San Gil

The land of adventure sports

Onwards from Palomino (and the disaster of trying to get into Parque Tayrona) Jen, Autumn and I took a 10 hour night bus from Santa Marta to Bucaramanga. It was a restless, in-and-out-of-sleep kind of night but we saved a bit of money by not having to pay for a hostel that night and saved gave ourselves an extra day to enjoy beautiful Santander.

Bucaramanga is known as the city of parks because of its proximity to many national parks. We didn’t see any of Bucaramanga, instead continuing two hours further south to the municipality of San Gil. I had read a few blogs that suggested the town, and I was eager to get there and see what the hype was about.

San Gil has built itself up as a capitol for adventure sports. Reading about paragliding was one of the reasons I really wanted to visit, but there’s a lot more on offer. Take your pick of hiking, mountain biking, caving, waterfall rappelling, white water rafting, kayaking, ziplining… the list goes on.

Our accommodations in San Gil definitely rank among my favorite lodgings of anywhere I’ve ever travelled. La Pacha is a “glamping” site about 20 minutes outside the main town, easily accessible by bus. It’s run by a sweet British-Colombian couple who are happy to help with any activity planning you’d like to do. We stayed in their 3-person eco-dome (which led to me making the pun “dome sweet dome” every time we entered the thing. But it really was my dome away from home, and they do say dome is where the heart is… okay, puns done now) which was spacious and the beds were comfy, with plenty of blankets for the cool nights. La Pacha is on the side of a hill with a gorgeous green valley view. It has a lovely farm vibe; vegetables patches and goats and compost outdoor toilets, it was all very charming.  At night we saw a million stars crowded into the sky, I had no idea there were so many.

The day we arrived was my favorite. We unpacked and headed right out again after lunch to go white water rafting. We chose the less intense version and I’m glad we did. It reminded me of some of the rafting I’ve done in the Poconos of Pennsylvania, mostly calm water but with just enough “rapids” to make it exciting. We all went swimming a few times, but I fell off/was pulled off the boat a few more times than most people in our group. I was smiling the entire trip, it was so much fun!

river rafting

Day 2 in San Gil was definitely one of the most memorable. That was the day we went paragliding. It was a tiny bit pricey, $170,000 COP each, but the view was incredible and the flight amazingly peaceful. The instructors do all the work and as a passenger you can just sit back and enjoy the view of the canyon below. My instructor was named Jesus and he could tell I was nervous before take-off, he did a great job calming my fears when he told me he’d been doing this for 23 years. The 25 minutes in the air felt like a blink, I wanted to stay up there all day. A can’t-miss if you’re visiting Santander.

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Our last few hours before a bus to Bogotá were spent in the charming town of Barichara. A lovely organic lunch and some souvenir window-shopping in the picturesque little pueblo.

Oh Santander, I love you. I will definitely be back!

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