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The small town of Barichara in Colombia’s Santander department is commonly known as ‘the most beautiful town in Colombia’ – with its whitewashed walls, red-tiled roofs, and cobbled streets, the colonial town is like something directly out of a Hollywood movie set. So is Barichara indeed the most beautiful town in Colombia?
Colombia has dozens of beautiful little towns that could quite feasibly claim to be the most beautiful town in the country: if we’re handing out that title then any one of Jardin, Playa de Belen, Villa de Leyva, Mongui, Jerico, Pijao, Mompox, Filandia, Aguadas, and many more could produce plenty of compelling evidence about their claim to the crown. However, Barichara tends to stand above the rest when it comes to being acknowledged as Colombia’s prettiest town. But why?
For starters, Barichara has a strong advantage over many of the other towns listed, in that it remains almost entirely perfect: the entire town is only about 10 blocks square, and every single street maintains the gorgeous old colonial architecture that has long made Barichara such a favourite among Colombian and international tourists alike. You can wander down literally any street in the town and enjoy a view that seems to be lifted straight out of a romantic film. Most other beautiful towns in Colombia have a gorgeous historical centre surrounded by regular neighbourhoods – Barichara is one big picture-postcard paradise.
Founded back in 1705, Barichara’s impressive architecture has been so well maintained over the years that it looks practically as new as it would have done more than 300 years ago, and it’s very easy to imagine yourself in a totally different century as you wander its cobbled alleys. Also, with an urban population of just over 7,000, the town never feels too busy. In fact, one sad side effect of Barichara’s beautiful reputation is that many locals have been forced to move out due to the growing prevalence of boutique hotels or luxurious holiday homes. At night the town can be eerily quiet, which, perhaps oddly, seems to add to the charm and the sense that you are visiting a place out of time.
Visiting Barichara is easy: from the popular adventure sports capital of San Gil, it’s about 45 minutes by bus. Many people opt to just visit for the day, but it’s well worth spending a night or two to enjoy the experience of meandering through the old streets at night, enjoying the soft glow of the street lamps on the white walls, and the shadows of the uneven cobblestones, which have laid there for centuries. Accommodation isn’t an issue either: the town is full of hotels and hostels, ranging from luxury spas on the hills overlooking Barichara, to lovely little boutique hotels with roof terraces and swimming pools in the heart of the town itself.
So is Barichara the most beautiful town in Colombia? It’s impossible to say really: many people prefer the bustling atmosphere of Jardin, the charm of Villa de Leyva, or the uniqueness of Mompox. Every single traveller in Colombia is likely to have their own preference or opinion, and Barichara is usually right up there among the best of the best. However, one thing is certain: if Barichara isn’t the most beautiful town in Colombia, then the country sure must have some exceptionally beautiful towns.