part of the climb--another 30 minutes or so. Once you reach the hilltop, you can see the next valley with Villanueva on the left but hidden by a hill. To the right is the road used by cars to reach town but it does a lot of turns. The shorter option is to take a left and look for the path just to the right which goes directly to town. You have to follow the barbed wire, it will start dropping towards the valley and what looks more like a ditch will turn in a footpath. After a while you'll exit a field through a door and reach jeep track, take a left towards the red and white antenna. From there it's straight to town. You can stay at Hotel Victoria on the main plaza just next to the police station for 10,000 COP per person (Cra 15, 13-49; 097-7166313). Other slightly more expensive options are Posada Don Jose (Cra 14, 14-20; 097 7166122 or 312 232 0638); or Hotel Villados (Cra 13, 14-72, 313 442 9931 or 313 442 9950) walking time: 3h
Going down the Chicamocha canyon towards Jordan
- Villanueva - Jordan - The way from Villanueva down to Jordan takes approximately 5 hours. It is best to leave after noon so that you go down the canyon (900m) in the late afternoon; alternatively, leave early in the morning to avoid the mid-day heat. Leave Villanueva in north-east direction (ie, if standing in the main square of Villanueva facing the church, you want to head out at about "two o'clock") and ask some locals to point you to the road towards the canyon and Jordan. You start off on some dirt roads then end up on a path that leads down the canyon. You will encounter many crossings. Best thing is to ask locals when they pass by. You will come to a farm where you have to go through a fence and after that go straight down to an old house. There you will find a white gate that is also marked with yellow arrows on the side. Pass that gate and from there yellow signs will lead the way down the canyon. After you go down 900m to the canyon you will hit a dirt road. Turn right and it's a 20min walk to Jordan. In Jordan cross the bridge and ask at the house on the other side (there is only one) for accommodation and food (15.000 COP for a small dinner and sleeping; in March 2013 she did food only, no accommodations). They also do a decent set lunch if you walk to Jordan in the morning. There is also the Posado del Caminante near the church for accommodations (paid 20000 per person in 2015); you'll need to ask for the lady with the key who lives by the church. walking time: 4-5h
- Jordan - Los Santos - The last part consists of a 900m difference climb to get out of the canyon. Cross the bridge over the Chicamocha river. The stone path starts just after, you can't miss it. The path goes up continuously but is never too steep and getting to Los Santos should take around 2 hours. Avoid doing this in the midday heat. Los Santos is a decent size town compared to Jordan. Buses leave from the main square. There are at least 3 places providing accommodations in Los Santos; one right on the square was 30,000 for a private room + bath. 20 minutes from town you will find Refugio La Roca and Juan Palitos, both good options for backpackers seeking a great view of the canyon or rock climbing lessons. Hop on any bus bound for Piedecuesta and ask to drop you at Refugio La Roca.
To get back to San Gil you have two options:
- Take a Piedecuesta bound bus that will drop you at the San Gil – Bucaramanga main road juncture (5,000 COP). From there flag down a bus to San Gil (12,000-15,000 COP in 2015). Several buses leave for Piedecuesta every hour. If you take Flota Cachira you must disembark at a juncture called Los Curos (best option). La Culona and Trasporte Mesa de los Santos take a different route but you can still disembark at the main road juncture and flag a bus to San Gil.
- Via Teleférico (Cable Car): Take a taxi or ask the locals for a ride to “El Teleférico” (Cable Car Station) 30 minutes from Los Santos. The Cable car (46,000 COP) operates from 9am to 7pm weekends and holidays and 10am to 6pm Wednesday - Friday. This option will cut down in half the trip to San Gil since you avoid the winding road down and up the mountain. Plus you will enjoy the breathtaking views over the Chicamocha canyon. The cable car will drop you at the main station of Parque Nacional del Chicamocha "Panachi" where you can grab lunch and enjoy the magnificent view. From there take a bus to San Gil to finish your trip.
- Nem Catacoa Store: Adjacent to Juan Palitos in La Mesa de los Santos. Local artist and designer working together with local craftsmen to create beautiful products. Workshops available.
Some of Santander's Famous Regional Foods:
- Hormigas Culonas (literally "big ass ants" roasted with salt, tastes kind of like popcorn)
- Arepa Santandereana (a thick corn arepa mixed with salt and pork)
- Carne Oreada (traditional thin steak)
- Carne Seca ( a dry pulled steak)
- Cabro (goat)
- Pepitoria (Santander traditional tasty rice, also usually served as a side plate for Cabro)
- Changua (milk soup with egg)
- Fritanga (fried food snacks)
- Chorizos del Valle de San José (specialty spicy sausage, really famous along people of Santander)
- Arroz de Peñaflor (specialty rice)
- Caldo de Costilla or Caldo con Huevo (the most typical santanderean breakfast; beef ribs boiled in water with potato, some vegetables, cilantro and sometimes bread, topped with a boiled egg. This plate is always served with a side of Arepas Santandereanas, which, in Santanderean culture, should be cut by hand in moderate pieces and then put inside the caldo (leave some for after). Really tasty and a must for breakfast in Santander, almost every place open in the morning serves it.)
- Gringo Mike's, Calle 12, 8 - 35, ground floor of the Casa Lopez, . Everyday 8am to 12pm and 5pm to 10pm. A new sandwich place opened by an awesome guy from Seattle. Serves up delicious sandwiches, burritos, salads, and burgers. Also offers big breakfast burritos in the mornings. Try the roast beef sandwich with cinnamon pear and cream cheese! edit
- El Mana, Calle 10 at Carrera 9. lunch and dinner. El Maná has amazing set lunches and dinners which include soup,fruit, meat, rice, beans, juice and dessert for 12,000 COP. edit
- Las Esteras. Famous for their goat dishes! edit
- SAMS PUB, Calle 12 # 8-69. 11:30am to 10 pm. SAMS PUB, CLL 12 # 8 - 69. 11:30 am - 10 pm. The best place to have a REAL STEAK, you can add mushroom, pepper or ANTS SAUCE, Microbrew beer, and best Lunches with water, fruit, soup, main course, fruit juice and dessert for just 4.50 US. 4.50 us to 12 us 4.50 us to 12 us. edit
- 7 Tigres, Calle 12 8-40. 16:30 - 23:00. Excellent food from a Colombian mother/daughter team. A combination of, and hybrid of, Colombian and North American dishes. Many Vegetarian options - ask for the delicious and big (by Colombian standards) vegetarian salad (it's not on the menu but if you ask they'll make it). They have Pizza, Pasta, Calzone, fresh fruit juice, and a variety of Colombian dishes. They have a book exchange as well. 3000 - 25000 COP. edit
- Any Store Near Parque Principal. Grab a cold beer at any of the stores around the central square park and sip it on a bench or stairs for great people watching and the feeling of being a local. edit
- Bar Con Versano, Calle 12 near Carrera 7. One of the only cool bars in town with art deco themes and contemporary art prints in a colorful setting. Try any of their awesome cocktails or beer selection. edit
Prices in most San Gil hotels double on long weekends and places are heavily booked. Book in advance for Easter, Christmas and all long weekends.
- Hotel Alcantuz, Carrera 11 No 10-15, (email@example.com, fax: (097) 7243159), . Friendly local hotel with nice, clean rooms starting at 25,000 COP per night. Cable TV, Wi-Fi, large windows. edit
- Hotel Capri, Calle 10 No 9-31, ☎ 724-3767 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Very nice spotless hotel with a range of rooms and prices. Rooms with balconies are recommended. Cable TV, hot water, Wi-Fi. edit
- Hotel La Mansion, Calle 12 # - '71, ☎ 7-724-2542. checkin: 1500; checkout: 1100. Best prices for low season, singles from 30000 to 70000, doubles from 40000 to 90000, all rooms ave private bathroom, fan, some rooms with balcony, free parking, fre Wi Fi, Restaurant PUB, Local owner 100% englis speaker, staying here you can use all facilities at Sam´S VIP Hostel just one block from it, We are located at the corner of the main square on the "CALLE REAL", Cheaper that any hostel in Town with even better services edit
- Hotel El Viajero, Carrera 11 No 11-07, ☎ 7-724-1956. A room with private bathroom costs 25,000 COP. If you want to pay ahead for a fortnight a double room can be had for just 15,000 a night. They offer free coffee and hot water for tea from 6AM to 7PM. edit
- Macondo Hostel (Macondo Guesthouse), Carrera 8 #12-35, ☎ 7724 8001 - 311 8282 905 (email@example.com). Now at a new location. Backpackers hostel run by an Australian. Includes kitchen use, big kitchen, hot water, BBQ, book exchange and hammocks. Laundry service, drinks & internet available. Tours can be booked through the hostel. Free high speed wi-fi. The owner/manager is particularly friendly and organizes cheap tours. Dorm : 30,000 COP/ Privates 55.000/90.000 with bath.. edit
- Sam's VIP Hostel, cr 10 N- 12-33 (second floor in the BBVA Bank Building on the Main Square), ☎ 7242746 - 3102497400 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Run by a local backpacker, this place has a relaxed atmosphere, a bar with good views, swimming pool, sauna, modern guest kitchens (2), clean bathrooms, free internet & Wi-FI and LCD 3D TV.Poker tournaments, book exchange, free safety lockers, Hot water , you can organize all the activities at the hostel. Clean sheets. COP 25000(June 2015). edit
- El Dorado International Hostel (San gil), Calle 12 # 8-55 (20 meters from main square), ☎ 57-7-7237588, . checkin: 12:00 am; checkout: 10:00 am. A great hostel close to the main square. great facilities such as hot water, semi double beds, guests kitchen, English speaking staff, extreme sports advice and booking services, but most importantly a relaxed and fun atmosphere. Breakfast not included. 20.000(June 2015). edit
- Hostel Santander Aleman, Calle 12 No 7 63 (email@example.com), ☎ 7242535, . checkin: noon; checkout: noon. A colonial house with a family atmosphere near main park La Libertad and El Gallineral park. Private rooms and bedroom, lockers, breakfast, hot showers outdoors and covered 24 hours, a common area with a cozy atmosphere, hammocks, mesade Ping Pong and other games, easy for cooking and refrigeration, laundry and TV LCD. 30.000(June 2015). edit
- Hostal Le Papillon San Gil, Calle 7 #8-28 (San Gil), ☎ 723 63 50. checkin: 14.00; checkout: 12.00. 15000 COP in dormitorie 35000 double room with shared bathroom,includes kitchen use and hammocks in a nice garden, purified water free. Tours can be booked through the hostel. Free high speed wi-fi. 15000. edit
- Hotel Puerto Bahia, Calle 6 No. 9-112 ((2 blocks from main Avenue and Parque El Gallineral)), ☎ 318 716 43 68, . checkin: 3:00; checkout: 12:00. 42 bedrooms and 1 Suite. Restaurant, Parking, Elevator, Wi-Fi, Hot water,friendly staff. Prices starting at $35,000. edit
- La Pacha Hostel, Km 7 Via San Gil - Barichara (Bus to Barichara or Villanueva, look for the sign after 15 mins), ☎ 3102211515, . checkin: 1pm; checkout: 12pm. An eco-hostel and campsite run by an Anglo-Colombian family who have spent a year building the site from scratch with volunteers, it offers accommodation in the form of geodesic domes and a yurt ($50,000 COP), as well as regular dorm beds($20,000COP) and tents ($15,000COP or $10,000 own tent). Facilities include: shared kitchen, converted bus with TV, campsite shop and cafe, campfires, ping pong table, organic toilet and showers, decent wifi, parking spaces for cars, bikes and also camper vans with access to electricity. Things to do: Explore the farm and forest trails, birdwatching with our own app, hiking to nearby villages like Barichara, horse riding, rafting, canyoning, paragliding, caving. Offers vegetarian breakfasts and dinners and all-day snacks and drinks. edit
- Open House Hostel, Carrera 8 No 11-78, ☎ 7245208, . checkin: 13:30; checkout: 12:30. The hostel offer both dormitories and privates accommodation. the hostel has a backyard, kitchen, restrooms with hot water in the shower, two hammocks, laundry service, free internet service and wifi and free colombian coffee all mornings. the bed prices: Mixed and female dorm: 18000 private double beds: 50000 private bunk bed: 44000 edit
- Villa Isabela, Kilómetro 3, Via Mogotes (Bus to Mogotes, get out after 10 minutes at KM3 sign. Finca on the right), ☎ 3148229577. checkin: 1pm; checkout: 11am. Small Bed and Breakfast finca run by a Colombian and a Brit. Two double rooms(50,000 COP/35,000 COP) dorm with four single beds (20,000), space for tents(10,000 COP). Volunteers also welcome. Access to kitchen. Outdoor stove available. Parking space for cars and campers. Access to activities including canyoning, hiking, paragliding, rafting. edit
- The little colonial village of Barichara makes a good day trip. There are buses going every hour and leave from the corner of Carrera 11 and Calle 15. From Barichara it is a lovely 2 hour walk along an historic Spanish road to Guane. Buses return to Barichara several times a day. It is recommended to walk Barichara to Guane and not the other direction, since that would be entirely uphill.
- Chicamocha National Park (Panachi). Opened in december 2006, the park offers great views of the canyon and a 6.3 km length cable car system among the longest of the world that crosses the canyon. Park entrance : 15,000 COP / Teleférico : 40,000 COP one way, 40,000 return. edit
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