An adventure-sports hotspot, SAN GIL is one of the biggest backpacker draws in northern Colombia. The compact town is a premier destination for white-water rafting and paragliding, as well as other outdoorsy activities that take place in the surrounding countryside, and also for day-trips to quiet colonial Barichara. For those craving a spot of culinary adventure, fried hormigas culonas, or fat-bottomed ants, a Santander delicacy, can be bought from a few places around town including the market and the street by the river.
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San Gil’s main attractions lie outside town, but if you want a quiet moment in between adventures, make your way to the large riverside Parque El Gallineral, its trees atmospherically festooned with tendrils of “old man’s beard” moss. There’s a natural spring-fed swimming pool, and the entrance fee gets you a wristband that means you can go in and out of the park all day. To get here, head to the river and turn left along the Malecón to its end.
Adrenaline junkies are spoilt for choice by the array of adventure sports on offer in San Gil. There are two main white-water rafting routes: a hair-raising day-trip down the Class IV/V (depends on the season) Río Suarez costs about COP$130,000, while a more sedate half-day on the Río Fonce is COP$35,000. Abseiling down the Juan Curí waterfalls will set you back COP$40,000, or you can take flight with a tandem paraglide (COP$65,000–175,000 depending on location). Spelunkers have the choice of several caves to explore (around COP$25,000). Other sporty options include kayaking, horseriding and extreme mountain biking.
Cascadas de Juan Curí
For a spectacular swim in a natural pool at the base of a 180m-high waterfall, or to abseil down its face Adventure sports, take a trip out of town to the Juan Curí waterfalls. Take a bus to Charalá (30min) from Calle 10 on the east side of the bridge, and ask to be let off at the Las Cascadas sign. From here it’s a 25-minute walk to the waterfalls along either of the two trails.
Parque Nacional del Chichamocha
About an hour from San Gil on the road to Bucaramanga, Colombia’s newest national park holds a collection of tacky, forgettable attractions situated next to a beautiful canyon. The teleférico, a cable car which runs down into the canyon and over to the other side, is the best way to get sweeping views. You can also watch the scenery whizz by at much higher speed while hurtling along a zipline, or get a bird’s-eye view by paragliding above the valley, though it is far more expensive than at Curiti, which is nearer town.