Visiting the Santander Department of Colombia

The Department of Santander is located due east of Antioquia and Medellin or north of Bogota. The largest city in Santander is Bucaramanga, and the region is famous for its natural wonders and a number of charming little towns.

The Department of Santander is often one of the highlights of many people’s travels throughout the country, and it certainly was one of my favorite areas as well.

If you are planning a trip through Colombia, or just planning a quick getaway within the country, you should absolutely consider Santander to be at the top of your list.

Chicamocha National Park

Chicamocha Canyon is the most important tourist destination in the department and is sometimes known among foreigners as the Grand Canyon of Colombia. This stunning canyon is is located just 54 kilometers from the big city of Bucaramanga, along the road that leads to San Gil.

Rio Chicamocha on PANACHI 05

The canyon is renowned for its natural beauty and stunning vistas, but it is also extremely accessible and appeals to a broad range of interests. You will even find a gondola or cable car that will provide you with a birds eye view of the canyon. Here you will also find a go-cart track, skating rink, animal farm, monuments, and even paragliding if you’re up for it.


Some people would call Barichara the most beautiful town in the country when it comes to small-town colonial architecture, perhaps only rivaled by Villa de Leyva (located not too far from Santander).

Barichara is located in the province of Guanentá, about 20 minutes by road from San Gil. The town is widely recognized for its colonial constructions of the late eighteenth century. Barichara was declared ‘Cultural Heritage of the Country’.


The town has a great deal to offer tourists including excellent restaurants, nice hotels, and plenty of cafes and bars, while still preserving the colonial architecture. Also, Barichara has often been the setting for Colombian telenovelas and films, as well as the host of important cultural events such as film festivals, theater and more.

La Mesa de los Santos

If you’re looking to take the adrenaline adventures a little further, be sure to visit La Mesa do los Santos. It’s a place where climbers, lovers of water sports, hikers, tourists, and residents of Bucaramanga, all mix together to enjoy the natural wonders of the Department of Santander. From here you can appreciate the imposing Chicamocha Canyon, jump on a stellar rock climbing route, or just sit back and enjoy the visit. This is also the last station of Panachi cable car.

Las Gachas

On the outskirts of the town of Guadalupe is Quebrada Las Gachas, a river famous for its enormous natural craters, which are found along the length of the stream.

These large round craters are used as a kind of natural ‘jacuzzi’, due to their circular shape, diameters, and depths. These unusual features make this place a must visit for tourists, who are sure to remember this curious and one of a kind natural wonder.

San Gil

San Gil is known as the adventure sports capital of Colombia. It’s the place you’ll want to go when you want to get your blood and adrenaline flowing. San Gil is located less than 100 kilometers from Bucaramanga, along a route that takes only about two hours in vehicle.

San Gil is most definitely the epicenter of adventure activities, thanks to its geographical characteristics, and raging rivers, which make it an attractive place to enjoy a vacation.

Rafting San Gil - Río Fonce

Here you can go paragliding, white water rafting, boogie boarding down a river (like a body board but in the rapids), rappel down a waterfall, among others. You can even wrap up a few of those activities into a single day since they are located so close together (I did boogie boarding aka hydrospeeding and paragliding!).

The town itself is also a pleasant place, one that I enjoyed settling into for two full weeks of exploration and adventure.

Visit Santander

That’s just a sampling of the many wonders of the Colombia’s Santander Department. Have you been? What would you add to this list of places to visit?

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