Exquisite local cuisine, the world’s second largest canyon, colonial towns, natural beauty and excitement are just a few of the things you can expect when visiting Santander in Colombia. There is so much to see and explore that you will need to plan your days in Santander to make sure you do not miss a thing. First on your list should be booking your stay at Hampton by Hilton Bucaramanga, your starting point when discovering this amazing destination.
It is only natural to start your vacation by getting to know the city of Bucaramanga. While walking through this city’s historical center, make sure to absorb the details of the iconic Sagrada Familia Cathedral and pop into La Casa del Libro Total, a colonial house converted into a cultural and technological center where they create a digital library. You can learn more about the country’s liberator at Casa de Bolívar Museum or we suggest you put on your artistic hat and head to the Modern Art Museum.
If you are more interested in a day in the countryside, La Flora Ecological Park is a perfect spot. You can choose to take an invigorating walk through nature, have a picnic or just take a moment to enjoy some fresh air while the children play on the swings and slides. Complement your day by stopping at the gorgeous Eloy Valenzuela Botanical Gardens, which hold 400 live species, where its green trails put you in direct contact with nature. You can also enjoy splashing in the waterfalls atParque del Agua.
You can also take a day trip to Girón to appreciate its colonial and religious architecture, especially Nuestra Señora de las Nieves Chapel and Minor Basilica of Saint John Baptist. For adventure seekers, we recommend paragliding at Voladero Las Águilas, where you will have a privileged and spectacular view of Bucaramanga. Another great daytrip from Bucaramanga is going to Floridablanca, where you should definitely visit Cerro del Santísimo EcoPark, where in addition to visiting the Christ monument, you can enjoy an idyllic 360º view of the city and ride the cable car.
What you will be raving about for some time after your trip to Bucaramanga is its food, especially its exotic delicacy of fried or roasted ants. That’s right, ANTS! And not just any ants, but “big-bottomed” ants (hormigas culonas). The city is also famous for its Fritanga, which is a dish you share including meat, potatoes, corn, and yuca. Everything goat is also a source of deliciousness in this city, especially its Pepitoria dish. Try its cured beef or Carne Oreada plate and the region’s typical soup is Mute, including beef, maize and pork. Some places you can savor these unforgettable dishes are La Puerta del Sol,Cabrón Restaurante, and El Viejo Chiflas.
Parque Nacional del Chicamocha (PANACHI)
An hour and a half away from Bucaramanga, you will be able to immerse yourself in ecotourism at the Chicamocha canyon, where there is something for everyone. From thrill-seekers to those who just want to enjoy an easy-going hike or the ones who are looking for that award winning picture.
If you are an adrenaline junkie, you can choose to paraglide over the canyon, where you can enjoy the magnificent landscape. If you are looking for a little more action, you might consider zip-lining through the canyon. You can also challenge yourself even more by rappelling through the waterfall at the canyon. If you are looking for a challenge, any of these activities are exactly what you want.
If you are looking for a less physically demanding, but just as exciting and memorable experience, you can choose to hike its trails or explore the canyon on buggies. If you are not afraid of heights, taking the cable car is a definite must. The swing is also a very popular attraction.
In addition to the exuberant vegetation, what makes the canyon such a stunning landscape are the rainbow of colors that come together throughout the day allowing you to witness deep-blue skies contrasting with greenish-brown mountain tops. If you stay to see the sunset, the purples, red and orange completely bewitch you. When visiting the canyon, remember to wear comfortable shoes and clothes, and don’t forget your sunglasses and a cap.
Mesa de los Santos
In this plateau, you will find one of the entry points to PANACHI, where you can take the cable car. Also, because of its proximity to the canyon, you can also find amazing rock-climbing opportunities. The Rocas de la Mojarra Climbing Park has more than 200 routes in the Eastern mountain range of the Chicamocha canyon. If you are looking for a true community experience, during the weekends, in Mesa de los Santos, you can stroll and enjoy a peasant market, where around 160 families sell their agricultural produce and artisanal handicrafts. Go ahead and try some of their fruits, we are sure you won’t regret it. Don’t forget to make a stop at the Salto del Duende waterfall, which is truly a humbling experience and a vision like no other.
Prettiest Town in Colombia
A singular colonial town filled with identity and true to Colombia’s magical realism is Barichara in Santander. One of the most frequented and famous towns, you will be delighted as you stroll through its cobblestone streets. Its peaceful air and picturesque architecture will remind you to enjoy the small things in life. You will feel inspired as you explore the Inmaculada Concepción Cathedral, the Santa Bárbara Church, and the Jesús Resucitado Chapel. The lookout spots will serve as great places to view the grandeur of the world and purchase some souvenirs. Its cemetery is pretty particular as headstones are created by the town’s artists. As a bonus, and if you have time, you can visit Gaune, which is a 2-hour hike away, and its Archeological and Paleontological Museum holds fossils, pottery, jewelry, and other remnants of the Guane indigenous people.
The Adventure Capital of Colombia
Extreme adventure is synonymous to this town and you do not want to miss out on all the fun and exhilaration. Take advantage of the cheap prices and unbelievable natural surroundings and take a leap of faith by bungee jumping in San Gil, Colombia. If this rush leaves you wanting more, you are in luck. Whitewater rafting and kayaking are among the most popular things to do in San Gil. You can choose to do it on the Suarez, Fonce, or Chicamocha rivers, with varying classes of rapids. The one you choose to face head-on will depend entirely on how much you like taking risks. It is safe to say paragliding is a typical sport in all of Santander, and San Gil is no exception.
Amazingly, there is more! Twenty minutes from San Gil, in the municipality of Curití, you can enjoy caving. You can choose between three different caves. You will have the chance to uncover the underground mysteries and beauty of the most extreme cave in Santander, Cueva de la Vaca. Be ready to face mud slides and water as you find yourself before other-worldly rock formations. Cueva Antigüa will give you a peek into the past through Guane cave paintings and Cueva del Yeso is a dry cave.
In the town of Páramo, 1 hour from San Gil, you will Cueva del Indio, where you will need to rappel down to enter this mysterious cave. Once inside, you will have to walk through a pitch-dark chamber, then a muddy one, and finally, you must jump and dive into the water at the bottom. This is not an activity for the faint of heart but it’s one you will remember forever.
At Las Cascadas de Juan Curí, you can complete a replenishing eco-hike to a waterfall or choose to do it on horseback. You also have the option of rappelling down these waterfalls. If you are looking for an extreme combo, TheCañon de las Lajas is considered the best canyoning adventure in Colombia. It involves zip-lining, rappelling, hiking, rock-climbing, and finalizes with a dive into the water. In addition, you can also do some mountain-biking, whether cross country, downhill or single track. San Gil offers you canyons, mountains, rivers, and steep slopes. Extreme sports are clearly San Gil’s main draw, so come live the adventure.
Finally, we recommend you visit El Gallineral Natural Park. Its name comes from the trees gallineros (type of tree) that cover 80% of the park. It is also called the Bella Isla Natural Park because it is always surrounded by water since the Curití waterfall flows into the Fonce River, where it splits into three branches and the park’s main deltas. As you hike the trails, you will be surrounded by these majestic trees, giving you an appreciation of how they are weaved into the ecosystem. It is simply breathtaking and awe-inspiring.
Come and explore the overwhelming excitement that nature provides, while adding some adrenaline and tapping into your inner child in a place that truly has it all: beauty, adventure and discovery. You will begin to truly live once you set foot in Santander, Colombia.