The Adventure’s and Extreme Sports’ Capital of Colombia: San Gil
San Gil is known as the “Tourist Capital of Santander”, as you will find adventure experiences and the possibility of extreme sports.
During your stay in San Gil you will learn about the history of the brave Guane tribe, which in the past inhabited these lands giving origin to the mestizaje (i.e. Miscegenation).
The town was founded in 1689 under the name of “Muy Noble y Leal Villa de Santa Cruz y San Gil de la Nueva Baeza” in the department of Santander, 103 kms from Bucaramanga capital of the department, and 300 kms from Bogota, capital of Colombia.
Below you will find the necessary information you need to make the most of your visit to San Gil.
Exploring San Gil, Santander, Colombia
Among the wonders you can find in San Gil are the Fonce, Suarez and Mogoticos rivers, as well as caves, waterfalls, trails, natural spas and parks, where you will explore and enjoy yourself to the fullest.
In fact, San Gil has cobblestone streets and gardens that decorate the landscape around the ceiba tree in the center of the town park. The historic center of San Gil, dates from the seventeenth century, and is declared a National Monument of Colombia.
It also has an average temperature of 21°C (69º F), making it a pleasant climate for tourists.
San Gil is only 32 km far from Barichara. So you can visit Barichara for a day trip and then return to San Gil in the evening. Know more about Barichara in our entry 9 Plans You Cannot Miss in Barichara.
Extreme and adventure sports in Colombia
San Gil is the pioneer city of extreme and adventure sports in Colombia. In 1996 it began the commercial operation of rafting being the only destination in the country at that time.
There you can practice various extreme and adventure sports such as rafting, canoeing-rafting, torrentism, paragliding, caving, rappelling, canyoning, bungee jumping, mountain biking and motocross, among others.
It has the endowments of nature in areas such as waterfalls, rivers, natural caves, mountains and the great Chicamocha Canyon located just an hour from San Gil.
How to Get to San Gil
To get to San Gil by air from the main cities of Colombia (Bogota, Barranquilla, Medellin or Cali) you must take a commercial flight to the city of Bucaramanga.
Once in Bucaramanga, take an approximately 2,5-hours ride to San Gil.
If you want to travel by land to San Gil, be ready for a 309 km and approximately 7 hours road trip from Bogotá.
Natural Attractions and Activities in San Gil
1. El Gallineral Nature Park
El Gallineral is the only Natural Park within an urban perimeter in Colombia. It is a beautiful island formed by two branches of the Curití stream at the junction with the Fonce River.
The vegetation with heliconias and other wild flowers, its beautiful trees with hanging mosses create a paradise full of exotic landscapes. There are also cobblestone paths and colonial bridges which invite the visitor to walk and enjoy its fresh and romantic atmosphere.
At the Playita de la Piedra del Pato you can also enjoy the viewpoint where you can see the sailors passing by in the boats living the adventure of rafting.
It has a territorial extension of 4 hectares, where you will have the opportunity to go rafting on the Fonce River, hike through the caves La Antigua and El Alumbre, and visit the beautiful Pozo Azul.
The great variety of fauna and flora, is summarized in some species such as: Kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra), fig tree, heliconias, bromeliads and anthuriums.
Not to mention that the park is an ideal place for birdwatchers, with birds such as the Niceforo’s Wren (Thryophilus nicefori), Chestnut-bellied hummingbird (Amazilia castaneiventris), Amazonian motmot (Momotus momota), among many others.
The Gallineral Park is located next to the Fonce River boardwalk, following the right side of the road that leads from Bogota to Bucaramanga, less than 300 meters from the Rojas Pinilla Bridge. It is one of the most beautiful and attractive regional nature reserves in the country.
Inside the park you will find a restaurant, cafeteria, crafts and fun in the middle of nature.
2. Juan Curi Ecological Waterfall Park
The ecological park Cascadas de Juan Curí is located at kilometer 22 via San Gil – Charalá, in the department of Santander.
It is run by a family dedicated to adventure tourism, offering lodging services, restaurant, ecological hikes, horseback riding, rafting and parking.
It stands out in the region for being a leader in the implementation of ecological activities, adventure and environmental awareness, without breaking with the environment, becoming known as one of the most sustainable places in the region.
There are waterfalls and a virgin jungle. Its main attraction is a large waterfall that exceeds 200 meters high. There you will be an interactive part of all its beauty and enjoy a refreshing swim in a natural well of more than 2 meters deep.
3. Guane Archaeological and Anthropological Museum of San Gil
Here you will have the opportunity to see a sample of the Guane ethnic group as well as walk through the corridors of the colonial house museum.
The museum is located in an old building. The cover is in stone, and it has two halls of a single plant. The building is made of brick, wood, cane and tile roof, and has large rooms. Its walls are white, painted with lime, and the floor is dark red tile.
Among the conservation samples are archaeological remains, sculptures, textiles and rock art made with colored earth. The most important objects are the young indigenous mummy, three unique jaguar cups, and fossils of fish, wood and giant ammonites.
4. Chicamocha National Park
The Chicamocha National Park is 60 km from San Gil, 1.5 hours by car. It is formed by several squares, where the spaces of the daily life of Santander are represented.
It is the second largest canyon in the world and has been nominated to be part of the 7 wonders of Colombia.
Know more about this park in our entry Discover the Chicamocha Canyon, the Largest Canyon in Colombia.
5. Paragliding at the Chicamocha Canyon
The flight takes place very close to the Chicamocha National Park. It is possible to reach heights of more than 2,000 m. If you are lucky with the right weather conditions you can enjoy beautiful landscapes such as the immensity of the canyon, mountains, the Chicamocha River that meets the Suarez River and Fonce River.
The average time for this activity is 20 to 30 minutes depending on weather conditions.
6. Trekking in San Gil
This is one of the most popular activities in San Gil, it is perfect to connect with nature on the road to Pinchote. In this trail you will find rappel, canyoning and mountaineering.
There is a 30-meter long suspension bridge 10 meters high, and an extreme staircase of 23 m. You will finish the trekking circuit with the second phase of the 225 m long cable flight until you reach a beautiful Kiosk.
7. Speleology at Vaca and Indio Caves
San Gil has 2 important caves that you can visit: Vaca and Indio.
The cueva Vaca is one of the jewels for caving in Colombia. In the cave you will cross cold water wells, watch bats and giant vaults. There you will be able to observe the formation of concave rocks such as stalactites and stalagmites, natural phenomena related with caves.
The Cueva del Indio is a magical subway place created over the years, where you can observe the beautiful rocky monuments known as stalactites and stalagmites. After crossing several obstacles along the way and connecting with the deepest part of the cave, the tour ends with a 3-meter jump into a well of icy water.
8. Rafting in the Suarez River
If you are a lover of adrenaline, nature and extreme experiences the Suarez river is ideal, as it can reach class v rapids, becoming one of the most visited places for rafting by travelers during their journey through South America.
This activity has an average of 2 hours of navigation on the Suarez river reaching iii, iv and v degrees.
9. San Gil Bicycle Tour
It is a tour of 15 km, with a duration of 5 hours and a medium-high degree of difficulty. Throughout the bike tour you will be surrounded by farms, coffee plantations, fruits and lots of nature.
10. Bungee Jumping in San Gil
Only 2 kilometers away via San Gil – Charalá, you will have the opportunity to go for bungee jumping on a metal structure 70 meters high over the waters of the Fonce river.
Find out more about extreme sports in Colombia in our vlog The Coolest Extreme Sports in Colombia – Colombian Travel Guide.
Where to Stay in San Gil
Most of the hotels can be found in the center of town. We recommend Campanario Hotel Boutique, La Mansion Hostel, Palmas del Zamorano, and Sunset Palm Lodge.
About the author
Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.