Best places to visit in Santander, Colombia Uncover Colombia


April 17, 2024, 5:41 pm

Located within the Andes mountain, Santander is a department in Colombia that is renowned for being a destination for outdoor lovers and adrenaline junkies. The region is surrounded by an assortment of steep mountains, winding rivers, roaring waterfalls and deep canyons. This incredibly diverse background is perfect for high-intensity sports such as paragliding, white-water rafting and hiking. However, if you prefer a slower way to travel, you will not be left out here as the rustic charms of the nearby villages such as Barichara and Gaitan are idyllic places to discover the culture and history of the region. In this article, we will share with you the best things to do in Santander. 

The Green Capital Of Santander: Bucaramanga

The departmental capital city of Santander is Bucaramanga and is known as the ‘City of Parks’ for the incredibly high number of green areas dotted throughout the city. If you like to spend time in the outdoors while also enjoying the rich culture of a place, you will find immense satisfaction in Bucaramanga. Noteworthy parks include Parque Centenario and Parque Garcia Rovira, which hold deep historical significance for the region and its people. The city is also home to a large number of museums, theatres and cultural landmarks, which is no surprise when you learn that South America’s most famous liberator, Simon Bolivar, lived here for two months. It is possible to visit the mansion he lived in while here alongside other notable venues such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Teatro Coliseo Peralta. One of the standout activities to take part in while in Bucaramanga is paragliding. Climb to the top of one of the many peaks and take off, admiring the beautiful landscape from the sky. A truly once in a lifetime, exhilarating experience. 

The Colonial Town By Excellence: Barichara

Barichara is the charming and rustic town by excellence, home to cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings with red-riled roofs and colourful shutters. It is no wonder that is has been named the ‘prettiest town in Colombia’. The town offers a unique charming, colonial and romantic atmosphere that makes for the perfect place to stop and photograph during your trip. You might even bump into some famous telenovela actors and actresses as Barichara is known for being a popular filming spot for these thanks to its picturesque setting.

The town is also a great place to immerse yourself in local culture as there are many artisan shops here. Why not try some regional specialities too, such as the hormigas culonas (big-bottomed ants), a popular delicacy of the region. Barichara is also the start of the El Camino Real hike, a two-hour winding trail that leads to the town of Guane and crosses over beautiful landscape and scenery. This ancient stone-paved road was built by the indigenous Guane people centuries ago and the fossils embedded into the road is a testament to that. For the hardier of travellers, the hike continues on to other small towns such as Villanueva, Cañon de Chimocha and Mesa de los Santos. 

The Majestic Parque Nacional Chicamocha

Known to the locals as Panachi, Parque Nacional Chicamocha is home to the impressive Chicamocha Canyon through which the Chicamocha River flows. To get the most out of this park, you should hop onto the 6.3km long teleférico that descends all the way to the base of the canyon and then goes back up, taking visitors back to the top to admire the impressive view from the rim of the canyon. Here, you will be able to try out activities such as ziplining and the extreme swing as the park doubles up as a small amusement park. It is a fun experience and a great activity to take part in for an afternoon. 

A Haven For Outdoor Enthusiasts In San Gil

San Gil is the place to go for adrenaline junkies as it is considered the ‘Adventure Capital of Colombia’. The surrounding landscape of San Gil is made up of deep canyons, waterfalls, tall mountains and incredible rapids. All of these parts come together to create the most exhilarating experience. Activities such as paragliding, rafting, bungee jumping and even sky diving are standard here. White water rafting is especially popular in San Gil due to the three rivers that are located around the city. Rio Suarez is the most renowned of the three stretching over 20km with lots of meanders and troughs. It will take between 2 to 3 hours to complete and promises a heart-pumping experience for the experienced rafter. 

However, if none of these activities are for you, there is still lots to experience in this tiny but impressive town. Nature-lovers will be pleased to know that there are many hiking trails surrounding the town, such as treks to the Curití Waterfall and Parque Gallineral. Parque Gallineral, in particular, is a peaceful place to visit, and not many people venture here. Stretching across 4-hectares, there are lots to admire in terms of flora and fauna, with many of the trees dating centuries back.

A Hikers Dream In Mesa De Los Santos

On the side of the Chicamocha canyon lies the town of Los Santos. Situated on an elevated plateau, this small town is home to many coffee plantations that showcase the history of coffee in Colombia. The area is also a prime birdwatching location, with birds such as the azulejo Palmero and tángara real amongst some of the most popular species in the area. Thanks to its closeness to the mountains, it is also an excellent place for rock climbing, with over 200 different climbing routes for beginners and advanced climbers alike to try their hands at.  

Uncover The Secrets Of Colombia: Tours And Expeditions

At Uncover Colombia, we have created bespoke tours that will take guests to the must-visit destinations and places in Colombia but also to the hidden, off the beaten areas that only locals and those in the know are aware of. We make sure to provide a well-rounded experience for all so as to get to the core of Colombia and its incredible culture.

Our Colonial Towns Tour takes you from Bogota to Cartagena via the beautiful colonial towns dotted across the way. It is a unique opportunity to interact with locals and learn about the ancient traditions passed on from one generation to the next. During this tour, you will get to spend time with locals in Cartagena to learn about their traditions, history and cuisine. 

  • Travel back in time with a visit to Villa de Leyva and its beautiful Terracotta House or admire the beautiful architecture of Barichara before setting off to learn how to fish in La Boquilla. We take care of all the details to ensure a well-rounded and informative tour. 

For those more interested in visiting the outskirts of Colombia, our rural life tour is the perfect introduction to this fascinating part of the country. 

  • This tour will take you through the Eastern Plains of Colombia, horseback riding through the savannahs while staying on a traditional ranch. 
  • There are plenty of opportunities to admire the local flora and fauna with a wide variety of animals such as capybaras, caimans and monkeys living in the region. 
  • Colombia is famous for its coffee; therefore, an important part of any trip here is a visit to a local coffee plantation. We at Uncover Colombia make sure to take you to some of the local farms where you will be able to learn about the coffee cultivation process. 
  • From identifying ripe coffee to harvesting and drying the beans, you will become quite the coffee connoisseur. 

We also put a lot of emphasis on meeting the local inhabitants; we believe it such an important part of visiting a destination to be able to mingle and learn about the culture of a place. 

  • Throughout our tours, we make sure that visitors get to spend time with Colombian natives, learning about their history and traditions. During our rural life tour, you will be able to meet “Llaneros”, which is the name given to people from this region who specialise in cattle farming and agriculture. 
  • It is through the sharing of stories and ideas that we create a sense of comradery and lasting memories. 

With a varied landscape and climate, the Santander region is a place for travellers looking for something other than a relaxing time by the beach. It is a place that is meant to be experienced and which will leave you with lasting memories of your time here. Having spent a couple of days experiencing the multitude of experiences on offer and falling in love with the beautiful architecture and landscape of the region, you will, without a doubt, fall in love with this small but action-packed area of Colombia. 

If you have any questions, do get in touch with us as we would be thrilled to discuss the many ways to include Santander in your trip to Colombia. 


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Alexandra Coeln

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Colombia Colonial Towns Tour

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Andes and Eastern Plains Exploration

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