San Gil is known as the adventure capital of Colombia, and that it is, but I’ve been to a few different “adventure capitals” (two of the most memorable being Interlaken, Switzerland and Livingstone, Zambia) in my day, and this was definitely the most boring one.
One way to get to San Gil (and the one we chose) is to fly into Bucaramanga (closest major airport) and take a bus to San Gil. It’s pretty easy to figure out, but it’s always easier to have the steps before you try it on your own, so see the end of this post on how to do that.
I personally don’t think that San Gil is worth your time. Everyone has a different opinion on this though, and even Colin just leaned over and said, “I liked San Gil!” The area was suggested to me by a few different people as their favorite place in Colombia, but I just don’t see why. Like I said, this is the most boring "adventure capital" that I've been to. So sure, maybe if you haven’t been anywhere else like this in your life, then it might be worth the trouble to get there.
We spent 6 days here assuming we would do lots of adventure activities, but we ended up only doing 2 because they weren’t mind blowing. We didn’t want to waste time / money on the other activities. The only one that I think would have still been fun is bungee jumping, but it’s so unbelievably cheap (about US $23) that I question why it’s so cheap (and maybe you should do some research on the company before you do the bungee jumping here – I did not look into that). Even the bungee jumping that I did in Africa was at least four times the cost it was in San Gil.
Let’s start with the white water rafting that we did. We booked through the company Colombia Rafting Expeditions. They came highly recommended on Lonely Planet, and they weren’t a bad company to use (guides were nice, transportation on time, gear was fine, etc.). I just didn’t think that it was worth my time or money to raft a very muddy (literally brown), unexciting river. There were level 4 and 5 rapids, but unless you’ve never been white water rafting before, I’d say this was an uneventful trip.
Next, we went paragliding in the Chicamocha Canyon. We booked through the company Parapente. Again, it was a fine company to use. There aren’t many companies that paraglide in this canyon, and I’d say if you want to do it, this company is fine to use. The views are beautiful, and it does get some adrenaline pumping when you literally run off the edge of a cliff. But it’s mass-tourism at its best. We came with a van full of people, but soon there were several more vans full of people that had joined us, and they do not take you by time of arrival. I was the 3rd person to jump because of my weight (lightest to heaviest), but Colin was nearly last, so our group ended up leaving the area about 7 hours after arriving. You get 30 minutes in the air, so the rest of the time is spent sitting on the ground with no cell service just waiting. A note on 30 minutes in the air though – it’s kind of boring and a long time to sit in a stranger’s lap. Your initial takeoff is exciting, but after a few minutes of pictures and videos, it’s kind of the same thing over and over. On the plus side though, there was an old Colombian woman selling the best papas rellenas I’ve had yet (if you missed the last time I talked about papas rellenas… they are deep fried mashed potatoes with rice, meat, and a boiled egg on the inside – a must have in Colombia).
See a video of me paragliding and landing here.
Here is a list of the most popular activities you can do in San Gil with prices if you were to book through Macondo Hostel. You can book through a lot of different hostels or through the companies that run the actual “adventure.” I’m giving you the prices of Macondo Hostel because I took a picture of them, so that’s what I have. They seemed to be pretty similar to others (including the companies we booked through mentioned above), so this will at least give you an idea.
The only redeeming quality of the area (in my opinion) is the small town of San Gil itself. It is a cute town, and it’s very small, so you can walk everywhere. After being in several cities where we need to bus / cab around, it was nice to be able to walk everywhere. But I’m sure there are several towns like this that aren’t so far out of the way. As I said, we spent 6 days here, and I would have rather put that time towards somewhere like Patagonia.
We stayed at Hostel Santander Alemán Terrace Vista. It wasn’t our first pick, but we showed up to the place that we had booked that was supposed to be a really cool hostel, and it was closed for renovations. In no time at all though, the owner had called a friend and had us booked in Hostel Santander. It was more like a hotel – all private rooms – but it did have a small kitchen we used. There was no one else staying there, but it was fine. My biggest complaints were 1) the noise – there was no one staying there, and yet they put us in the room closest to the main street that had trucks revving up their engines in the middle of every night? And we had to keep the window open because it was so hot – and 2) the “hot” water which was usually not hot. Other than that it was clean and the people working there were pleasant.
A couple of places that I suggest going to in town:
How to get to San Gil by flying into Bucaramanga:
See our Colombia photos here.
Hi, I'm Sara Monica Patton. I love animals, traveling, and eating. Read more about me in my first blog post here.