Discover the Chicamocha Canyon, the Largest Canyon in Colombia

The Chicamocha Canyon, is perhaps the best known and one of the largest canyons in Colombia, with 227 kilometers. Unique species grow there, such as the Chestnut Bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia castaneiventris), the Colombian Baobab (Cavanillesia chicamochae), and a spiny cactus, with a common name that reflects the care with which it should be explored: they call it Mother-in-law’s cushion (or Turk’s cap cactus) (Melocactus sp.).

Cavanillesia chicamochae
Colombian Baobab (Cavanillesia chicamochae)

The Chicamocha Canyon, in northeastern Colombia, attracts tons of tourists wanting to experience adventure and nature combined. Visiting the Chicamocha canyon in the department of Santander will not only leave you amazed by its majestic landscapes but will also leave you breathless for all the adrenaline you will feel practicing adventure sports along with it. 

In this post, you will find all the information you need to know before visiting the Chicamocha Canyon. How to get there, what to do therewhere to stay, the best time to visit and also some recommendations for you to make the most of your trip. 

Discovering the Chicamocha Canyon 

The department of Santander is blessed with the presence of a grand geographical accident turned into a great tourist attraction for locals and foreigners. The Chicamocha Canyon is located between Bucaramanga – the capital city, and San Gil, it specifically passes by the villages of AratocaCepitá, Los Santos, and Jordán. 

With a length of 227 km (141 mi)an area of 108,000 hectares (270,000 acres) and a maximum depth of 2,000 m (6,600 ft)the Chicamocha Canyon is the largest in Colombia and the second-largest in the world. The elevation of the terrain goes from 900 to 1900 MASL (2950 to 6200 ft), with temperatures ranging from 11°C to 32°C. 

Reportedly, it started forming in the Early Oligoceneover 30 million years ago. The vegetation in the canyon is characteristic of tropical dry forests and premontane forests. 

Because of its majesty, Chicamocha was even nominated to be part of the 7 world’s natural wonders in 2009. Additionally, the canyon keeps cultural importance since its lands were inhabited by the Guane indigenous, who left a trace in their rock art. Pictographs can still be found in the region. 

In 2006, Parque Nacional del Chicamocha -PANACHI- was inaugurated and opened to the public. It sits on one of the slopes, on the road from San Gil to Bucaramanga. 

Today, this national park is a favorite destination among Colombians since it allows visitors to enjoy the incredible landscape of the canyon in several fun waysThe activities offered in the park include paragliding over the canyon, riding the zipline that crosses from one side to the other, or canoeing along the river 

How to get to the Chicamocha National Park 

 Your starting point should be Bogotá, Bucaramanga or San Gil. 

From Bogota

Bogotá is around 330 km (205 mi) from Chicamocha National Park, which means a 7-hour drive towards the northeast of the capital along Route 45A. Otherwise, there are direct flights that take about 1 hour offered by Avianca and Viva Air. 

Whether for Bucaramanga or San Gil, you can take a bus from the transport terminals Norte or Salitre, which leave approximately every hour. 

From Bucaramanga

Bucaramanga is 54 km (33 mi) north of the Chicamocha National Park which translates into a 1-hour 20 minutes road trip. If you prefer to get first to Bucaramanga from Bogota, that will be 390 km (240 mi) – an 8.5-hour road trip. 

From San Gil

San Gil is 41 km (26 mi) from the Chicamocha National Park, so it is a shorter trip of about an hour.  But if you opt to arrive in San Gil from Bogota first, the trip duration goes down to 6 hours.

What to do in the Chicamocha National Park 


Chicamocha National Park has a 360° viewpoint on a hill which you can get to by walking or taking the Chiva – a traditional colorful bus used for transport or parties in Colombia. This is the perfect spot to capture amazing pictures to take home as a souvenir. 


You can choose to ride one of the 3 ziplines in the park. The first zipline is 450 meters long and crosses the Chicamocha canyon and river, offering stunning views. The second one (Vuelo mirador) is shorter but more extreme – you will feel more vertigo. The last one is specially designed for children 

Paragliding, one of the most popular activities in Chicamocha

You can do it in nearby villages or over the park. This, of course, will affect the price, along with the duration of the flight (usually 20-30 minutes). It is up to you.

Paragliding over adjacent villages allows you to overlook tobacco and coffee plantations in differently colored parcels of land, seeing the gorge far awayOn the other hand, paragliding over the Chicamocha canyon is an unrivaled experience, from the flight height to the views – you can even see the Nevado de Cocuy. The adrenaline shot in both cases is great. 


Another way to enjoy the landscapes of Chicamocha is by riding the cable car, which travels 6.3 km across the canyon. The tour takes between 20 to 30 minutes and each cabin has a capacity for 8 people. The journey through the canyon is one of the major attractions of tourism in Santander. 


Riding on a 15-meter swing, swinging over the immense Chicamocha canyon is one of the attractions of the park with the most adrenaline. 


The Chicamocha National Aquapark is an aquatic complex full of pools, slides, and sun. It has a capacity of up to 4,000 people. 


You can experience a kilometer of excitement by riding a track full of ups and downs in off-road carts for one or two people.  


On the 360° viewpoint, you can descend by rope a 40-meter high waterfall, but you have the option to do rappel. Everyone – from children, young and adults, can enjoy this experience that requires agility and motivation. 

Chicamocha Canyon Race

There is a trail running competition every year since 2013 held in the canyon and the surrounding villages. The Chicamocha Canyon Race is a 4-day/2-night/52-hour nonstop competition where over 800 runners of 29 nationalities participate. It starts in San Gil and passes by other 7 municipalities. 

The race consists of walking or running through the mountains, along royal paths, secondary roads, crossing streams, old bridges, etc., with technical ascents and descents. Each runner decides where to walk, run and rest, but following an established route. 

There are different distance categories (from half marathon to 100 miles). This is definitely an extreme experience only for the most daring – and fit, travelers. 

As if that weren’t enough, Chicamocha has an ice-skating rink, 4D cinema, virtual reality, ostrich, and goat farms, where you can be with the animals and feed them. 

How much it costs? 

  • Only the entrance fee to the park is 25,000 COP for adults and 18,000 for children. 
  • Park entrance fee and the cable car is 50,000 COP for adults and 32,000 COP for children. 
  • The entrance fee to the park and the aquapark is 38,000 COP for adults and 32,000 COP for children. 
  • All the attractions in the park + cable car + aquapark is 58,000 COP for adults and 43,000 COP for children. 
  • *Children under 2 years old and adults over 60 years old don’t pay. The child fee applies up to 1.40 meters tall. 

Where to stay in Chicamocha National Park 

There is no accommodation in the Chicamocha park, so you need to look for hotels in Bucaramanga or San Gil. There is one for every taste and budget. 

Best time to travel to the Chicamocha National Park 

A general recommendation is to plan your Colombian trips avoiding the high seasons, which usually go from June to early August and from November to February, also during Holy Week and long weekends. This way the park will not be as packed and the prices will be more reasonable. 

What you should consider when visiting the Chicamocha National Park 

  • The park opens Wednesday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm and weekends and holidays from 9 am to 7 pm *in the low season.
  • The cable car operates in specific hours until 1 hour before the park closes. 
  • Wear light clothes and sneakers so you are comfortable. Also, always use sunscreen and a cap/hat. 
  • Bring enough water for the day. Anyway, there are restaurants and small shops to buy snacks and drinks. 
  • Bring your swimsuit and a change of clothes if you plan to enter the aquapark. 
  • Follow strictly the safety recommendations of the adventure sports operators to avoid any injuries or incidents. 
  • Support local agencies, hotels, and tour operators. This way you contribute to sustainable development in the communities. 

This was the essential information for visiting the Chicamocha canyon in Colombia. We hope this was useful and encouraged you to visit this beautiful country! 

About the authors

Ana María Parra

Current content writer for Sula. Modern Languages professional with an emphasis on business translation. Interested in the cultural adaptation of written and audiovisual content.  Passionate about knowing new cultures and languages, tourism, and sustainable living.

Top 5 of the Best Nature Tourism Experiences in Colombia

The second most biodiverse country on the planet has incredible nature experiences for everyone. With its variety of ecosystems, from rain forests, savannas and deserts to moorlands, cloud forests and glaciers that provide water, and its system of National Natural Parks and Natural Reserves, Colombia is a great place for nature tourism. 

In this post, we will talk about the best nature experiences in Colombia. 

Exploring the Biodiverse Chocó 

In this biodiversity hotspot on the Colombian Pacific coast, you will find many options for an nature experience in Colombia

Due to the rainfall, the tropical conditions and its isolation from the Amazon basin, the Biogeographic Chocó has an outstanding diversity of fauna and flora, as well as a high level of endemism.

Nuquí, Chocó

The activity not to be missed is whale watching, which you can enjoy in Bahia Solano, Nuqui and Utria National Natural Park from July to October.

It is amazing to see groups of humpback whales migrating to the warm waters of the Pacific to mate and raise their calves.

This is also a season of turtle and bird migration, so the coasts seem to come alive. Bird watching, scuba diving, snorkelling and hiking are other nature tourism activities you can do in the wonderful Chocó.

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), Bahía Solano, Chocó

Getting lost in the Caribbean 

The Caribbean region of Colombia boasts nature, colors and joy. The white sanded beaches of the Caribbean, that merge into tropical lush forests with exotic birds and variety of other animals.

Getting lost in this landscape is one of the best nature tourism experiences you can have in Colombia.

Visiting rivers and waterfalls in Minca

Visit the Tayrona and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Natural Parks to explore the biodiverse forests and mangroves, and the highest coastal mountain in the world, of course. 

One of the best sights you can enjoy is the Lost City (or Teyuna), an ancient indigenous civilization built around 650 AD that is currently considered the greatest archaeological finding in Colombia.

You can reach Lost City after a trekking of minimum 4 days, along a trail of over 20 km and a climb of 120 steps made of stone. It is among the best trekking trails in Colombia.

Lost City – Tayrona Park, Santa Marta

As for Minca, it is a hidden village full of peace, with natural attractions such as waterfalls and rivers, and it is a great birdwatching spot.

The most northern tip of Colombia, and South America, La Guajira, is a one of its kind place. Visit the golden dunes and paradisaical beaches in Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas, the highlands of the Macuira National Natural Park and the Flamingo heaven at Los Flamencos Sanctuary.

During all your days in La Guajira, you interact with the Wayuu indigenous community, which is a rewarding experience. 

Birds of La Guajira, White Ibis – Eudocimus albus

Adventure in Santander 

If you like extreme sports, Santander is the place for you. Adventurous travelers come to this department located in the center of Colombia, north of Bogota, to enjoy paragliding, rafting, hiking, bungee jumping, buggies, rock climbing and more.

San Gil is the capital of extreme sports, in Barichara you can go hike the royal road of Lengerke and in the Chicamocha Park, you can take the zip line to cross the Chicamocha Canyon  while admiring the stunning natural  landscape. 

Learn more about the Chicamocha Canyon in our entry The Chicamocha Canyon, the 1st Largest Canyon in Colombia.

Climbing Paramos in the Andes 

You cannot say you had an nature tourism experience in Colombia if you did not hike to a paramo. Colombia is one of the 6 countries in the world with the paramo (moorland) ecosystems!

Paramos are considered water factories, since rivers that supply water and energy to nearby towns originate there.

Espeletia, Páramo at the Andean Forest

Colombian moorlands hold 98% of the world’s flora endemic to this ecosystem and the country is home to the world’s largest one, Páramo de Sumapaz. Because of this, many are protected as national parks or flora and fauna sanctuaries.  

If you are planning to visit, take into account the low temperatures, the humidity and the high altitudes -moorlands are above 2600 m (8530 ft) ASL.  


Is close to Bogota, to the south, so it is perfect for a day trip. The Muisca indigenous people deemed this place a sacred spot and it boasts wildlife, including deer, tapirs, coatis, golden eagles and the typical moorland plant: frailejones. Don’t miss its several lagoons, the Verjon bats cave and the Buenos Aires viewpoint.  

Chingaza National Park

This is an important natural reserve for the center of the country, as it provides around 80% of the capital and nearby municipalities water supply. There are 6 hiking trails and 3 viewpoints for you to discover the life hidden in the Andean forests and moorlands.

It is possible to see condors, eagles, the unique Spectacled bear and deer. Chingaza also has a lagoon system of about 20 lagoons, including Laguna de Siecha. Prefer hiring local guides and remember to file a request at least 15 days before your trip to the park. 


This páramo is known as ‘Colombia’s most beautiful paramo’. It is located in Boyacá and remains well-preserved, since it is not visited as much as the other moorlands.

Páramo de Ocetá

Ocetá has a dazzling variety of flora, including silver, yellow and white frailejones, yellow senecios, violet lupins and tons of liquens and moss. It is also a place to see the national bird of Colombia, the Andean condor.

The Stone City, a rocky zone with alleys enclosed by 15-meter high stone walls is the number one attraction.  


Puracé is the only active volcano of the Coconucos volcanic range, in the department of Cauca. It is a National Natural Park and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

In this mountain, 4 main rivers in Colombia have its source (the Magdalena, Cauca, Patía and Japurá), and you can also enjoy almost 30 clear lagoons and sulfur hot springs.

You can hike along several trails and probably spot the Andean condor -Puracé is actually a privileged spot to see them. Also, this is an ancient indigenous territory. 


It is a sanctuary for flora and fauna in Boyacá, near Villa de Leyva. Like many territories in Colombia, Iguaque is sacred for an indigenous community, the Muiscas.

According to their mythology, the Iguaque Lagoon was the cradle of humanity, as the goddess Bachue emerged from it to populate the earth. Its glacier lagoons provide water for nearby towns and the local wildlife.

Laguna de Iguaque, Sanctuary of Fauna and Flora Iguaque, department of Boyacá, Colombia. © Creative Commons

Having a real nature tourism experience means to connect with nature truly and here, you will be able to cleanse your soul and purify your spirit surrounded by nature. 

Visit our entry Discover the Natural Attractions of Villa de Leyva, Colombia to find more about Iguaque and Villa de Leyva natural attractions. 

Bike Tourism in Quindío 

A new nature tourism project in Colombia was launched at Vitrina Turística Anato 2020: a bike tour through the Central Andes range between south of Quindio and north of Valle del Cauca.

At least 200 km (124 mi) can be cycled by tourists interested in nature, community and adventure tourism. The road includes the municipalities of Calarca, Buenavista, Pijao, Cordoba, Genova (Quindio), and Sevilla and Caicedonia (Valle).

Bike tours in Colombia

The idea, funded by the local and the Suiss government, the municipalities and the Chambers of Commerce, aims to diversify the tourist corridor of the Coffee Cultural Landscape.

In this way, tourists can enjoy different activities such as hiking, jeep Willys rides, wildlife observation, adventure, cultural and historical experiences, and even yoga. 


Of course these are not the only nature tourism experiences in Colombia. There are plenty more destinations for nature tourism in the country, each of the 6 natural regions boast amazing settings for tourists to travel consciously and connect with the environment. Experiences such as exploring the great Amazon basin or traveling the Eastern Plains cannot be set aside.

About the author.

Ana María Parra

Modern Languages professional with emphasis on business translation. Interested in cultural adaptation of written and audiovisual content.  Passionate about knowing new cultures and languages, tourism and sustainable living.