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Nicknamed "La Tierra de Aventura" or The Land of Adventure, the Santander region of Colombia lives up to its name. Located in the middle of the country, about six hours north of Bogota, this part of Colombia is known for its scenery - complete with deep canyons, raging rivers and majestic mountains.
San Gil is a beautifully scenic two hour bus ride from the city of Bucaramanga, so I definitely recommend riding the bus during the day if your travel schedule allows. However, a word to the wise, the road is incredibly windy, so if you are subject to car sickness make sure you prepare ahead of time. After arriving in San Gil there are a number of lovely little places to stay which cater to both the budget and casual traveler. Most of the best places are scatted within a few blocks of the leafy main square.
My friend Kelsi and I in the main plaza of San Gil.
Once in San Gil it is time to check in with your adventurous side! There is something for everyone in this town, so get started right away. Don't worry about planning too much in advance, as most activities can be organized the day of or just a day in advance of when you want to do them. We jumped right in by exploring the Parque El Gallineral, a small nature reserve near downtown where trees are covered with long silvery moss called barbas de viejo, or old man's beard.
Trees in the majestic park - which also features a man made pool in the center.
Pretty flowers along the way.
Another must-see in San Gil are the Juan Curi waterfalls! Located about 22 km from town, the falls are a short taxi or bus ride away. We opted to enjoy the journey as well, and rented bikes for the ride out to the falls. The long, scenic ride along the Rio Fonce made the day trip to the waterfalls so rewarding! After paying a small entrance fee we hiked about 20 minutes from the main road to the falls where we were greeted by a river crossing. We crossed the river using a rope and tried desperately not to slip, and then explored the falls and the refereshinly cold water within them!
Biking from San Gil to Las Cascadas de Juan Curi.
River crossing with rope.
Waterfall which extends much beyond this photo - 180 km high!
No trip to San Gil would be complete without some white water rafting on one of the three rivers in this region. After (failed) repeated attempts to raft on the Rio Suarez, we ended up rafting on the Rio Fonce instead because the water level was a bit lower. In the end, I am so glad we went on the Rio Fonce because even there the rapids were plenty big enough for my taste!
Headed towards some rapids!
Loving the rapids.
For our final adventure in San Gil we headed for the skies. Although a bit nervous for the experience, I had heard enough about the awesome paragliding opportunities in San Gil, that I knew I wanted to try it out. The 15 minute tandem ride with an instructor only cost us about $30 USD each and brought us high above the town of San Gil to a spot where we could see for miles! Although I felt a little motion sick by the end because of all the wind and flying around and such, I loved the experience!
Strapped in and ready to fly!
Enjoying the views over San Gil.
After all that adventure in San Gil a little down-time was just what the doctor ordered so we headed for Barichara, a small Spanish colonial town located just 45 minutes from San Gil. With super clean cobblestone streets, whitewashed building and red tile roofs, the beauty of this mountain town is stunning. The name of the town comes from the Guane word "a good place to rest", and after two days there we couldn't agree more!
While compared to its exciting neighbor in San Gil, Barichara is quite the calm little pueblo, the hike to Guane is not to be missed! This easy 9 km hike to the pueblo of Guane along the historic El Camino Real features an ancient stone-paved road. This road was declared a national monument in 1988 because the indigenous Guane people maintained it continuously over the years.
Kelsi and I at the start of El Camino Real.
The small town of Guane.
The beauty of travel in Colombia lies in the diversity of the country - with everything from rainforest and rivers to beaches and mountains, a trip to Colombia has something for everyone. Nowhere is that more evident than in this unique region of Colombia where the next adventure is always just around the corner...