The Top 10 Things to See and Do in Santander, Colombia

Santander, Colombia
Santander, Colombia | © Chris Bell / The Culture Trip
Chris Bell

Santander department is one of Colombia’s most beautiful and popular regions for tourists to visit. With stunning natural scenery, great food, lovely little towns and villages, and plenty of fun activities to enjoy, there’s so much to see and do on a trip to Santander. Here’s our top 10.

Visit the Chicamocha Canyon

Colombia’s biggest canyon is a truly majestic sight, and probably the most iconic natural spectacle you can enjoy on a trip to Santander. It’s a huge place, but the best way to experience it is to visit the Chicamocha Canyon National Park, where you can enjoy ziplining, a trip across the canyon by cable-car, and stunning panoramic views.

The Chicamocha Canyon

Rock-climbing in Mesa de Los Santos

Mesa de Los Santos is a small town alongside the aforementioned Chicamocha Canyon; it’s home to beautiful coffee farms, local markets, and some of the best rock-climbing in the country. The place to stay if you’re into climbing is the excellent climbing hostel Refugio de La Roca which sits alongside La Mojarra climbing park, which counts over 200 climbing routes.


Santander is Colombia’s extreme sports region, and there are so many excellent activities you can enjoy during a visit to the department. A standout activity, though, is paragliding: there are fantastic paragliding activities available in the regional capital of Bucaramanga and also from extreme sports capital San Gil. The best of the best, however, is to take a flight over the majestic Chicahmocha Canyon.

Paragliding over the Chicamocha Canyon

Explore Colombia’s prettiest town

The delightful little town of Barichara is often called Colombia’s prettiest town, and there’s definitely some truth in that statement: the cobbled streets, red-tiled roofs, and whitewashed walls of Barichara are like a Hollywood filmmaker’s dream, and spending a few days wandering the streets of the town is the perfect way to relax on a trip to Colombia.

Extreme sports in San Gil

This could easily just be a list of 10 amazing extreme sports in San Gil, such is the diversity of the activities on offer in the small Santander town. In just a few days here you can go bungee jumping, white-water rafting, caving, canyoning, rappelling, zip lining, and much more. It’s like an adventure playground for adrenaline junkies, and one of Santander’s must-visit spots.

Rafting the Suarez River near San Gil

Sample big-bottomed ants!

Santander’s most well-known culinary product are the famous hormigas culonas – or big-bottomed ants – which are either delicious or terrifying, depending on your position on eating creepy-crawlies! You can find them for sale in most towns and cities in the region, and it’s just not a trip to Santander without at least nibbling on a few ants!

Quebrada Las Gachas in Guadalupe

Santander’s newest hot tourist attraction is the beautiful red river of Las Gachas just outside the little town of Guadalupe. The clear waters of the river flow over red rocks, making the water appear bright red. There are also deep holes eroded in the bedrock, forming little ‘jacuzzis’ that you can sit in, enjoying the warm Santander sun and cool water.

Quebrada Las Gachas in Guadalupe

Visit the caves of Florian

The little town of Florian has been nicknamed “the town of open windows” due to it’s most famous feature: a giant cave overlooking the town with a huge waterfall tumbling out of the open cave mouth. You can admire the cave and waterfall from Florian, or take a trip into the cave system to admire the view out over the town and distant mountains.

Take a coffee tour

Mesa de Los Santos is a large coffee producing region, and it’s just not a trip to Colombia without a coffee tour! A coffee tour of the beautiful Hacienda El Roble, which produces Cafe Mesa de Los Santos, one of Colombia’s finest coffees, is the perfect way to learn about Colombia’s finest product in a lovely, peaceful setting.

Coffee tour at Hacienda El Roble

Wander the colonial streets of Giron

Giron isn’t as well-known as Barichara, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a lovely little town (in fact, it is one of Colombia’s 17 ‘Heritage Towns’). Located right alongside the departmental capital of Bucaramanga, Giron’s colonial architecture and cobbled streets are the perfect escape from the city, and can easily be visited on a day-trip.

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