Adventures in Santander


Not only a fun city name, also a bustling metropolis!
After yet another long drive day heading into Bucamaranga – we’re sensing a theme here – we got to enter the chaos of another Colombian city. Ben is getting pretty good at handling the traffic and apparent lack of rules, and Rachel is getting better at not screaming. We attempted to do some shopping in the city, but after getting turned around a few times, we finally arrived at our destination to discover we’re too tall for the garage. Then we headed about an hour east from the city to find a campsite, only to find the young girl working at that moment to be unhelpful and unwilling that we got frustrated and just left.

A side note: On the way back west towards the city, we saw a string of people on foot with blankets and large backpacks – Venezuelan refugees. In the last years the economic situation in Venezuela is so dire and resources are so scarce that many are leaving for other countries. We were on the road between the border town Cútuta and Buchamaranga, which is a route taken by many. (More about the situation in Cúcuta from a more educated source: National Geographic).

We wound our way back through Bucamaranga and ended up at a site with an amazing view over the city. We also got to watch paragliders taking off and landing in the evening.

The next day we went to visit the cute, quaint village of Gíron. Only on this day, it was busy celebrating a big religious festival. The streets were packed, cars were pushing their way through, and we felt not so charmed. After a quick bite (Crispy wafers filled with Arequipe) we decided to move on. There are sure to be many cute villages ahead, so no reason to fight the crowds here.

Chicamocha Canyon

After a relatively short and beautiful drive we arrived in the Chicamocha Canyon. We had a lovely campsite there. We hoped to do some hiking but only found dirt roads available for walking. We did however find another activity to keep us busy — Paragliding! Rachel wasn’t feeling up to the adventure (meaning, not enough energy to overcome a fear of heights) but Ben excitedly joined our friends Tyler and Megan for a twirl above the canyon.

From the Canyon we headed off to check out a local swimming hole, Balneario Pescaderito. There are little pools along a river that locals enjoy bathing and jumping into. We walked upriver to find a nice spot to jump in – only Ben was crazy enough to jump into the freezing water.

San Gil and Rafting Rio Suarez

After our less than quiet night of dog orchestras, we woke up to Rachel’s Birthday! We made an early departure for the town of San Gil and signed up for a rafting adventure on the Rio Suarez. This is a popular activity for tourists in the area and we had a lot of fun riding the rapids. It was mostly pretty easy and fun rapids, except for the last one. The highlight of the river is one Level 5 rapid that our boat hit wrong and rode down backwards. Nobody fell out, but we had to sit down in the boat as it slowly turned into a floating kiddie pool. Luckily the water is warm, and once we got out of the boat we quickly dried off while enjoying the lunch feast provided to us.

In the evening after rafting, we had another exciting new experience – playing Tejo! This is basically a game where you throw stones at bags of gunpowder, trying to make them explode. There are more nuanced details regarding point system. But in the end, the main goal is to make a boom and drink beer, because the entry fee to play is half a crate of beer!


Barichara claims to be the most beautiful village in Colombia, and it definitely was charming. The landscape surrounding the village makes the drive in stunning and the village has been well preserved. There are viewpoints to the village from above or to the surrounding valleys and hills, a cute town square, good coffee and plenty of shops for tourists to hop into.

We stayed at a newly opened campground just outside the village and enjoyed the spot. A Dutch couple who’s owning and restoring an old tabaco finca recently opened up their home to Overlanders. Guaimaro Campsite is a great starting point for a walk along the Camino Real and is beautifully restored. This 9km cobblestone trail took us to another cute village, Guane. The walk was beautiful but the cobblestones not so relaxing, therefore we hopped a bus back to Barichara instead of walking back. Then we took another even more beautiful trail back to camp!

In town we picked up some local delicacy – Las hormigas culonas, or leaf cutter ants. Ben popped one right in, and after some pep talk Rachel popped one in, too. They weren’t really our sort of snack, but not as bad as expected. So we tried it, got some protein, and probably won’t go for that again.

Barichara has more to offer than we had time to explore, since we wanted to get over to El Cocuy before our scheduled classes in Medellin. All of Satander was lovely and worth spending time exploring!

3 Replies to “Adventures in Santander”

  1. Once again you two, and Mitzi have treated me to a wonderful travelogue. The photos brought so much of the beauty of the landscape alive, showed me some great villages and just made me have a most enjoyable read as I traveled with you. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing exploration journey you are on.
    Much love,

  2. Dear Kristin, although I don`t know You, Your words seem to come out of my heart.

    Benjamin, Rachel, You take all the beauty life can offer, I`m so happy for You. You are very much priveleged. Thank You for sharing it with me. Mami

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