San Gil, known as the ‘adventure capital’ of Colombia is a popular tourist destination for domestic and foreign travelers alike. Your options of adventure are endless here from bungee jumping to white water rafting but there are also some pretty incredible hikes based out of this area too.
El Camino Real – Barichara to Guane
First up is this ultra-classic hike that starts in the nearby colonial town of Barichara.
Unmistakable for it’s beautiful stone streets, Barichara is must visit when in San Gil.
On par with the colonial towns of Salento or Villa de Leyva, you’ll feel transported back in time wandering the streets lined with colorful doorways and flower boxes.
El Camino Real is the historic pathway that the indigenous Colombians used for centuries to commute between the towns of Barichara and the even more remote town of Guane.
Today, a road makes the two towns accessible by vehicle but it’s a lot more fun to experience this trail by foot.
The trailhead for El Camino Real is in the northern section of Barichara and is 3.25 miles of walking to Guane.
An interesting fact of the trail is that it’s only a one-way route, you can hike back to Barichara, however, it’s not characteristic of most peoples hike.
The main reason for that is the route from Barichara to Guane is largely a descent, so if you did end up hiking back from Guane, you’d be hiking uphill, exposed in the sun later in the day.
The is a pretty beautiful trail and it's easy to follow - mostly a grass and stone step trail that passes by pastures and farms.
Guane is great to walk around and explore, there are old churches, a nice town square with restaurants, and plenty of small shops for a cold drink.
A good tip is be sure to bring plenty of water, you can buy along the way typically but it’s going to be expensive and it’s not always readily available when needed. I was drenched in sweat when I was going through in the morning so be sure to get an early start as well.
To reach Barichara, head to the downtown bus terminal and grab a bus ticket to Barichara, the fee is 6,000 COP each way.
Juan Curi Waterfall
A list of hiking spots in Colombia wouldn’t be complete without a waterfall hike. This 180-meter-high waterfall is a half-day trip from San Gil and will leave you astonished.
The waterfall is at an eco-park only 45 minutes south of San Gil and easily accessible by bus.
Once you pay the fee of 12,000 COP (waterfall access only) you'll follow a path a half-mile up to reach the base of the lower cascades.
From this level you can use fixed ropes to assist on crossing the stream and getting up the rocky cliffs to the upper section below the falls.
This is another popular spot for domestic tourists and kids so getting here early is preferred to avoid the hectic crowds.
For an additional adventure you can pay to get buses to the top of the waterfall and repel down the upper section.
To get to the Juan Curi Eco-Park Waterfall, head to the same bus terminal downtown as you would if you were going to Barichara and ask for a ticket to Juan Curi. The cost of this trip as well is 6,000 COP.
El Gallineral Natural Park
Looking for a nature activity without leaving San Gil?
This park along the river in the downtown San Gil area is perfect to wander through to pass a couple hours before dinner after getting back from a tour.
The park is packed with a variety of floral and fauna to interact with in a maze-like segment of pathways.
Different exhibits include tortoises, flying squirrels and colorful parrots which can be interacted with or observed from afar.
By far the favorite activity is to just stroll through the pathways with the moss-covered trees draping high above. This area stays heavily shaded under the large canopy trees that occupy much of the park.
You can even walk down to the river banks and watch the rafters come into town.
The entrance cost is 6,000 COP and is easily reached by walking to from your accommodations in San Gil.
Last and well not least, but another completely unique walking activity in San Gil is La Gruta (The Grotto).
Walking around San Gil you may notice a large sign above the city that reads Yo Heart San Gil (I Love San Gil). Well as a matter of fact you can actually hike up to this sign and get a wonderful view looking below on the city.
The sign is located on the hill in the northern sector and can be reached either of two ways.
Hiking to the sign is a little bit sketchy and on some back road paths but the crowd up top I found to be safe and friendly.
Coming from straight up the hill you’ll reach a set of crumbling rock steps that switchback on a dirt trail a couple times before coming to a more colorful set of stairs that will wrap around and put you on a short trail underneath the sign.
From there, you can walk around to the top viewing platforms. The easier access point is more direct along the road and will wrap up on narrow steep roads before getting to a staircase that takes you to the top platform.
Either way you get to the same spot and puts you at the perfect spot for a great sunset.
There are no entrance costs, just beware of some family guard dogs that you might pass on your way up.
Well, that’s the four epic hikes I came across in this region, if you come across any others be sure to drop a comment. Sure these aren’t the purest ‘hikes’ but it’s an area focused more on adventure than hiking trails so you have to take what you get!
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