6 Best things to do in San Gil

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Welcome to San Gil Colombia! A lively village that is perfect to do extreme sports, this is because San Gil is located between mountains and rough rivers. The most popular activity to do in San Gil is rafting on the Rio Suarez. San Gil is one of the best places in the world for rafting. Besides the extreme sports, San Gil has more to offer, from beautiful natural landscapes, great walks to enchanting Latin American villages. You will find it all here in “La tierra de aventura”, or “the land of adventure”.

In this article, you can read about the 6 best things to do in San Gil, where to stay, nice places to eat, and more tips for San Gil, Santander.

San Gil Barichara city

Things to do in San Gil?

San Gil itself is not big, but from this place, you can do a couple of great activities. During our stay, we did all these activities in and around San Gil and recommend popular activities like rafting but also unknown activities. Read below our 6 recommended activities to do in San Gil, Colombia.

Tip: Use the map below to see where San Gil’s best things are located. Click on the top right corner to enlarge the map. If you click on the star symbol next to the title, you can save this map to your Google Maps account. You can show or hide different categories on the map. You can use this map to navigate when you are in San Gil.

#1 Rafting in San Gil Colombia

You will likely visit San Gil to challenge yourself and enjoy the adventure San Gil has to offer. There is one activity not to be missed when you are in San Gil: rafting at Rio Suarez. Rafting in San Gil is one of the best places in the world to do this. Together with countries such as Chile, Canada, New Zealand, and Cambodia.

If you do the same tour as we did you will be picked up at your accommodation and taken to the instruction building. All preparations are made here and all the time is taken to explain everything clearly to you. It is important to know that experience is not necessary. The instructors are professional and guarantee the safety of the group.

After the instructions, you will be taken to the river and the tour will begin. During a 3-hour trip on the water, you will encounter rapids of category IV and V. This is awesome because you are paddling through rough waves and it is typical of what you expect from rafting. In addition to all the maneuvers that you have to perform and the many adrenaline boost that you get, there are also parts to relax and enjoy the environment.

We did this tour and recommend it as it surpassed all of our expectations and is professional. In addition, they are certified by the Colombian government to perform this tour on these high categories. Tours are sometimes sold on the street by agencies that are not certified, they do not take the safety measures very seriously. So pay close attention to where you book this tour. Our advice is to book the same tour as us, then you are sure to book right.

If you are traveling as a family with children, the rapids of categories IV and V may be too extreme, in this case, you can also go rafting with the family on another river with a category of III or lower. Read more information about rafting with a family here.

Keep in mind that you will be working on this activity from about 10 in the morning until 6 in the afternoon.

San Gil rafting

#2 Barichara

Barichara is often described as the most beautiful village in Colombia, and for good reason. It is a beautiful small village with impressive architecture. It is surrounded by green plains and high mountains. Walking through this village, where it seems as if time has stood still, is a joy. The nice shops and boutique restaurants ensure that Barichara should not be missed when you are in San Gil.

In Barichara you can visit many churches and different viewpoints. The best thing that you can do is to walk at Guane from the centrum, do this at the end of the day when you have seen all the important sights of Barichara. This is a great hike because you have magnificent views during the walks. Also don’t forget when you are in Guane to visit mirador Guane, from this place you can overlook the whole valley. Guane is a village that, like Barichara, has a lot of character. From Guane you can take the bus back to Barichara and/or San Gil on the square in front of the church.

How to get to Barichara: from the centrum of San Gil you can easily take a direct bus from the bus station to the center to Barichara. Buses depart every 30 minutes, travel time from San Gil to Barichara is approximately 30/45 minutes.

San Gil Barichara street

Where to stay in San Gil

Option 1 excellent value for money: Hostel Trip Monkey
We stayed at Hostel Trip Monkey and recommend it. The price-quality ratio is very good. The staff is nice and especially the atmosphere in the hostel is great. They serve excellent breakfast and it is a great place to meet other travelers.
Check price and availability for Hostel Trip Monkey here.

Option 2 quality and cozy: Hostel La Casona Don Juan
If you like to stay in a place where it is lively, Hostel La Casona Don Juan is recommended. This family hostel organizes many activities that are fun to do in the evening. In addition, the rooms are neat and it is above all a nice place to stay without having to spend a lot of money.
Check price and availability for Hostel La Cosana Don Juan here.

#3 Paragliding over Chicamocha Canyon

Paragliding over the Chicamocha Canyon is the best place in Colombia for paragliding. We did this in Medellin because at this point we didn’t know we were going to San Gil.

We spoke to many travelers in San Gil who were excited about paragliding over the Chicamocha Canyon. We were told that they were amazed by the beauty of the Chicamocha Canyon, they found it breathtaking to see nature at such a height.

Paragliding is a special experience because you are floating in the air and can enjoy the beautiful view. Take-off and landing are the most active moments because during the flight you float quietly through the air. The flight itself takes about 15 to 20 minutes. The best paragliding tour according to many travelers is this tour because everything is well arranged and most important they are qualified. In addition, they are competitively priced.

Tip: if you suffer from altitude sickness or balance organ, we advise you to take a motion sickness pill before the trip. There is a morning or afternoon group that departs from San Gil.

San Gil paragliding

#4 Caving in San Gil Colombia

From San Gil, there are two caves to visit, called Cueva de la Vaca & Cueva del Indio. We visited del Indio because we could combine this in one day with a visit to the waterfall de Juan Curi (next point more about this). It is a fun activity where you walk with a guide and swim through the cave. During the tour, you will enter large open spaces with hundreds of bats. You can only visit the caves if you don’t have problems with walking.

We did the excursion with Terra Sua. This office is located on the large village square next to the Paramo police station. You can easily get there by taking a bus from San Gil to Paramo. Upon arrival you can book a ticket for the activity, it is not necessary to book a tour for this.

San Gil caving

#5 Cascada de Juan Curi in San Gil Colombia

This is the best waterfall in the San Gil area. The waterfall is 180 meters high where you can enjoy a natural pool at the bottom. When you arrive at “Parque Ecologico Cascadas de Juan Curi” you have to hike 20 minutes before you arrive at the waterfall.

From San Gil, you can easily take a direct bus from the centrum to the waterfall. It is also possible to take a bus from Paramo (excursion cave visit Cueva del Indio). From Paramo, you have to take the bus to San Gil. Tell the bus driver you are going to Juan Curi and he will drop you off on the main road. Here you can then take the bus to Cascada de Juan Curi. This allows you to combine your visit to Cueva del Indio and Cascada de Juan Curi.

Tip: If you want to abseil at the waterfall, you can only do this in the morning, in the afternoon this is no longer possible.

San Gil Cascada de Juan Curi

#6 Zip line in San Gil

The Peñon Guane activity complex is 10 minutes away from San Gil. At this complex, you can do various activities. The most fun activity is the zipline over the Guane Gorge. This is the longest zipline in South America, awesome to do and for sure one of the best activities to do in San Gil. At high speed, you can enjoy a breathtaking view. Besides the zipline, you can also do other activities like extreme swing, human catapults, bungee jump in South America, and the highest zipline bike in the world.

From the center in San Gil, take the bus towards Barichara. Ask the bus driver to drop you off at the Peñon Guane activity complex.

What else can you do in San Gil Colombia?

In addition to all these activities, there are several activities to undertake, such as kayaking, bungee jumping, taking an adventurous trail, mountain biking, hiking, walking in the park ‘El Gallineral’. There is a lot to do in San Gil, Santander.

How many days do you need for San Gil?

We recommend staying 4 nights (5 days) in San Gil. You need this time as there is so much to see in the San Gil area and many activities also last all day. This gives you enough time to do the best activities in San Gil.

If you follow our itinerary through Colombia you can see that San Gil is not close to the other destinations. Because of this, it is not smart to stay in San Gil for a very short time. After all, you don’t want to be traveling for the most part during your trip.

Where to stay in San Gil Colombia?

After all the activities which you are likely to do in San Gil, it is important to have accommodation where you can relax. We have written down our two favorite accommodations for you. Due to their popularity, both properties are fully booked quicker than other properties in San Gil.

Excellent value for money
Hostel Trip Monkey

Hostel Trip Monkey Barichara

We stayed at Hostel Trip Monkey and recommend it. The price-quality ratio is very good. The staff is nice and especially the atmosphere in the hostel is great. They serve excellent breakfast and it is a great place to meet other travelers.

Quality and cozy
Hotel campestre Casona del Camino Real

hostel la casona don juan

If you like to stay in a place where it is lively, Hostel La Casona Don Juan is recommended. This family hostel organizes many activities that are fun to do in the evening. In addition, the rooms are neat and it is above all a nice place to stay without having to spend a lot of money.

Where to eat in San Gil?

In San Gil, you have plenty of options to choose from in terms of restaurants. We ate at Mike’s at Gringo, Penelope Pizzeria, and Meson del Arriero. All three places are close to each other and recommend.

Gringo Mike’s is our favorite place because of its location, in a small courtyard, you can sit and enjoy your evening. The menu is diverse and the food they serve is good. Our recommendation is to have one of the burgers, this is a local specialty. We ordered the blue cheese burger which we changed to the vegetarian option with black beans. Delicious combination with the caramelized onions. When ordering you can indicate whether you want a small or large portion, go for the small version because this is more than enough. A drink with a burger with fries costs about 31,000 pesos ($8.00).

Penelope Pizzeria is, as the name implies, the best place in San Gil to eat pizza or Italian dishes. We recommended their pizza. Also at this place, you sit in a nice courtyard and you can relax in the evening. We ordered the pizza with spicy peppers and if you like a little spicy food, this is also a dish for you to try. You can eat here plus a drink for 26,000 pesos ($6.70).

Finally, we recommend Meson del Arriero. This is not a fancy place but a place where the locals come. The plate is not nicely laid out, but the food they serve is extremely good. If you like something different and want to eat Colombian this is a good place. Go for the Cazuela Arriera, this is a kind of pulled pork dish with potatoes, delicious. A dish with a drink costs about 23,000 pesos ($6.00).

Do you need travel insurance for San Gil Colombia?

This answer is easy: yes for sure! In our opinion, travel insurance is extremely important. We will not travel without travel insurance. The risk that you run when something happens and you are uninsured is not manageable in amounts. Imagine that something happens when you are rafting. The costs that you ultimately have to pay are not reimbursed and can increase the 6-digit. So assure yourself to exclude eventual surprises.
We use World Nomads for all our trips. Fill in the widget below with your details to see how much it costs to insure during your trip through Colombia. Or simply open this link to book your travel insurance.

How to get to San Gil?

San Gil is best reached by bus, plane, or car. It is easiest to travel to San Gil from Santa Marta, Bogota, or Medellin.

We recommend traveling by night bus to San Gil. We took the night bus from Santa Marta to San Gil ourselves. The advantage is that you do not have to book accommodation because you are traveling at that time, plus you do not have to travel during the day, which saves a lot of time. Because San Gil is a bit further from surrounding places, it takes a few hours to get here, so we recommend using the night bus.

You can find all the transport tickets here at Bookaway. We used Bookaway to book all our bus tickets. They’re easy to use and book with, and we’ve explored the best destinations in Colombia with their busses.

If you travel to Colombia by plane and you are looking for a car to rent, you can rent it through Rentalcars. We use Rentalcars when we want to travel by car to discover new destinations. They’re easy to use and book with.

Best time to visit San Gil

Colombia has a tropical climate. Because it is close to the equator, the temperature is the same all year round and there are few temperature fluctuations. Colombia has a rainy and dry season.

The driest period is from December to February. July is the hottest month and April, May and October have the most rainfall. On average, the temperature in San Gil is 25℃ degrees, which is pleasant to travel to San Gill all year round.

Want to see more of Colombia?

From San Gil, you can visit several destinations. If you follow our Colombia itinerary, Bogota is your next destination.

In addition to Bogota, you can also travel to Medellin, or north to Cartagena, or via Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park, Minca, or Palomino. Cartagena is the city where you can see many colonial remains in the historic center. In Santa Marta you can start the lost city trek, Tayrona National Park is the most beautiful national park in Colombia, Minca is a mountain village where you can make nice hikes and Palomino is a beach destination.

What do you think of San Gil? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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