Colonial Wealth and Adrenalin Sports in Santander
Where in South America beyond Cusco, Peru can one combine sightseeing colonial masterpieces and white-water rafting? Look no further than San Gil.
Should you find yourself in Colombia and in need of an adrenalin rush, San Gil is just the place for you. For here, set in the Guanenta province of Santander, is Colombia’s adrenalin and adventure sports capital.
Long recognised on the backpacker circuit as an ideal place to kick back and relax and take a welcome break in the journey between the chilly altiplano of Bogota and the sweltering Caribbean cities of Cartagena and Santa Marta, San Gil and its surrounding towns are blossoming into must visit destinations.
Here in the lush and verdant environs of San Gil, there is something for every taste and even better, prices are presently very accommodating. There are a plethora of companies offering excursions so be sure shop around. One can experience the thrill of white-water rafting on one of three rivers, the Fonce (Grade2-3), the Suarez (Grade 4+) and the Chicamocha (Grade 4).
To fill other days, there are activities such as rappelling, hydroplaning, caving, bungee jumping, canoeing, parascending, hiking and horse riding.
Less strenuous activities
A short stroll down to the river’s edge brings to you the Parque El Gallineral, an enchanting introduction to the flora of Santander. With towering Ceiba trees straddling the river Fonce and dripping with Spanish moss the scene is quite breathtaking. A stroll around the well-tended gardens might be just the anecdote to the exertions of other days.
San Gil is ringed by seemingly forgotten Colonial towns nestling on hillsides and unconcerned about the pace of life elsewhere. Barichara and Guane are just two examples of well preserved and enchanting places to visit. Located 40 minutes from San Gil by bus, Barichara should, by all accounts be rivaling San Gil in the tourism industry. After a short time there one understands that the people of Barichara would sooner remain a calm retreat for artists and writers.
If you find Barichara to be too laid back for your liking, then Guane is positively horizontal. The main square boasts a quaint church and a museum dedicated to archaeological finds in the area and remnants of the Guane civilization that preceded the Spanish invasion.
Pepitoria – A type of chicken stew cooked on a base of almonds, saffron and egg yolk
Carne Oreada – For Brazil travelers, this is literally the same as Carne do Sol, for those unfamiliar with Brazil, then this dish is no more than sun dried cuts of beef.
But the real piece de resistance is the Hormigas Culonas Tostadas. Pretty simply these are toasted fat bottomed ants. Yes, ants. And they are crispy, crunchy and very tasty.
Getting to and from San Gil
Bogota to/from San Gil – buses every hour, 6-8 hours
Bucaramanga to/from San Gil – every 30 minutes, 2 hours
San Gil to/from Baranquilla – frequent buses, 11-12 hours
All major airlines have several daily flights to Bucaramanga from Bogota. From there it’s the bus!