San Gil is a small town located in the Santander department of Colombia. It is known as Colombia’s adventure capital, and for good reason. Within close proximity to rivers and canyons, this town is the perfect town to appease the needs of all adrenaline junkies.
How we got there – Medellin to San Gil
To get to San Gil we first had to take a bus to Bucamaranga. We went with Copetran and it cost 100,000COP each, although I think we were slightly screwed over here as the price online (normally more expensive) was 75,000COP. The bus left at 8am and arrived in Bucamaranga at 5pm (9 hours). From here we had to get another bus to San Gil. We had to go to Modulo 1 and there was a host of companies there offering the trip. We settled with Cotransangil and the trip cost 16,000COP each. It took over three hours to get the San Gil as the the road has many bends and there are a lot of big trucks on the road with limited opportunities to overtake.
The Cathedral in San Gil
What we did
Canyoning – Aoife’s solo adventure
It was between white water rafting and canyoning and I *Aoife* chose canyoning and thankfully I did as I had such a great time and also the rafting was cancelled due to water swells. The canyoning trip was in La Laja’s canyon which is 1 km long and a short 10 minute drive from the hostel. To say I was nervous was an understatement but its good to push yourself out of your comfort zone so off I went. There were two jumps, 3 meters and 8 meters, three rappels ranging from 5 to 20 meters, and walking\climbing\sliding between and into rock pools. The last jump was really high and after contemplating it for nearly 15 minutes I succumbed to a slightly lower height and finally plunged into the murky water below. Yaay! I definitely got a great adrenaline rush and often while standing on the ledge questioned why I paid to put myself through it all but I survived and loved it. The tour was with Chicamocha Hikes and cost 75,000COP and lasted about 4 hours. The guides were really good and took so many pictures and videos you don’t need to bring a camera. Once back on dry land a warm shower was needed and afterwards the group and I went to Gringo Mikes for a celebratory burger and beer. Yum!
Rappelling down a waterfall
Some tips – only bring water and small sun cream at a maximum, nothing else is really necessary. Water shoes did the job for me and most of the group, you can buy some in the market in San Gil for approx 15,000COP.
Adventure mode fully loaded
We decided to paraglide over the Chicamocha Canyon and booked this activity with Parapente through our hostel, Sam’s VIP Hostel. The cost was 170,000 and it is definitely worth it. We were collected at 8.30am and after some paperwork we headed off for the Paragliding location. There, we were introduced to all the pilots and we were giving a safety and instructions demonstration. We then started Paragliding, with the lightest people going first and there were about 8 people in the air at any one time. The views from above are amazing and the pilots even throw in some special turns towards the end! We were in the air for about 30 minutes which is more time than you normally get in other places in Colombia (e.g Medellin). Note that the Paragliding is dependent on the weather and a few days before and after we did it they got cancelled! You also have the chance to rent a GoPro for 50,000COP if you want. Aoife rented one but it was an older GoPro model and so the quality is not perfect. The handle strap broke off during Aoife’s take off but thankfully she held on!
Views of the Chicamocha Canyon
Play Tejo and Bola
Sam’s VIP Hostel offer a tejo and bola night to it’s customers every Tuesday night and it was one of our favourite activities! Tejo is a game where you throw a heavy puck like item at some clay and try and get some points. The game changer is that the clay has some gunpowder in it, and if you hit that you get an explosion! Bola is Colombia version of bowling except that the pins are much further away, and to hit them you have to throw a ball! It was all good fun (and hard), and the beers at the bar were the cheapest we have had in Colombia so far! We were having so much fun that we didn’t even get any pictures!
Walk to the Cross
We walked to the cross which overlooks the town of San Gil. This was straightforward enough, we just had to cross the bridge towards the shopping centre and start climbing uphill from there. The cross can be found behind the church. Beware that the day we did it the police arrived just before we did and started searching some guys up there. They removed them from the area so maybe this activity is not always the safest, ask ahead in your hostel!
The cross overlooking San Gil
Parque Gallineral is a natural park located in San Gil, just over the river. The park is best known for the old man beard (barbas de viejas) trees which are located everywhere, and make quite the pretty picture! Entrance to the park is 6,000COP each, and another 6,000COP if you want to swim in the swimming pool. The park is really nice, you will see some nice birds and it is a good way to pass an hour or two. There are lots of restaurants and cafes too if you fancy it! Note that the park is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays!
Aoife and some of the Barba de Viejas trees
The park is very well maintained!
A big draw for us coming to San Gil was its proximity to Barichara and the famous Camino Real hike. Check out our blog here to find out all about this hike.
El Camino Real
Other things to do in San Gil
White water rafting on Rio Fonce or Rio Suarez, bungee jump, cave exploring!
Where we stayed
We stayed in Sams VIP Hostel and it has been one of my favourite hostels in Colombia so far. The hostel is located in the main square, has a swimming pool, sells beer and can also organise all the activites for you. There are also some private rooms with a jacuzzi but we didn’t get to see them! The Tejo and Bola night on a Tuesday was a nice night out too!
- Stay in Sam’s VIP Hostel, it’s central location was perfect and the staff are really friendly!
- Ask about a bus back from Guane to Barichara BEFORE you start the Camino Real walk.
- The paragliding had some of the best views we have ever seen, do it!
- Try some burgers in Gringo Mike’s, they are so good! Aoife loved the Spicy Gringo Burger!
- Get a coffee in El Cafe and relax!
- San Gil is really cheap for food, beer and coffee. Don’t spend all your time in Gringo Mike’s, try some of the Menu del Dia’s!