Colombia is an incredible country. It is so vast that although I spent over a month there, I hardly feel accomplished in my mission to exploring it. There are so many different places to visit, and a very large variety of environments: from the seas and beaches of Caribbean North to the mountain peaks of the Andes; from the desert of Tatacoa to the cloud forest whereof the Eje Cafetero; from the Amazon basin to the beautiful colonial cities.
I love adventure, and I knew I had about a million places to pick among in Colombia. But my favorite one has been San Gil, where I found I could fully express my love for sports and the outdoors and combine it with the relaxed atmosphere that this small town offers to its visitors. I ended up spending almost a week there and had it not been that I had committed to meeting a friend in Bogotà, I would have stayed longer.
I spent my time in San Gil doing something different every day. So, here is what I did to keep myself entertained.
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Day 1: A walk around town, relaxing and visiting the local market
I arrived in San Gil after a 17 hours night bus right from Cartagena. Buses in Colombia can be very comfortable. They all have fully reclining seats and personal screens. But the roads are truly horrible and the drivers not exactly considerate, so it was not exactly an easy relaxing night.
I thus decided to spend my first day in San Gil just wandering around town, visiting the cathedral, the main square, and the busy market. I even crossed the main bridge to hike up to the viewpoint and get a really pretty view of the city.
Day 2: Rafting
I love whitewater rafting, and I knew San Gil was the place to do that. I joined a group led by Colombia Rafting Expediciones that took us to the Rio Suarez. It was a hard and thrilling day: we rafter for about 3 hours on rafts that got up to class V. It was tiring and a lot of fun, and the guide, who spoke very good English, was incredible in keeping us all safe and very much entertained. At the end of the raft, we were provided with some much-needed drinks and snacks. I highly recommend it.
Day 3: Swimming at the Pozo Azul
After having been rafted, I needed to rest for a full day. So, I went to the Pozo Azul, which is a lovely natural pool at just about 1 km from the center of San Gil. It is packed with locals at the weekend, but I went during the week and it was nice and quiet. Once back, I just had a drink in town, sitting in the main square and appreciating the relaxed local atmosphere. When it finally cools down, people in San Gil all head to the main square to chat and have a drink, and I joined in.
Day 4: Mountain biking in the Parque Nacional del Chichamocha
When I found out that Colombian Bike Junkies ran incredible mountain biking tours of the Canyon del Chicamocha, I knew I had to join a tour. It was one of the most tiring, exhilarating days I have ever spent, with over 50 km of biking.
The first part was all downhill, on a very technical and – at times – scary trail. The second half, it was all slightly uphill, just enough to make me puff and push. The views were spectacular: we stopped in the lovely colonial and perfectly kept village of Barichara, we had plenty of snacks along the way, a tasty lunch, and a beer to celebrate at the end. I could barely move the day after, but it was definitely worth it.
Day 5: Visiting the Cascadas de Juan Curi
At about 22 km from San Gil, the Cascadas de Juan Curi is made of up 3 different torrents and end up in a lovely natural pool that is perfect for a quick dip. I definitely needed an easy day after the intense day of biking before.
When I finally boarded my 8 hours bus to Bogotà, I felt completely recharged for having spent some quality time practicing some of my most favorite activities. I highly recommend visiting San Gil to anybody visiting Colombia!
Claudia is from Cagliari (Sardinia) and is obsessed with traveling. A former human rights lawyer and academic, after devoting her life to the protection of cultural identity, in November 2013 Claudia decided to give in to her biggest passion and started traveling around Latin America, and she has hardly stopped since. Blogging came as a natural consequence, for Claudia wanted to let her family and friends be updated on her adventures.