San Gil
Population 50,000, Santander Department

San Gil is a small town situated about 3 hours from Bucaramanga. To be honest, the town itself is fairly average compared with many of the other towns in the department of Santander.

BUT it is the stunning surrounding natural landscape which attracts an increasing number of visitors here, and rightly so!

The Fonce River which skirts the town as well as the nearby mountains, waterfalls and caves provide the perfect setting for adventure sports; from kayaking to mountaineering, and rappelling to Caving.

In fact the town has rapidly become known as the adventure sports capital of Colombia!

The town slopes up the side of a hill. Most of the hotels, shops and restaurants are situated on the lower section of the town between the Fonce River and Carrera 8.

At the centre of the town is the Parque Principal which can get busy at weekends with people chatting and drinking beneath the tall trees. Sitting on the upper end on the plaza is the town's main cathedral.

View over San Gil, Santander

View over the town with the tall trees of Parque Principal and the cathedral visible in the centre

In addition to adventure sports San Gil is also home to a spectacular park called Parque Natural El Gallineral.

The park is situated on the south-western fringe of the town on a triangular island between the Rio Fonce and Quebrada Curiti.

It contains a beautiful array of flora and fauna and is particularly famous for the huge strands of Tillandsia that wraps itself around the trees and hangs down over the plethora of streams that run through the park.

The first time I visited San Gil, I think I must have been so pumped full of adrenaline from climbing rocks and ratfing my way through rapids that I thought the idea of a stroll through a park on the edge of town seemed a bit tame and so didn't bother!

Trust me - it really is worth an hour or two! 

Parque Natural El Gallineral, San Gil, Colombia

Parque Natural El Gallineral

Parque Natural El Gallineral also contains a restaurant and a natural spring water swimming pool.

You enter the park from the embankment at Calle 6. There is a small admission fee.

25km from San Gil are the Cascada Juan Curi (Juan Curi Waterfalls). Take a bus to Charala from the main bridge of the town and ask the driver to let you know when to get off for the cascada. From there it's a short walk to the 180m high waterfall. There is a pool at the bottom where you can bathe.

Selected Hotels

The best luxury hotel in San Gil is Wassiki Campestre. It is located just a couple of kilometers outside the town in the beautiful lush green Santander countryside. It features terrific comfortable rooms and a swimming pool, garden, gym, restaurant and much more. The only trouble is, the hotel is so nice you might not want to leave and do anything else!

Hotel Wassiki Campestre, San Gil

For backpackers a great place to stay is Sam's VIP Hostel. This place combines all the comfort you'd expect from an upmarket hotel with common rooms and shared facilities of a hostel. I've stayed here twice and not been disappointed! 

Restaurants and Bars

There are many cheap places to grab some lunch or dinner, especially around the Parque Principal.

A great place to sip a few beers in the evening and give the adrenaline a rest is at Cafe Converso (Calle 12 No. 7-79).


The bus terminal is in the south-eastern corner of the town on the main road (carrera 12). Most buses, however, will also drop off and pick up near the main bridge over the river at the intersection of Carrera 11 and Calle 10.

A bus to the Santander capital Bucaramanga should take a little under 3 hours. To Bogota around 8 hours.

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