Hola! We are Liz & Cris – a Colombian entrepreneurial couple who love travel, photography, nature and landscapes. We enjoy traveling paths that lead to incredible destinations, hidden gems and corners full of colors, flavors and cultures. Liz was born in San Gil, the tourist capital of Santander, while Chris is from a little town called Chima which is also in Santander.
If you have never visited Colombia before, it needs to be at the top of your bucket list! It’s full of magic, happy people, beautiful landscapes and delicious gastronomy. We are very proud to be Colombians – and it’s our pleasure to discover the different roads and mountains of our homeland.
We have been lucky enough to visit cities/towns such as Cali, Santa Cruz de Mompox and Villa de Leyva, the snow-capped peaks of Sierra Nevada del Cocuy and Santa Isabel, the spectacular national park of Tayrona, and the Fonce and Guejar rivers. We still have many places to visit in Colombia like La Guajira, the Amazon, the Tatacoa Desert, Cartagena, Nevado del Huila, Guaviare and Cerros de Mavecure. As you can see, our list is long!
But one area of the country we know well is Santander. So far, we have visited 38 of its 87 municipalities and each one is stunning! We enjoy exploring every corner of this department, which is why we stop in every little town we reach. Santander is wonderful and there is a lot to see.
There is Barichara (the most charming town in Colombia), the Chicamocha Canyon (boasting ancient paths that you can trek), the Santurban Paramo which is a giant water reserve, and the Ventanas de Tisquizoque with its waterfall of over 300 meters that emerges from a mountain. But by no means are these the only places to visit in Santander. Below we outline 10 of the best spots to tick off on your travels through Santander.
10 Best Places to Visit in Santander
1. Chicamocha Canyon
The Chicamocha Canyon is a hiker’s paradise, beckoning adventurers from around Colombia. This natural wonder – often dubbed the “Grand Canyon of Colombia” – presents an enticing landscape for exploration. Its rugged terrain features dramatic cliffs, verdant vegetation and the meandering Chicamocha River – creating a visually appealing backdrop.
Numerous well-maintained trails wind through the canyon, providing hikers with an array of options – from leisurely strolls to challenging treks. As you traverse the canyon, you will be rewarded with panoramic vistas that showcase the region’s awe-inspiring beauty. The Chicamocha Canyon is, without a doubt, an unmissable destination while visiting Santander!
2. San Gil
San Gil, nestled in the heart of Santander, is a true gem for travelers. This picturesque town boasts a vibrant cultural scene, charming colonial architecture and a friendly atmosphere that makes it a fantastic place to spend a couple of days. Yet, what sets San Gil apart is its reputation as the “Adventure Capital of Santander”. Adrenaline junkies flock here for an array of extreme sports including white-water rafting, paragliding and caving.
Barichara stands as one of the most enchanting towns in Colombia! This well-preserved colonial jewel exudes an undeniable charm with its cobblestone streets, whitewashed buildings and red-tiled roofs. The town’s historic center is a treasure trove of architectural beauty, drawing visitors into a bygone era with its meticulously preserved structures.
In addition to its architecture, Barichara boasts gorgeous surroundings. The town is perched on a headland overlooking the Suarez River, offering breathtaking views and opportunities for horse riding. The countryside, with its rolling hills and dramatic landscapes, only adds to its attractiveness.
Furthermore, Barichara’s tranquil ambiance and warm-hearted residents make it an ideal retreat from modern life. It’s a place where time seems to slow down – inviting travelers to wander its streets, appreciate its art galleries and savor the local cuisine. Barichara is a testament to Colombia’s rich history and natural beauty, making it a must-visit town in Santander.
4. Santurban Paramo
The Santurban Paramo demands exploration on any trip to Santander. This high-altitude ecosystem, often referred to as a “water factory”, is a crucial source of freshwater for the country. Its otherworldly landscape features expanses of rolling moorlands, glacial lakes, and unique flora and fauna. Visitors can revel in its pristine beauty and hike along scenic trails while gaining an appreciation for the paramo’s ecological significance.
5. Ventanas de Tisquizoque
One of Colombia’s hidden gems, Ventanas de Tisquizoque is a place of unparalleled beauty that captivates all who visit! Its name, which translates to “Tisquizoque’s Windows,” hints at the unique rock formations that resemble windows carved into the mountainsides. These natural arches frame extraordinary vistas of the surrounding landscapes, making Ventanas de Tisquizoque a must-see destination for its sheer aesthetic appeal.
Moreover, the site features a magnificent waterfall cascading over rocky cliffs. Visitors can partake in a variety of activities including hiking, photography, and enjoying the sight and sound of the waterfall. The site is also ideal for picnics, offering a serene setting for relaxation. Additionally, birdwatching and stargazing are popular pastimes here.
6. Cascada de los Caballeros
Cascada de los Caballeros is an exciting addition to any Santander itinerary. This waterfall is surrounded by a pristine rainforest. Hiking to the waterfall provides an adventure in itself and once you arrive, the ambiance and the chance for a refreshing dip make it a must-visit attraction in Colombia.
Another heritage town worth checking out is Giron. It features well-preserved architecture, cobblestone streets and a delightful atmosphere to immerse yourself in. The town’s plaza, surrounded by beautiful buildings, is a hub of culture. Giron also boasts great cuisine and craft shops. Its proximity to Bucaramanga makes it an ideal base for exploring the region!
8. Embalse de Topocoro
Embalse de Topocoro is an idyllic nature preserve set amid lush green hills and rugged terrain. Its calm waters provide opportunities for boating and relaxation. The surrounding area is popular for hiking as well, with trails offering jaw-dropping views of the reservoir and its verdant surroundings.
Curiti is a culturally rich town that offers an enticing blend of natural beauty and local traditions. Its cobbled streets and colonial architecture exude a quaint charm, making it a perfect place for leisurely strolls. The town is also a hub for adventure seekers serving as a gateway to nearby attractions like the Chicamocha Canyon, and adventure sports like paragliding and caving.
10. Bosque de Pandora
Bosque de Pandora presents adventurous travelers with a wide range of exhilarating experiences. This natural reserve is a haven for hiking enthusiasts, with well-maintained trails leading through lush forests – unveiling the region’s rich biodiversity. Visitors can explore caves, observe wildlife, have campfires and even discover underground waterfalls!
Final Thoughts on Santander
We Santandereans are very good people – temperamental but cordial. We like to be kind to visitors and make them feel right at home! Like all Colombians, we are happy and thoroughly enjoy life. Travelers will surely fall in love with the customs, landscapes and food of this department. As the saying goes: “He who steps on Santander land becomes Santander”.
You can visit these lands at any time – whether it be during the dry or cloudy season. Each season will take your breath away! And know that the best way to get around is to rent a car. This way you can explore more places and make the most of your trip. You won’t regret visiting Santander, even just for a short period of time, as most visitors return a second time!