While Santander, a department in the northeast part of Colombia and close to the Venezuelan border, is known as “the land of adventure” in Colombia, and does offer a wide array of adventure activities and excursions, it’s also a department full of history, and beautiful natural landscapes. If you’re contemplating the idea of or have already decided to travel to this incredible Colombian department, here are some recommendations of places to visit during your tour in Santander.
Most likely, especially if you’re arriving by plane, your first stop in Santander will be Bucaramanga, the capital of this Colombian department. As the biggest city in Santander, Bucaramanga can offer you many interesting and exciting things to do.
In the “university city” of Colombia, as it’s known, you a can visit the Museo Casa de Bolivar, a house-turned-museum where the famous South American liberator Simón Bolívar stayed for two months, visit Colombia’s own Sagrada Familia church, and take strolls through the plethora of parks scattered about the city. You can also find a choice selection of typical regional restaurants and shopping venues here. If you’re looking to explore more of Santander, you’ll also find the biggest bus station in the department in Bucaramanga.
Perhaps the best known town in Santander, to many Colombians, is the small and colonial town of Barichara. Barichara lies a mere 2.5 hours outside the Santanderian capital city of Bucaramanga, but couldn’t be more different. Barichara has been deemed “the prettiest town in Colombia,” and offers a unique charming, colonial, and romantic atmosphere. When visiting this picturesque little town, make sure you check out the local artisan shops, try some hormigas culonas (giant ants)-a regional specialty, visit the Cathedral of the Immaculate, and climb to the Church of Santa Barbara, located at the top of a hill overlooking the town.
If you’re looking for blow-you-away natural beauty, then Parque Nacional Chicamocha is the perfect place for you to spend some time. Located about 50km from Bucaramanga and established in 2006, this national park contains the impressive and majestic Chicamocha Canyon through which the Chicamocha River flows. To take in the incredible beauty of this natural wonder, you can take a cable car or zipline across the canyon or even take in a panoramic view from the seat of a giant swing or dune buggy as you ride across the mountains.
Located about 100km from Bucaramanga, and only about 25km from Barichara, is the small and quaint town of San Gil. While a tad bit bigger than Barichara, San Gil still conserves a small colonial town atmosphere. In San Gil, like many parts of Santander, you’ll find a variety of nature and outdoor activities such as bike riding, hiking, and guided walks through nature trails. Some of the most popular nature-focused activities in San Gil include treks to the Curití Waterfall, visits to Parque Gallineral (a beautiful nature reserve located close to the city centre), and white water rafting along the Rio Suarez (Suarez River) or Rio Fonce (Fonce River).
We hope you find these recommendations useful when planning your tour to this incredible region of Colombia.
The Uncover Colombia Team
- Colombia: Land of Adventure (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Natural Parks in Colombia: Part I (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Rural Tourism in Colombia (www.uncovercolombia.com)