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San Gil, in Colombia’s Santander region, is famous as the Colombian capital of extreme sports – paragliding, canyoning, rafting, caving and bungee jumping: you can find them all on a trip to San Gil. Plus, there’s so much more to enjoy, with stunning national parks and colonial villages nearby. So here are 10 amazing things to see and do in San Gil.
Paragliding is one of the most popular extreme sports to enjoy in San Gil, and there’s no shortage of tour operators offering paragliding flights. There are two main spots for paragliding near San Gil – in Curiti there is the option of a shorter (and cheaper) flight, or you can opt to soar over the majestic Chicamocha Canyon for more time (and more money). It’s a truly amazing experience whichever you choose.
The most extreme of San Gil’s many extreme sports is probably a bungee jump! Just outside San Gil, on the banks of the Fonce River, is the best bungee jump in town, operated by the imaginatively named ‘Colombia Bungee Jumping.’ It’s a 70 meter jump from a crane suspended directly over the wild waters of the river, making for some amazing jumps – lucky jumpers even end up dunking their head into the river below.
The Chicamocha Canyon is the largest canyon in Colombia, and the main access point to the park is located a couple of hours north of San Gil. The national park centre is the easiest way to visit the canyon, and you can enjoy stunning 360-degree panoramas, one of the longest cable-cars in the Americas across the canyon, a hair-raising zip-line activity and much more.
White-water rafting is another extremely popular activity in San Gil – it’s arguably what the little town is most famous for among travelers. It’s possible to raft the nearby Fonce River, but the really amazing rafting trips are on the Suarez River, just outside the town. Here the rapids can be as high as level four, making for some truly excellent rafting experiences in a stunning natural setting.
Known as ‘Colombia’s Prettiest Town,’ colonial Barichara is less than an hour from San Gil by bus and is definitely one of those ‘must-do’ experiences in Colombia. Wandering Barichara’s cobbled streets, and enjoying its wonderful architecture of white-washed walls and red tiled roofs, it can really feel like you’ve wandered onto a film set by mistake.
Overlooking San Gil on the road to Barichara is a nice little restaurant and viewpoint known as El Peñon Guane. It’s worth popping up there anyway to enjoy the view and have some lunch, but the real attraction for adrenaline junkies are the three zip-line cables running across the surrounding valleys. The first zip-line is the most spectacular, flying over a deep canyon and overlooking a waterfall far below.
On the edge of town, on the banks of the Fonce River, is the sprawling urban park of Gallineral. It’s a delightfully peaceful place, full of wild birds and friendly red squirrels, the perfect spot to enjoy some peace and quiet after all of those extreme sports you’ve been enjoying! With great fresh coffee, a nice restaurant and even a swimming pool, it’s a great place to spend a lazy day.
La Cueva de la Vaca – or ‘The Cow Cave’ – in the nearby town of Curiti is a huge cave filled with giant stalactites and stalagmites, and is the best spot to enjoy a caving excursion in San Gil. If it’s been raining then there are even points during the caving trip when you may be submerged for one or two seconds, so this isn’t an outing for claustrophobic travelers. However, if you can handle being in tight spaces then this is easily one of the most fun extreme sport offerings in town.
Another fun extreme sport on offer in San Gil is canyoning. The best tours take place at a canyon just outside the town and include rappelling, zip-lining, bouldering and much more, so great value for money at an average cost of around US$25. The main waterfall that you rappel down is about 40 meters high, and the zip-line crosses a stunning deep gorge filled with rivers and jungles.
The majestic Juan Curi Waterfall is about 45 minutes from San Gil and is perhaps the best place in Colombia to enjoy rappelling. It’s not an experience for the faint-hearted – if there has been recent rainfall the waterfall is a true beast of a torrent – but it’s one that’s bound to get your heart pumping.