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A Complete Guide to San Gil, Colombia

San Gil Colombia
San Gil

Adventure sports Meets Tejo Bars in San Gil, Colombia

San Gil is a simple town in the eastern state of Santander and it’s the adventure sports capital of Colombia. The price for most activities is reasonable and the safety standards are high. A visit to San Gil isn’t just about adventure sports as you can also day trip to the country’s most beautiful town.

San Gil isn’t the prettiest town, but it’s certainly an authentic one. Restaurants and accommodation are basic and there isn’t much nightlife here, but one thing it does have to offer is tejo. The awesome sport of drinking beer and tossing stones at targets full of gun powder that explode on contact.

Related: A Complete Guide to Medellín

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How to Get There

There are regular buses from Bogotá that take around 8 hours. If you’re coming from Villa de Leyva, you’ll need to take a bus to Tunja before taking a bus to San Gil.

Bookaway is a great resource that allows you to compare the prices of both buses and flights, and secure your seat in advance!

What to Do

Paragliding – Paragliding is probably the most popular adventure sport in San Gil. 200,000 Colombian pesos (COP) will get you a 30-minute flight over the Chicamocha Canyon. 

Chichamocha Canyon
Chicamocha Canyon

Bungee Jumping – Conquer your fear of heights with a 70-meter jump above the Rio Fonce. Colombia Bungee is a reputable company with awesome staff. It’s affordable at only 80,000 COP for a jump and photos/video. 

Related: A Complete Guide to the Lost City Trek

Tejo Tuesdays – Every Tuesday night Macondo Hostel hosts a tejo night, even for those who don’t stay at the hostel. Few things pair better than drinking beer and gunpowder explosions. You cannot leave Colombia without playing tejo.

Day trip to Barichara – Many Colombians say Barichara is the country’s most beautiful town. There is not a lot to do in Barichara, but its authenticity and beauty will enamor you. The 40-minute bus ride costs 6,000 COP and leaves from the San Gil terminalito at quarter to and quarter past each hour.

Barichara
Barichara

The best activity is walking the Camino Real from Barichara to Guane, which starts at the corner of Calle 4 and Calle 1. The landscape along the 5 km trail is incredible. It takes almost 2 hours, and you can either walk back to Barichara, take a moto-taxi, or wait for the bus. You can walk across Guane in about 5 minutes, and I only saw one restaurant, so I suggest eating a hearty breakfast. It’s a few degrees warmer in Barichara than in San Gil because of the lower altitude, so it’s best to do the hike before the midday heat.

I was very impressed by the restaurants in Barichara. After the hike, treat yourself to a coffee and brownie at Nona’s Panadería. Independencia has scenic views, delicious regional food, and the best juice I’ve ever had (only 25,000 COP total). El Puntal serves a huge plate of bandeja paisa that is enough for two people. 

San Gil Colombia
Bandeja Paisa from El Puntal

Cerro de la Cruz – San Gil’s best viewpoint is only a short walk from the city center. If you want to see more of the town, you can walk a loop that ends at the viewpoint. Start from the plaza and walk up Calle 12 to the highest road, then head left and you will reach the end of the town shortly.

From there you descend, then cross the bridge and head towards Cerro de la Cruz. The whole loop takes about 90 minutes and I recommend heading down from the viewpoint before dark. Unfortunately, it’s a gathering point for some shady characters. 

Rafting – If you’re looking for some action, Rio Suárez has intense level 5 rapids. It’s best to go with Colombia Rafting as they are the most reputable in town. The price is 200,000 COP.

Related: 15 Important Things to Know Before Visiting Colombia

Juan Curi Waterfall – Most visitors come here to rappel the waterfall for 70,000 COP. If you’re not interested in that, then this waterfall isn’t anything special. You can take the bus to Charalá from the terminalito for 6,000 COP and ask the get off at the cascadas. Oddly, they asked for my passport to buy the ticket, so bring a copy to be safe. The bus leaves at the top of each hour and takes 40 minutes. 

Where to Eat

Penelope Pizzeria – The hostel owner insisted this is the best pizza in Colombia, and I can’t disagree with him.

Gringo Mike’s – Quality burgers and typical American appetizers and desserts. 

Balcón Sangileño – The food isn’t spectacular, but it’s reliable and one of the few places open for lunch during the week. 

La Bodeguita – A solid choice for coffee and empanadas before a long day of rafting or paragliding.

Where to Stay

Sam’s VIP Hostel – This is the best place to stay in town. The owner is a great guy and will set you up with all the activities in San Gil at a fair price. Dorms are incredibly cheap and they have a rooftop pool as well. In case there’s no availability, check out their sister hostel, La Mansion.

How Long to Stay

3 days is enough time in San Gil to enjoy the best adventure activities in Colombia and make the day trip to Barichara.

Where to Next

Villa de Leyva (7 hours by bus via Tunja) – A colonial town known for its 125 million-year-old dinosaur fossil and Andalusian architecture.

Bogotá (8 hours) – Capital city with great museums, the country’s tallest waterfall, and one of the most iconic nightclubs in the Americas.

Medellín (12 hours via Bucaramanga) – Renowned for its nightlife, the city of eternal spring is also known for its history surrounding Colombia’s drug cartels.

Lost City Trek (15 hours) – Hike through the jungle to a Tairona city abandoned over the fear of Spanish diseases.

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