Without a doubt, San Gil is the adventure capital of Colombia. If you’re looking to get the heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing, then San Gil should be on your Colombian itinerary.
San Gil is the place to start ticking off your bucket list items — paragliding, bungee jumping, white water rafting — the list goes on! An added bonus is that these once in a lifetime experiences aren’t going to break the bank. San Gil is a very cheap place to try all of these things.
Get your bucket list ready. In this guide, we’ll show you the best things to do in San Gil and how to experience them.
Its scale alone is impressive. With a maximum depth of 2,000 metres, an area of 108,000 hectares and a length of 227 kilometres, it’s the second largest canyon worldwide.
There are plenty of hiking routes, of varying length and difficulty, that allow you to fully appreciate the vastness of the canyon.
What else is there to do in Chicamocha Canyon?
Chicamocha is more than just a canyon. It’s a national park that has been commercialised pretty heavily. A bad thing for some, and good for others.
There are a ton of things to do inside — seeing ostriches, feeding goats, a 4D cinema, a giant swing, a waterpark and cable cars.
The cable cars are one of the best things to do inside Chicamocha Canyon.
They stretch an impressive 6.3km from the top of one side of the canyon, all the way down to the Chicamocha River. The journey takes between 20-30 minutes, so you really do get to take in the spectacular views.
Top Tip: Arrive early to Chicamocha if you want to do the cable cars. Queues can get pretty long later on in the day.
How to get to Chicamocha Canyon
Getting from San Gil to Chicamocha is easy! There’s a bus that runs from Terminalito in San Gil, right to the entrance of Chicamocha National Park.
Bus tickets cost 12,000 COP ($2.55) each way, and the ride takes 90 minutes.
Entrance and prices
Chicamocha is open:
Wednesday to Friday: 10am-6pm
Saturday and Sunday: 9am-6pm
Entrance to just the park costs 30,000 COP ($6) for adults. If you want to add on the cable car then it’s 57,000 COP ($12).
#2 Get the adrenaline pumping on a bungee jump
Bungee jumping is on a lot of bucket lists, so what better time than the present to tick it off?
San Gil is home to a number of canyons, offering the perfect place to free fall and experience what it’s like to be a bird.
It’s also one of the cheapest places to do it. You can jump for less than $20! Colombia Bungee Jumping has been doing this for 12 years. Don’t worry, it’s safe.
#3 Take to the skies paragliding
For those afraid of heights, paragliding really isn’t as scary as it looks. Paragliding is actually a pretty relaxing experience, where you get to fully appreciate the view below and feel completely free!
With its picturesque landscapes, San Gil is the perfect place to go paragliding. The towering walls of Chicamocha Canyon, and the meandering river below provide incredible views for the whole flight.
Another popular activity to do in the Chicamocha Canyon is ziplining!
Chicamocha has three different ziplines. One just for kids and two for adults that are ready to challenge their heads for heights.
These ziplines are a little bit different to what you probably expect a zipline to look like. Instead of the classic harness-style ziplines, you’ll be sat in a swing, with a rope to hold on to either side of you.
Which zipline is for you?
The longest of the ziplines will have you soaring through the sky for 450m. We promise you won’t want it to end.
The shorter of the two adult ziplines is steeper, which definitely gets the heart pumping a bit more.
You have to pay for each of the ziplines separately. The children’s zipline costs 10,000 COP ($2.10), the longer zipline 27,000 COP ($5.50) and the steeper zipline 20,000 COP ($4.25).
#5 Race through the canyon on a mountain bike
San Gil is one of the best places in Colombia to go mountain biking.
All around San Gil, you can find mountains and, of course, Chicamocha Canyon, a popular place for mountain biking.
Whether it’s your first time or you already have some experience, there are various routes to suit all levels. All of which offer stunning views and varied landscapes.
There are also different styles of mountain biking to choose from. For example, you can enjoy a fun downhill descent, cross country or single track.
Whether you’ve done rock climbing before or not, San Gil is a great place to do it.
Chicamocha Canyon provides the perfect playground for rock climbers. Its steep cliffs offer multiple climbing routes for all abilities. There are over 100 bolted sports routes.
As you scale the rock face, you’ll get to admire the canyon from a new perspective and take in the calmness of the area.
How to go rock climbing in Chicamocha Canyon
Unless you have your climbing gear with you, we’d recommend joining a professional guide to go rock climbing.
You also need to enter Chicamocha and take the cable car to La Mojarra. Going with a tour, this is all arranged for you.
#7 Hold on tight white water rafting Rio Suarez
The fun continues with rafting down Rio Suarez. There’s nothing relaxing about this river, though, as it boasts both class 4 and 5 rapids.
For those who don’t know about the different classes of rapids, let’s just say that 4 and 5 are pretty intense.
Top Tip: If you don’t think you’re ready for level 4 and 5 rapids, then check out Rio Fonce instead.
You’ll be holding on tight as you plummet through giant rapids and glide across the fast moving water. Whether you’re joining the white water rafting solo or in a group, it’s guaranteed to bring everyone together as you work to stay afloat!
Canyoning is a fun extreme sport that involves following the flow of a river whilst traversing a canyon.
Along the way, you come across obstacles such as waterfalls, slides, descents, small climbs and swimming. It’s like mother nature’s playground!
This adventure-filled canyoning experience will have you conquering and descending La Laja Canyon. You’ll get to cross Tibetan bridges, rappel, take on boulder climbing, try a vacuum jump and flight cables.
It’s 4 hours that are guaranteed to be filled with fun, and opportunities to challenge both your physical and mental strength. All of this plus transportation is included for $34.
Thrillseekers looking to challenge their ability in dark and tight spaces will love this activity.
In Curiti, just 15 minutes from San Gil, you’ll find Cueva de la Vaca, Cow Cave.
What does the caving involve?
Over 2 hours, you’ll be winding your way through tunnels and exploring this hidden underground world.
Trust us, making it to the end is completely worth it. The cave opens up to a room full of magnificent stalactites hanging from the ceiling like chandeliers and even a waterfall! It’s one of the most special things to do in San Gil.
Are you brave enough?
To get to this point, you’ll really have to put your fears to the test. The final challenge requires you to swim under the rocks in order to get to the room on the other side! Could you do it?
This adventure to Cueva de la Vaca will definitely be an unforgettable and character defining one.
You also won’t have to pay much for this challenge. You can haggle a price of around $13 per person in San Gil.
#10 Enjoy the view from Cerro de la Cruz
If you have some time to spare whilst in San Gil, why not walk to Cerro de la Cruz?
This is a cross sitting on a hillside that gives a wonderful view of San Gil. Notice how we said walk, though. From Carerra 16, it takes less than 5 minutes to get to the cross.
Not much effort for a spectacular view. It’s a win, win situation!
#11 Relax in Parque Natural el Gallineral
Parque Natural el Gallineral was described as ‘the place where nature made an effort to return the Lost Paradise to man’. Now doesn’t that make Parque Natural el Gallineral somewhere that you want to visit?
The park is also super easy to visit as it sits just outside of San Gil. You can walk to it, it’s that close.
The park isn’t huge, but the walkways draped with moss trees and the river running alongside create a wonderful environment to simply relax.
With over 1,800 trees, it’s no wonder that the park attracts some wildlife like squirrels, parrots, hummingbirds and turtles.
How to visit Parque Natural el Gallineral?
The park is open every day at 8am-5:30pm. The fee is 6,000 COP ($1.25) if you don’t want access to the swimming pool inside the park, and 10,000 COP ($2.10) if you do.
#12 Take a day trip to Barichara
If you’ve already visited places like Medellin, Cartagena or Bogota, then you won’t quite believe that you’re still in Colombia when you visit Barichara.
Barichara is said to be one of the prettiest towns in the whole of Colombia, but that’s up to you to decide.
White-washed colonial buildings, colourful shutters, quaint balconies and cobblestone streets help to make it a very serene town. Couple this with the mountains in the background and you’ve got a very picturesque place!
What is there to do in Barichara?
There aren’t a ton of things to do in Barichara. Your visit there is more about taking in the beautiful town, enjoying the relaxing atmosphere and seeing another side of Colombia.
Walk around the main plaza, people watch or grab some food in one of the many restaurants.
How to visit Barichara from San Gil
Barichara is perfect as a day trip from San Gil. Travelling between the two couldn’t be any easier.
Buses run from Terminalito in San Gil to Barichara every 30-45 minutes. The journey only takes around 30 minutes.
You can buy your tickets from the small booth at the terminal. One way ticket costs 5,200 COP ($1.10).
#13 Cool off at Pozo Azul
When the weather gets hot in San Gil, you might want a refreshing dip in some water. However, San Gil is hundreds of miles from the sea.
Pozo Azul is the perfect solution. About 2km from San Gil, Pozo Azul is a river that has been dammed to make a natural swimming pool.
It’s a popular spot with locals as they enjoy the mini waterfalls and splash around in the water. There are also a number of small bars and restaurants, so you can really make a day of it.
Top Tip: If you can, try and visit during the week. On the weekends it can get very busy.
#14 Grab some delicious food at Gringo Mikes
Most people who come to San Gil can’t leave without visiting Gringo Mikes. It’s one of, if not THE, most popular restaurants in San Gil.
If you want to find out more about Gringo Mikes, check out our guide to visiting San Gil.
#15 Play Tejo — Colombia’s national sport
Wherever you go in Colombia, you can probably find somewhere to play Tejo. San Gil is no different!
As the nightlife in San Gil isn’t as lively as in other places in Colombia, a game of Tejo is a great way to spend the evening.
How to play Tejo like a pro
It’s a rather bizarre but exciting game. Players take turns throwing a heavy steel disk onto a board covered in clay. At the centre of the board lies a metal ring or horseshoe.
Around the edges of the ring are triangular paper pouches that are filled with gunpowder. When you hit them, you’ll be rewarded with a pretty loud explosion and maybe some fire!
Points are earned depending on where the heavy metal disk lands.
Now you’ve picked the best things to do in San Gil, it’s time to start ticking off that bucket list. Not sure how to plan your trip? Our guide is here to help! You’ll find out how long to stay in San Gil, where to eat, how to get around and more. Happy planning!
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Kate is a writer, (ex)Management Consultant and avid traveller. She recently returned from a 2-year career break exploring the world and decided corporate life wasn’t for her. She’ll soon be testing life as a digital nomad. She’s visited over 40 countries and fell in love with Latin America in particular. Her travelling has inspired a passion for yoga, salsa, hiking and Spanish.
Aleksandra is a writer and editor who recently moved from Hong Kong to London. She’s worked and studied in four countries (and counting) and picked up a new hobby in each of them. She’s a big fan of long train journeys so you can count on her to take the scenic route, finding a few hidden gems along the way.