I recently had the opportunity to visit San Gil, Santander. It is located to the north of Tunja, Boyaca and south of Bucaramanga, which is the capital of Santander. It isn’t the most beautiful town in the country, but it does offer many attractions, various commercial activities, and the surrounding area is filled with breathtaking natural beauty.
In this post, I´ll describe San Gil, where you can stay, and what you can do and eat when you arrive.
There are more than 99 hotels in this town, they are all tucked away along the streets. Some barely visible until you walk in front and see the sign “Hotel”. They are not all advertised online, some are very nice and affordable. Its actually really hard to make the right decision and find the best room, cause there’s so many to pick from! Luckily, I found an excellent room that was recently renovated, with a double bed, wifi, private bathroom, refrigerator, and big screen TV for only 30 thousand pesos per night. Their contact details are below.
With a year-round temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit(22 C) its no wonder so many Santanderianos love their home and so many foreigners have decided to make San Gil there permanent place of residence.
Warm and Friendly People
The people of Santander are known around the country as having the worst attitudes of all Colombians, but I don’t find this to be true at all. Maybe if you piss them off or screw with them, they will get really angry, but anyone will get pissed when provoked. In my experience, Los Santanderianos are very friendly, helpful in giving directions, and offer a good service to visitors with a warm smile.
The Main Park
The main park in front of the church is always full of activity. Street vendors selling street food and other goods. Little kids and dogs running around having fun. And tons of people sitting on the benches talking to each other and watching the time go by.
It has a very old world traditional feel to it. Despite the fact that everyone is connected to their phones, they still take the time to socialize and relax, young and old alike.
When you arrive in town you should look for some Hormigas Culonas, which translates into English as fat-ass ants. They are roasted with the legs removed. They are a well-known aphrodisiac and very tasty snack.
This is probably the best tasting arepa in Colombia, maybe in the world. An arepa is a flat round food made of ground corn. Its similar to a Mexican style corn tortilla, but its thicker and filled with different ingredients, like egg or cheese. Usually, they are too dry and sweet for my taste, but the ones from Santander are hearty and delicious. They are made from freshly ground corn, are very moist, and can be eaten as a healthy snack food.
This town has a wide selection of delicious and cheap drinks.
Fresh juices of many exotic fruit flavors like mango, banana, pineapple, papaya, orange, mandarin, lemon, kiwi, raspberry, strawberry, tree tomato, guayaba, maracuya, guanabana, uchuva, and a bunch of others that I can’t remember right now.
Masato, which is a sweet fermented rice drink.
Avena, a cold refreshing oatmeal drink.
Plus, plenty of ice cream, frozen yogurt, and beer.
You will notice as soon as you arrive posters and local shops advertising services of the adrenaline variety. Bungee jumping, paragliding, white water rafting, cave diving, hiking, trekking, and lots of other sports. There’s a wide range of adventures to be had on the outskirts of town. San Gil has been the base of all the action for a long time, they are the adventure pioneers of the country. People visit from all over the world to take advantage of this fact. San Gil boasts the highest bungee jump in Colombia, its over 70 meters.
Below, you´ll find various tour agencies to pick from.
Nearby Sites to Visit:
This is one of the most beautiful towns in the country. It is very well maintained and clean. It’s about a half an hour ride from San Gil. The stone roads and buildings of a brown orangish color are very appealing with a colonial look. The mirador(overlook) is stunning with a panoramic view of the vast valley. Barichara is one of the most romantic destinations in the country, with plenty of hiking, fine dining and boutique hotels to choose from.
There’s also a hiking trail which takes 2-3 hours to another even smaller town known as Guane.
Many foreigners are visiting and moving into this area, with that comes the international restaurants, coffee shops, and a wide variety of artworks and crafts to buy.
Besides Barichara there are numerous other towns in the region that are equally beautiful and worth visiting.
The Chicmocha canyon is one of the most rugged and extreme parts of the country. A 6-kilometer long cable car system(which is one of the longest in the world) crosses over the expanse of the canyon. Mountain climbing, spelunking, fishing, rafting, paragliding, and zip lining can all be experienced in this spectacular canyon. There is much to see and do in Chicamocha!
Wrapping it Up
San Gil has its own unique charm, hard-working locals, awesome weather, and for those into sports of the extreme variety, you won’t know which to choose from!
Have you ever been to San Gil, Santander, how was your experience?
We´d love to hear from you!
Below are some photos and local contact information:
Photos of San Gil, Santander
Local Contacts of San Gil
Hotel Houston Plaza 88
A great hotel with 30 rooms, work/sitting areas, centrally located, with modern and affordable rooms
Cels: 311 545-4881 – 313 811-8472
Nice little centrally located hotel
Cel: 312 377-9222
La Posada Familiar
Nice hotel in an old home with a garden
Cel: 301 370-1323
Exploracion Colombia Guides
Offering tours and activities all around the region
Cel: 320 308-1769
Another company offering tours and classes in the area
Cel: 316 821-0852
Rios y Canoas Colombia
With more than 20 years of experience, Rios y Canoas offer all kinds of adventure options
Cels: 301 289-2900 – 320 869-2539