Last updated on August 17th, 2023 at 09:37 am
My name is Frank and I run a travel agency in Bogota, Colombia. Have fun while reading!
At the end of this guide you will find a list of many other helpful Colombia travel guides.
The residents of this area, the Santandereanos, pride themselves on the fact that several Colombian heroes and heroines emerged from this area and even the name of the department alludes to Francisco de Paula Santander, one of the heroes of Colombian independence.
Santander has 87 parishes, including three listed cities and other villages of inestimable architectural and cultural value. In addition, there are unique places like the Chicamocha moat.
The capital of the department, Bucaramanga
The capital of Santander has earned the nickname “City of Parks” because it has more than 200 of these green spaces. Bucaramanga was founded in 1622. Technically, however, this city was never founded. During the Spanish colonial period, the cities were founded with the permission of the Spanish king. However, this never happened to Bucaramanga. The “officially” established cities were Vélez, Pamplona and Girón.
For years the entire area was indigenous territory, and it was only with the creation of the first Colombian constitution in 1876 that these areas were renamed Bucaramanga and became the capital of the department.
Things to do and see in Bucaramanga
Catedral de La Sagrada Familia
After the establishment of the political constitution in 1876, Bucaramanga gradually grew in both population and territory. For this reason, in 1886, it was decided to build a new church that would become an icon of the city, namely the La Sagrada Familia cathedral.
The cathedral impresses with its symmetrical design with the white facade, the two impressive towers and the statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph on the roof of the church above the entrance.
The interior of the church is also very beautiful, with several stained glass windows and religious paintings. Regardless of whether you are a believer or not, this church should be visited as it has an impressive design.
La Casa del Libro Total
Founded in 2005, the museum is located in a colonial house and aims to collect, store and distribute various books in order to preserve human heritage. Inside there are various paintings and works of art. In addition, cultural events are often held here.
Parque San Pío
Probably the most emblematic park of Bucaramanga is the San Pío, a very large square that invites you to relax. The park has play areas for children, several green paths, and lots of street vendors. Nonetheless, the most striking feature of San Pío is the sculpture by Fernando Botero (one of the most famous artists in the country) entitled Muchacha de pie desnuda (Naked Standing Girl), popularly known as “la gorda” (the fat one).
Museo de Arte Moderno de Bucaramanga
The museum usually offers new exhibitions over and over again. Currently (2021) entry is free and there are several restaurants near the museum.
El museo Casa de Bolívar
The Casa de Bolívar Museum, restored in 2019, is an ideal place for anyone who wants to learn a little more about the history of Colombia and Santander.
The museum is almost entirely dedicated to Simón Bolívar (who is considered the liberator of various parts of Latin America). Here you can find out more about Bolivar, his life and time in Santander.
In addition to Simón Bolívar, the museum shows several objects from the Spanish colonial era and a room with pre-Columbian objects from the now extinct indigenous Guane culture.
Parque del Agua
Another emblematic park in Bucaramanga is Parque del Agua. This 3.6 hectare area is ideal for a day of relaxation.
Managed by the municipal aqueduct, this park, while small, offers several attractions. It has several fountains, small waterfalls and there are lots of colorful fish and turtles to see. This also gives you the opportunity to buy food for the beautiful fish within the facility.
How to get to Bucaramanga
Bucaramanga has an airport and is very easy to get to from Bogota.
- Cúcuta (Norte de Santander) is 121 miles (195 km) from Bucaramanga.
- Medellín (Antioquia) is 243.5 miles (392 km) from Bucaramanga.
- Bogotá is 308 miles (496 km) from Bucaramanga.
Where to stay in Bucaramanga
Excellent options for a stay in Bucaramanga are:
Carrera 27 # 29 – 145
The hotel is a modern and elegant tower that offers panoramic views of the city and direct access to the Parque Caracolí shopping center. It has a rooftop pool, gym, free WiFi, business center, restaurant and bar.
Holiday Inn Bucaramanga
Transversal Oriental con calle 93
The hotel is a high-rise building located in the exclusive sector of Cacique, next to the convention center Neomundo and the Cacique shopping mall. It features spacious rooms, a rooftop pool, a fitness center, a spa, a steakhouse and a skybar.
Hotel Dann Carlton Bucaramanga
Calle 47 #28-43
The hotel is located in the Cabecera area, the most exclusive commercial and business zone of the city. It offers luxurious rooms, a rooftop pool, a sauna, a gym, a business center and a spa. It also has two restaurants and a bar with stunning city views.
Where to eat in Bucaramanga
La Zona Rosa
The Zona Rosa on Calle 31 in Bucaramanga is the ideal place to have fun, drink and eat. Here you will find a wide variety of restaurants, nightclubs and bars. If you love hamburgers, I recommend a visit to the Filo restaurant. On my last visit, I ate one of the best hamburgers there in years.
El Centro Comercial Cacique
It is considered the most iconic shopping center in the department. Inside is a food court with several fast food and traditional Colombian restaurants.
Historic cities in Santander
The historic cities in Colombia are symbols of the history and culture of this country. These cities are characterized by their colonial architecture, with cobblestone streets, white houses with tall balconies, and buildings like churches that have stood here for several centuries.
If interested, I recommend my guide about the Colombian cities of culture.
Barichara is undoubtedly the most famous historical village in Santander. Thanks to the cobblestone streets, the colorful houses and the beautiful view, this place is known as the most beautiful village in Colombia.
The history of this place goes back to the beginning of the 18th century when a farmer found a stone with a carved image of the Virgin Mary in the area that later became Barichara. The interest in it led to the construction of the first church and little by little the village grew.
Because Barichara managed to maintain its colonial appearance over so many centuries, it was recognized as a national monument in 1975.
Things to do and see in Barichara
Catedral de La Inmaculada Concepción
This building is undoubtedly Barichara’s most famous church, both for its history and for its beautiful architecture, made entirely of stone. It is said that a peasant found a stone with the virgin’s face carved on it. In honor of this sacred apparition, they built the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which was inaugurated in 1838.
What is remarkable about this church is the beautiful facade, which is bright yellow in the morning and ocher in the afternoon. The interior is very beautiful, with huge pillars and an altar covered with gold leaf.
La Casa Natal de Aquileo Parra
One of the most important personalities born in Barichara was Aquileo Parra, who became President of Colombia between 1876 and 1878 and is therefore honored with this museum.
This house-museum was the original residence of the former president. During a visit, you will learn about the history of Aquileo Parra and some of the items associated with it.
Cementerio de Barichara
I know that it is rare to recommend a cemetery as a travel destination, but the one in Barichara is an exception, as this resting place for the deceased is made entirely of stone (the tombs), creating a unique design of great beauty.
La Casa de la Cultura Emilio Pradilla González
As in other communities in Colombia, there is also a house of culture in Barichara, which is characterized by its colonial architecture. If you want to learn about the history of this city, you can do so through the photographs, colonial objects and typical costumes that you will find on display there.
Mirador Salto del Mico
At this viewpoint there are some rocks where the tourists can sit and enjoy the nature and the sunsets. It is also THE Instagram meeting point.
Caution is advised, however, because unfortunately there are people who have died in a fall into the abyss.
Camino Real Barichara – Guane
In Barichara you have the opportunity to wander one of the royal roads of Colombia, which were built during the Spanish colony and were intended to connect with the major cities.
In this town is the Camino Real that leads from Barichara to the village of Guane.
How to get to Barichara
From Bucaramanga it is around 75 miles (121 km) and the journey takes around 3.5 hours. The distance from Bogotá is approx. 200 miles (321 km) with a journey time of around 7 hours.
Where to stay in Barichara
Here are some of the best hotels in Barichara that you can book for your trip.
Hotel Hicasua y Centro de Convenciones
Calle 7 No 3-89
The hotel is a beautiful colonial-style house located in Barichara. It offers an outdoor pool, a hot tub, rooms with rustic decor and free WiFi, and a restaurant with panoramic views of the garden. The Hotel Hicasua y Centro de Convenciones is only 15 km from the Chicamocha River, very popular among extreme sports enthusiasts. The archaeological site of San Gil is 47 km away. The staff at the tour desk can provide tips to discover the area. The rooms at Hicasua are equipped with flat-screen TV with cable channels, fan and safe. Every day a full American breakfast with tropical fruit and Colombian coffee is served. The restaurant offers regional and international dishes. Zapatoca Airport is 65 km away. There is free private parking.
Hotel Buenos Aires Barichara
Via Barichara, Km 1 cruce Choro a Villanueva
The hotel is an eco-friendly hotel located in Barichara, just 60 minutes by car from the Panachi National Park. It features a pool surrounded by gardens and rooms with private balcony and solar bathrooms. There is free WiFi and covered parking. The Hotel Finca Buenos Aires has hammocks under the Spanish galleries overlooking the countryside. It has a charming living room with wicker chairs and antique objects. The rooms at Finca Buenos Aires have carved wood details, wrought iron beds and red tile floor. They include TVs and private bathroom with shower. Every day a full breakfast with cheese, regional jams and freshly squeezed juices is served in the breakfast area, decorated with stone and wood elements. The Hotel Finca Buenos Aires is 14 km from San Gil and just 30 minutes by car from the Panachi National Park.
Hospedaje Donde Lorenzo
Calle 7 No 3-30
The Hospedaje Donde Lorenzo is located in Barichara, in Santander, and offers accommodation with free WiFi and free private parking. The accommodation has a terrace, mountain views, seating area, flat-screen TV with satellite channels, fully equipped kitchenette with fridge and dishwasher, and private bathroom with shower and free toiletries. They also include stoves and coffee maker. The nearest airport is Palonegro International Airport, located 120 km from Hospedaje Donde Lorenzo.
Where to eat in Barichara
Barichara is a touristic city that has a wide variety of restaurants serving typical Colombian or foreign cuisine. Some excellent options are:
Gringo Mike’s Barichara
This restaurant offers delicious international dishes, a wide range of hamburgers and salads. If you like Mexican food they offer that type of food too.
Al Fogolar Barichara
This restaurant is known for its delicious Colombian and Italian dishes. Be sure to try the lasagna and the delicious pork ribs.
If you like Spanish food this restaurant is the place for you. There is Mediterranean cuisine, a large selection of burgers and sandwiches, and vegan dishes.
It was in this city that Colombian independence heroes such as Manuela Beltrán were born, and it was in Socorro that the Comuneros revolt, which is considered to be one of the preludes that years later would become the symbol of the struggle for independence, originated.
El Socorro was founded in 1681 and thanks to its colonial architecture and historical importance, the city was declared a National Monument in 1963.
Things to do and see in Socorro
Parque de la Independencia
There are few places in Colombia that contain as much history as this park. This place is known because the famous Comuneros set off from here. Other special events also took place here, such as the execution of Antonia Santos, a Colombian heroine and invaluable ally of Simón Bolívar.
There are several memorial plaques and statues in the park that commemorate Colombian heroes.
Basílica Concatedral de Nuestra Señora del Socorro
The basilica, inaugurated in 1873, is considered the largest stone building in Colombia. This religious building is ideal for anyone who venerates the Virgin Mary. The interior of the basilica is very beautiful, with marble floors, several oratories and altars.
About 800 m from the center of Socorro is the Quinta Fominaya, one of the most curious buildings in the village. This building with Moorish architecture was once the home of Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Fominaya.
Fominaya was the leader of the Spanish armed forces under the command of the dreaded Pablo Morillo, known as a peacemaker and one of the protagonists of the Spanish reconquest.
These personalities were influential at the time of the terror regime, in which many Creoles (descendants of Europeans, deliberately differentiated from the Spanish from the motherland) and people who had opposed the Spanish Empire were executed.
Casa De La Cultura Horacio Rodríguez Plata
El Socorro also has its own cultural center. In this museum with its colonial architecture, you can see various historical items, colonial costumes, etc.
Casa de Berbeo
Another famous person who lived in El Socorro was Juan Francisco Berbeo, the general commander of the Comuneros. He lived in the historic village all his life.
Because of this, a museum known as the Casa de Berbeo has been set up in his former home (which is located in the historic center of Socorro). Here, homage is paid to the Colombian hero and you can learn a little more about the national history.
How to get to El Socorro
From Bucaramanga the distance is about 75 miles (120 km) and the journey takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes.
Where to stay in Socorro
If you’re planning to visit Socorro, Santander, you might be wondering where to stay in this charming colonial town. Some of the best hotels in Socorro are:
Hospedaje Los Capuchinos
Carrera 8 # 11-25
The Hospedaje Los Capuchinos is an apartment hotel located in Socorro, a town near Barichara. It offers accommodation with free WiFi, mountain views, and private parking. The apartments have a rustic style and feature a fully equipped kitchen, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, and a private bathroom with shower and free toiletries. The Hospedaje Los Capuchinos also provides towels, bed linen, and a 24-hour front desk service. The nearest airport is Palonegro International Airport, located 74 km away.
Hotel Villa Del Socorro
Carrera 13 No 11-23
The Hotel Villa Del Socorro is a cozy and elegant hotel located in Socorro, a short drive from Barichara. It offers free WiFi, an outdoor pool, and a restaurant. The rooms are decorated with wooden furniture and have a private bathroom with free toiletries and a hairdryer. They also include a minibar and a flat-screen TV with cable channels. Some rooms have pool views. The Hotel Villa Del Socorro serves an American breakfast every morning. It also has a sauna, a large garden, a shared lounge, a terrace, and a 24-hour front desk. The nearest airport is Palonegro International Airport, located 131 km away.
La Serrana Hostal Spa
Carrera 13 # 17-26
The La Serrana Hostal Spa is an eco-friendly hotel located in Socorro, close to Barichara. It offers free WiFi, an outdoor pool, and a spa. The rooms have a rustic style and feature wooden furniture, a private bathroom with free toiletries and a hairdryer, and a flat-screen TV with cable channels. Some rooms have mountain views. The La Serrana Hostal Spa serves an American breakfast every morning. It also has a restaurant, a sauna, a large garden, a shared lounge, a terrace, and a 24-hour front desk. San Gil is 21 km away, about 20 minutes by car.
San Juan de Girón
Girón was founded in 1631 and welcomes its visitors with a beautiful colonial architecture, which is characterized by cobbled streets and beautiful houses with white facades and adobe roofs.
This historic city is known as “the White City of Santander”. Due to the good preservation of the colonial architecture, Girón was declared a national monument in 1963.
Things to do and see in San Juan de Girón
Basílica Menor San Juan Bautista
Girón is an ideal place for religious tourism. One of the buildings not to be missed is the Señor de Los Milagros Basilica, which is located in the town square and is a place of pilgrimage for both locals and foreigners.
The basilica is characterized by a symmetrical design and its facade is painted completely white. When entering the church, one finds the image of the “Señor de los Milagros” (Lord of Miracles), one of the greatest icons of the religious culture of Colombia. This figure is the reason why many locals and tourists visit this city as it is attributed with miraculous powers.
Pilgrims ask for favors on health issues and have also prayed for the release of people kidnapped in the violence in Colombia.
Capilla Nuestra Señora de las Nieves
It is one of the most beautiful and traditional churches in Santander, construction of which began in 1595. This building impresses with its colonial architecture and its white and brown facade.
Casa Parroquial- Museo de Arte Religioso
On one side of the main park of Girón is the Museum of Religious Art, which is a must-see when visiting this city. Housed in a beautiful colonial house, this museum is home to many interesting objects including 18th century paintings, priest costumes, silver and gold items, and antique items that were used at masses.
Casa Consistorial y de Gobierno
Just minutes from the city’s main square is the Casa Consistorial y de Gobierno, a colonial house from 1631 (although it has been rebuilt several times due to fires and other events) that once housed the Girón government.
Today it can be visited and inside you can learn about the history and the most important events that took place in Girón.
Casa Museo La Mansión del Frayle
It is one of the most representative houses in Girón. It is characterized by its colonial architecture with three courtyards and balconies as well as by its beautiful wooden floors.
In addition to being a beautiful colonial house, La Mansión del Frayle has a delicious restaurant, so it is well worth coming here and trying new dishes.
How to get to Girón
It takes around 20 minutes to get there from Bucaramanga.
Where to stay in Girón
Here are some of the best hotels in Girón that you can book for your trip.
Macaregua Hotel Boutique
Calle 30 26-23
The Macaregua Hotel Boutique is a colonial-style hotel located in the old town of San Juan Girón, a beautiful colonial house with cane and clay roofs, beautiful rooms decorated with local crafts and antique pieces. It offers a garden, a craft shop, free WiFi and an American breakfast. The main square is a 3-minute walk away. The rooms at Macaregua Hotel Boutique have a quiet atmosphere and feature a minibar, private bathroom, TV and fan. Macaregua Hotel Boutique is 8 km from Bucaramanga and 15 minutes by car from Palonegro International Airport. There is free private parking nearby.
Hotel Las Nieves
Calle 30 # 25 – 71
The Hotel Las Nieves is located in Girón, 4.5 km from the CENFER convention center and 10 km from the Acualago water park, and offers a garden, terrace, restaurant and free WiFi. The property is 11 km from the Spanish consulate in Bucaramanga, 12 km from the Neomundo convention center and 46 km from Mesa de Los Santos. There is room service and a tour desk. The nearest airport is Palonegro International Airport, 9 km from the hotel. Couples love the location – they rated it 8.9 for a two-person trip.
Where to eat in Girón
This is a traditional Colombian restaurant with a wide variety of meat and fish.
This restaurant also specializes in traditional Colombian cuisine and offers a wide range of dishes and meats.
Other cities and places of interest in Santander
One of the places that has gained tourist interest in the department is undoubtedly the municipality of San Gil, known as the tourist capital of Santander. This is due to the variety of activities that are offered there, including various extreme sports.
Things to do and see in San Gil
One of the most popular sports to do in San Gil is rafting. Near the town is the Fonce River (about 25 minutes away), where you can go rafting at levels 1, 2 and 3, which is recommended for both beginners and advanced riders.
Then things get down to business on the Suarez River and level IV-V is found. I was there and it was a lot of fun!
Also on the river Fonce is the largest bungee jumping tower in Colombia with a height of 70 m. The organizer who offers this activity is Colombia Bungee Jumping. In 2021, the fun will cost around 80,000 pesos for a jump.
Horseback riding in San Gil
For less adrenaline-charged people, you can take a leisurely horse ride through the grounds of the Santa Bárbara Hacienda, which is 15 minutes from the center of San Gil.
Speleology in the Caverna del Indio cave
About 30 minutes from San Gil is the Caverna del Indio, a cave with various geological formations that can be visited during a tour of about 90 minutes.
It is noteworthy that there is an underground stream at the bottom of the cave and you have to swim out of the cave.
Parque Ecológico Cascadas de Juan Curí
Less than an hour from San Gil is the Ecological Park Cascadas de Juan Curí, where you can connect with nature and of course do extreme sports.
In the park there is the Juan Curí waterfall, where you can practice running in a torrent. There are two approved descents: one 80m and the other 130m, and the activity lasts about two hours.
How to get to San Gil
The journey from Bucaramanga takes around three hours.
Where to stay in San Gil
Here are some of the best hotels in San Gil:
Hotel La Montaña San Gil
Km 1 Via San Gil Mogotes
The Hotel La Montaña San Gil is a hotel located in San Gil, 40 km from the Chicamocha National Park. It offers accommodation with an outdoor pool, free private parking, a fitness center and a garden. It has a restaurant, room service, 24-hour front desk and free WiFi throughout the property. The hotel has a terrace and a sauna. All rooms are equipped with a wardrobe, a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, bed linen and towels. The rooms have a safe. Some have a balcony and others offer garden views. The rooms at Hotel La Montaña San Gil are equipped with free toiletries and an iPad. The property serves a continental or American breakfast. The Chicamocha water park is 40 km from Hotel La Montaña San Gil. The nearest airport is Palonegro International Airport, 107 km away.
Hotel Campestre Palmas del Zamorano
The Hotel Campestre Palmas del Zamorano is an eco-friendly hotel located in San Gil, 35 km from the Chicamocha National Park. It offers accommodation with an outdoor pool, free private parking, a garden and a terrace. It has a restaurant, room service, 24-hour front desk and free WiFi throughout the property. The accommodation has a business center, concierge service and currency exchange. The rooms are equipped with a flat-screen cable TV. Some rooms at Hotel Campestre Palmas del Zamorano have mountain views and a private bathroom with shower and free toiletries. All rooms have a wardrobe. The property serves a continental or American breakfast. Hotel Campestre Palmas del Zamorano offers an indoor pool. The hotel has a ping pong table and the area is ideal for hiking. The Chicamocha water park is 35 km from the hotel. The nearest airport is Palonegro International Airport, 103 km away.
Hotel Campestre Casona del Camino Real
Km 1 via San Gil – Mogotes Vereda Buenos Aires
The Hotel Campestre Casona del Camino Real is a country hotel surrounded by picturesque landscaped gardens and palm trees. It is 10 minutes drive from San Gil and offers adventure sports, an outdoor pool and spa. Guests at Hotel Campestre Camino Real can book paragliding, abseiling or rafting excursions. They can also relax in a hammock while enjoying the garden view. Rooms at Campestre Hotel have simple furnishings with parquet floors. All are equipped with an LCD and cable TV and free Wi-Fi. The restaurant at Campestre Camino Real Hotel serves regional cuisine, while the Don Vicente pool bar light appetizers. Hotel Campestre Camino Real is located 39 km from Chicamocha National park, and offers free parking. The 24-hour front desk can book guided excursions and nature trails.
Where to eat in San Gil
El Mesón del Arriero
A restaurant that offers typical Colombian food, its specialty is the bandeja paisa (paisa tray) and there are also vegan options.
This restaurant, which we also mentioned in Barichara, has a branch in San Gil. There are delicious international dishes, a large selection of hamburgers and salads. If you like Mexican food, this is the kind of food you can enjoy here too.
Bella Italia Ristorante Trattoria Familiare
If you like Italian food this is an excellent choice. They offer a wide variety of pasta and lasagna.
Another representative city in Santander is Zapatoca, which was founded in 1743. A small German colony formed here in the 19th century.
Around 1852 the businessman Geo von Lengerke arrived in Zapatoca with 100 Germans. These people drove progress in industry and trade throughout the department.
After the death of Geo von Lengerke (who was known as an incorrigible womanizer), his descendants continued to live in Zapatoca (and other parts of Santander), so the city is now known as the home of German Santander citizens.
Interestingly, many of these descendants do not speak German, but only retain certain physical characteristics and the surname.
Things to do and see in Zapatoca
Cueva del Nitro
Just 10 minutes from Zapatoca is the Nitro Cave, which was once a refuge for the now extinct Guane indigenous culture. Today, visiting this cave is one of the main tourist attractions of Zapatoca. The hike takes about three hours and is easy.
Mirador Los Guanes
The viewpoint is located about 20 minutes from Zapatoca. From here you can overlook the natural beauties of Santander and some of its communities.
Pozo Del Ahogado
About 10 minutes from Zapatoca is the beach town of Pozo del Ahogado. Here you can enjoy a wonderful bath with water from the Zapatoca stream.
According to legend, the name of this place came about because two farmers bet on which of them can survive underwater the longest without breathing. Both died!
Casa del Quijote
One of the most curious museums in Colombia is probably the Casa del Quijote, which houses more than 60 sculptures that pay homage to the figure created by Miguel de Cervantes.
The peculiarity of this museum is that it not only recreates the most iconic moments of Don Quixote de la Mancha, but also transfers it to the present day, which is why we find, for example, sculptures of Don Quixote and the Beatles.
Cascada La Lajita
About 20 minutes from Zapatoca is the beautiful La Lajita waterfall. This waterfall is surrounded by lush vegetation and nature and also has a fountain where you can take a relaxing bath.
How to get to Zapatoca
The journey from Bucaramanga takes around two hours. It takes around 4 hours from Barichara and San Gil.
Where to stay in Zapatoca
Here are some of the best hotels in Zapatoca:
Hotel Abadias de Zapatoca
Carrera 10 No 18 – 28
The Hotel Abadias de Zapatoca is a cozy and elegant hotel located in the center of Zapatoca, a charming colonial town in Santander. It offers a garden, a shared lounge, a restaurant and a bar. There is a sun terrace, free WiFi and free private parking. The rooms include a flat-screen TV. The rooms have a private bathroom. Some have a balcony and others offer mountain views. All rooms at Hotel Abadias de Zapatoca are equipped with bed linen and towels. The property serves a buffet or continental breakfast. The Hotel Abadias de Zapatoca has a ping pong table. The staff at the 24-hour front desk can provide tips to discover the area. The nearest airport is Palonegro International Airport, located 65 km from Hotel Abadias de Zapatoca.
Hotel Casa Palosanto
Carrera 9 a media cuadra del parque principal
The Hotel Casa Palosanto is an adult-only hotel located in Zapatoca, in a beautiful colonial house with cane and clay roofs, lovely rooms decorated with local crafts and antique pieces. It offers a garden, a craft shop, free WiFi and an American breakfast. The main square is a 3-minute walk away. The rooms at Hotel Casa Palosanto have a quiet atmosphere and feature a minibar, private bathroom, TV and fan. Hotel Casa Palosanto is 8 km from Bucaramanga and 15 minutes by car from Palonegro International Airport. There is free private parking nearby.
Hotel Casa Oasis
Cr 9 N 18-16
The Hotel Casa Oasis is a small family-run hotel located in the center of Zapatoca, 180 meters from the town’s central park and 67 km from Bucaramanga. All rooms are equipped with a flat-screen TV. All rooms have a private bathroom with shower and WiFi. The property has a shared lounge. The Hotel Casa Oasis is 33 km from San Gil and 31 km from Piedecuesta. The nearest airport is Palonegro Airport, located 36 km from Hostal Casa Oasis.
Where to eat in Zapatoca
Circo Burger & Steak
Offers a wide variety of hamburgers and meats, as well as craft beer.
Ambrozia Cafe Arte Restaurante
This restaurant prepares typical dishes from Santander. There are meat, fish, and even vegetarian options.
Restaurante La Puerta
Offers Italian food. The pasta and lasagna are delicious and there are also vegetarian options.
Floridablanca, like other communities in Santander, was originally inhabited by the Guane indigenous community. After the Spanish conquest, cities were founded much later in many areas in what is now Santander.
It was not until 1817 that Floridablanca received the right to officially become a city. Today this community is characterized by its modernity, its diverse buildings and its delicious Obleas (a traditional Colombian sweet dish).
Things to do and see in Floridablanca
Jardín botánico Eloy Valenzuela
Established in 1982, the Eloy Valenzuela Botanical Garden is known for being the only facility of its kind in all of eastern Colombia. On an area of 7.5 hectares and with more than 400 plant species, you have the opportunity to get to know the plant biodiversity of the northeast of Santander.
Parque de Las Mojarras
Another landmark of the municipality is the Parque de Las Mojarras, which was created in 2015. The aim was to give the community a new face and to create a space in which people can relax and connect with nature.
The park has several hiking trails, a beautiful stream, and play areas for children.
Another attraction in Floridablanca is the Acualago water park. This facility has 15 attractions, including multiple slides, an artificial river, and a pool with artificial waves.
Ecoparque Cerro del Santísimo
Who has not heard of the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, which, with its 38 meters height, is one of the 7 wonders of the modern world?
The Ecoparque Cerro del Santísimo is about 30 minutes from Floridablanca. There is a huge 37 m high statue of Jesus of Nazareth there. At the back of the Christ statue is a huge, 40 m high structure, which can be reached via a staircase and from which one can enjoy a wonderful view of the municipalities of Girón, Piedecuesta, Floridablanca and Bucaramanga.
The Ecoparque Cerro del Santísimo can be reached by cable car.
Paragliding and Voladero Las Águilas
San Gil isn’t the only community where extreme sports can be enjoyed. Just 10 minutes from Floridablanca is the Voladero Las Águilas, where you can go paragliding.
The flights last up to 45 minutes and the price for this activity is currently (2021) 120,000 pesos. The payment also includes an insurance policy.
How to get to Floridablanca
From Bucaramanga one is in 10 minutes in Floridablanca.
Where to stay in Floridablanca
Here are the best hotels in Floridablanca:
Hotel Don Juan Colonial
Calle 32 # 26-38
The Hotel Don Juan Colonial is a hotel located in Floridablanca, 1 km from the Acualago water park and 11 km from the CENFER convention center. It offers rooms with air conditioning and private bathroom. It also has a garden, a shared lounge, a restaurant and a terrace. It provides concierge service, room service, 24-hour front desk and free WiFi throughout the property. The rooms are equipped with a flat-screen TV with cable channels. The rooms at Hotel Don Juan Colonial include bed linen and towels. The property serves a continental or American breakfast. Hotel Don Juan Colonial is 5.3 km from the Neomundo convention center and 19 km from Palonegro International Airport.
Transversal 25 # 1-92
The Ruitoque Hills is an apartment located in Floridablanca, 4.4 km from the Acualago water park and 15 km from the CENFER convention center. It offers accommodation with a garden, free private parking, a fitness center and a shared lounge. It has a restaurant, room service, 24-hour front desk and free WiFi throughout the property. The apartment has a terrace, city views, 3 bedrooms, living room, flat-screen TV, equipped kitchen with fridge and 2 bathrooms with shower. Towels and bed linen are provided. The apartment has a sauna. The Ruitoque Hills offers car rental service. The Neomundo convention center is 5.1 km from the accommodation, while the Chicamocha National Park is 48 km away.
Posada Casa España
Cra 22 # 153e – 16
The Posada Casa España is an inn located in Floridablanca, 1.9 km from the Acualago water park and 11 km from the CENFER convention center. It offers rooms with air conditioning and private bathroom. The property is around 5.1 km from the Neomundo convention center, 6.9 km from the Consulate of Spain in Bucaramanga and 40 km from Mesa de Los Santos. There is a shared kitchen and free WiFi throughout the property. The rooms include a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. Posada Casa España is 46 km from the Chicamocha cable car. The nearest airport is Palonegro International Airport, 18 km from the inn.
Where to eat in Floridablanca
Centro Comercial Caracolí
If you are in Floridablanca for the day, you can visit the Centro Comercial Caracolí, which has a food court with fast food and traditional restaurants.
If you visit Barichara, you should definitely make a detour to Guane. With the mototaxi you can get there in 30 minutes. You can also walk there via the Camino Real. The village is characterized by its beautiful architecture and history.
Some members of the now extinct Guane Indians lived in this village. During the Spanish conquest, the Europeans expelled the members of this community from Moncora (the previous name of today’s Barichara) and forced them to live in the area that was later called Guane.
Guane is not particularly big, but there are some tourist attractions that make a visit to this Corregimiento special.
Things to do and see in Guane
Museo Arqueológico y Paleontológico de Guane
The village’s greatest attraction is undoubtedly the museum, which houses a collection of more than 10,000 items, including a variety of animal fossils and items that belonged to the Guanes, including pottery, spears, clothing and necklaces.
A special feature in this museum is the mummy of a Guane woman in fetal position. If you want to know the history of the Guane, this place is a must to visit.
Cementerio de Guane
Like the Barichara Cemetery, the Guane Cemetery is also characterized by its incredible beauty. This posthumous resting place also has a stone architecture of great beauty.
In addition to the architecture, it is above all the view that attracts visitors, because the location offers a wonderful mountain panorama.
Mirador de Guane
Just 5 minutes from the main square of Guane you will find this viewpoint, from which you can also enjoy a beautiful mountain panorama.
Mirador del Cañón de Suárez
Another beautiful vantage point is also just 5 minutes from the main square of Guane (two blocks). From there you can see the beautiful Cañón de Suárez.
How to get to Guane
From Barichara you can get there in 30 minutes.
Where to stay in Guane
Here are the best hotels in Guane:
Ojalá Guane Barichara
Carera 8 #6-30
The hotel is a green oasis with a cozy atmosphere, just half a block from the main square of Guane (15 minutes from Barichara). Minka and Elke, the owners, will make you feel at home and offer delicious and creative vegetarian food and drinks. You can choose to stay in a deluxe queen room, a king room with mountain views, or a deluxe suite with a hot tub.
La Patagonia de Guane
Calle 8 #7-12
The hotel is a charming bed and breakfast located in the heart of Guane, a small village with a rich history and culture. You can enjoy the views of the mountains and the canyon from the terrace or relax in the outdoor bath. The hotel offers a continental breakfast and a restaurant with local cuisine. You can choose from a triple room, a double room, or a bed in a dormitory.
Where to eat in Guane?
In Guane there are several shops and restaurants that offer typical dishes. In this village, it is common to eat goat cheese and various types of fish such as trout. Sabajón, a very sweet alcoholic drink, is also very common.
Another historic town in Santander is Vélez, which was founded in 1539 and can look back on a long history. It was once inhabited by the Chibchas, an indigenous culture.
After the arrival of the Spaniards, the city became a resting place for European soldiers and a handicraft market. Today, Vélez is known for its famous Veleño snack, which is made from guava and is one of the typical sweets of Colombia.
Things to do and see in Velez
Catedral Nuestra Señora de las Nieves
The most iconic building in the municipality is surely the Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de las Nieves. This religious building was inaugurated in 1560 and is the architectural heritage of Vélez.
This cathedral is known as the crossed church because its entrance is on one side (there is only one other church in the world that has this property), and hence the famous saying “more crossed than the church of Vélez” .
The church is located opposite the main park of Vélez, where the delicious Velez snacks are sold, so you can accompany your visit with one of these delicacies.
Cueva de los Indios
Just a few minutes from the main square of Vélez is the Cueva de los Indios, another attraction of the municipality. It is said that during the Spanish conquest, some Indians visited this cave to hide from the Europeans.
Inside there are underground waterfalls, in one part you can see a multitude of stalactites and the mummy of the Cacique Agatá is expected.
Museo Real De Vélez
This is the only museum in Velez. It’s relatively small, but the objects tell you about the history of the community and some facts about Colombia.
Colegio Nacional Universitario
One block from the Museo Real De Velez is the Colegio Nacional Universitario, one of the most famous buildings in the city. This house was built in 1549, has colonial architecture and a white facade. Originally it served as a monastery for the Franciscan order.
It was declared an educational institution in 1824 and a national monument in 1973. It is currently used as a school, but can be visited.
How do you get to Vélez?
From Bucaramanga the journey takes around 5 hours.
Where to eat in Vélez
El Fogón Veleño
This is a traditional barbecue area with a wide variety of meat, chicken, and fish. They also offer breakfast.
San Angel Gourmet
It is a place with different types of lunches and offers a wide variety of meat and pasta.
Although Florián is not a municipality with a centuries-old history (it was founded in 1915), it has become an interesting tourist destination thanks to the iconic windows of Tisquizoque (which we will talk about later).
In the area of today’s Florián there were several indigenous communities, but after the Spanish conquest they fought in vain against the Europeans, so that the indigenous population became less.
In the 19th century, the entire area was acquired by Ezequiel Florián and his son-in-law Belisario Tellez founded the city in 1915.
Things to do and see in Florián
Las ventanas de Tisquizoque
Hands down the most iconic place in the community and the reason the city is called “The City of Open Windows”. Legend has it that at the time of the Spanish conquest, European soldiers cornered a cacique (native leader) named Tisquizoque.
The cacike, who was a proud man and would rather die than fall into the hands of the enemy, fled through a cave. At the end of it there is a huge 86 m high waterfall and it jumped without hesitation. This gave rise to the name Las ventanas de Tisquizoque (The Windows of Tisquizoque).
Las ventanas de Tisquizoque is a huge, 90 m long cave. This is full of stalactites and you can walk through it. At the other end, as mentioned, there is a huge opening that houses the first waterfall (there are three of them) where the Kazike Tisquizoque allegedly committed suicide.
In the opening of the cave you can admire an incredible landscape. That is why the waterfall is considered to be one of the most beautiful viewpoints in Santander. To get to the waterfall, a walk of around 30 minutes is necessary.
Another natural tourist attraction is found on the way to the windows of Tisquizoque. The Charco Paila is a natural pool. It is lapped by a small waterfall and is a place of relaxation.
About 5 minutes by car from Florian is the Charco Azul, a large natural pool where you can swim and relax. In the distance you can also see the last waterfall of Las ventanas de Tisquizoque.
Caverna de Brazuelos
The Brazuelos Cave is a gigantic cave, which, unlike the windows of the Tisquizoque, is very difficult to access.
To get to Brazuelos Cave, one has to undertake a strenuous hike that takes about three hours.
How do you get to Florian?
Florian is located in the south of the Santander department, around 275 kilometers from the capital Bucaramanga. The journey takes around 7 hours.
Where can you eat in Florian?
Super Broaster Florianense
Calle 3 # 1B- 186
It’s not a fancy restaurant, but it’s great for a quick and tasty lunch. They base their kitchen offer on a serving of chicken breast.
El Socorro isn’t the only town in Santandereano that prides itself on its contribution to Colombian independence. Another place that gained merit during this period was Charalá. This village is also known as the cradle of America’s freedom.
Colombian heroes like José Antonio Galán, who was one of the leaders of the Comuneros and was executed by the Spaniards, were born in Charalá. Later this was also cut into pieces. His limbs were placed in different parts of the country to prevent others from identifying themselves as like-minded people and visiting his grave.
Another important event was the Battle of Pienta in 1819 during the Colombian War of Independence, when peasants faced Spanish soldiers.
Things to do and see in Charalá
Parque Principal de Charalá
There are statues in the park commemorating José Antonio Galán, and the biggest attraction is of course the Samán tree. The Saman tree is gigantic and stands in the middle of the park. It was planted in 1919 to commemorate the centenary of Colombia’s independence. Today it is a symbol of the community and a place where tourists can be photographed.
Museo del Algodón y Lienzo de la Tierra
Like many Colombian cities, Charalá has a long tradition of cotton crafting. For this reason, it was decided in 2013 to create this museum, which in its different rooms tells the story of cotton in Santander.
Museo Jaime Guevara
In this museum you can learn more about the importance of Charalá for Colombian independence and its illustrious personalities. The museum was founded by the artist Jaime Guevara. Therefore there is also a room where you can see your paintings.
Parque Ecológico Cascadas de Juan Curí
Here is the Juan Curí waterfall, where you can practice torrentismo (canyoning). This place is only 20 minutes away from Charalá.
How do you get to Charalá?
Charala is about a three-hour drive from Bucaramanga.
Where to stay in Charalá
Some excellent ways to stay in Charalá are:
Hotel Cacique Chalalá
Calle 23 # 15 – 29
The hotel is a colonial-style building with colorful gardens, located in the historical center of Charalá. It is close to the main park, the church, and several museums. The hotel offers 20 spacious and comfortable rooms with private bathroom, hot water, wi-fi and cable TV. You can also enjoy the restaurant with typical dishes of the region, the parking lot and the solar panels that provide sustainable energy12
Casa El Cedro
Km 7 Vía Charalá -Encino
The house is a cozy and peaceful place surrounded by nature and mountains. It is located 7 km from Charalá and 45 km from San Gil. The house offers views of the Pienta river and serves a continental breakfast. You can choose from a deluxe room with a king-size bed, a deluxe room with a double bed, or a studio with a balcony and two beds. The house also has a terrace, a garden, a shared lounge and a games room.
Hotel La Hacienda del Pienta
Carrera 18 con 19 esquina
The hotel is a modern and elegant establishment situated in Charalá. It has a restaurant, a bar, a garden and a sun terrace. Some rooms have a balcony with mountain views. The hotel serves an American or à la carte breakfast. You can also enjoy the free wi-fi, private parking and pet-friendly policy. The hotel is close to the airport and some natural attractions.
Where to eat in Charalá
This restaurant offers typical dishes from Santander and they offer a wide variety of meats and hamburgers.
Restaurante La Palma
Here they offer typical Colombian food. This restaurant recommends the pork loin and ora meat.
Cañón de Chicamocha
Colombia is synonymous with nature and has a multitude of natural wonders to offer. One of them is undoubtedly the imposing Chicamocha Canyon, a 1.2 miles (2 km) deep and 141 miles (227 km) long geographic fault.
There are many viewpoints along the canyon from which to admire the beauty of this natural wonder, but you can also visit Chicamocha National Park.
Chicamocha (Panachi) National Park was established in 2006. Because of this, we find architectural elements that are characteristic of the region, such as arched windows, wide columns and porticoes from Tapia Pisada. There is also the famous Monumento a la Santandereanidad, which contains 36 sculptures in memory of the “Comuneros” and is oriented towards Socorro, the birthplace of this revolutionary group.
For more information I refer to our Chicamocha travel guide.
In contrast to other departments, such as B. Boyacá, Santander is not characterized by such iconic festivals. However, some of the most popular are:
Día de la santandereanidad
Every year on May 17th, the Día de la Santandereanidad is celebrated, which commemorates the creation of the sovereign state of Santander in 1857, which lasted until the constitution of 1876 when it became a department.
On this day, dances, demonstrations and offers of traditional dishes of the department take place in different parts of the department.
Festival Iberoamericano de Cuenteros Abrapalabra
The festival takes place in Bucaramanga in September or October. During this festival, various storytellers come to please the audience with their stories.
Feria Bonita en Bucaramanga
It is the most important festival in Bucaramanga and takes place for 10 days in September. During the festival there are concerts, craft fairs, shows, etc.
Festival Nacional de la Guabina y el Tiple
Velez is known not only for its delicious Veleño snack, but also for the iconic National Festival of the Guabina and the Tiple, which aims to bring out the musical traditions of the indigenous people.
This festival serves to preserve the culture and presents choreographies and instruments that are native to the region.
Festival de Cine Verde de Barichara
Barichara also has its own film festival called Festiver, which is all about the environment. It is a competition in which national and international directors present their short or feature films. This festival takes place in September.
Night life in Santander
Bucaramanga is a larger city and therefore offers many opportunities to go out. The rest of the communities in the department are rather cozy.
Best time to visit Santander
Santander has such a rich historical, architectural and natural heritage that it can be visited at any time. However, places like Barichara or the Chicamocha Gorge are very popular with tourists. It can therefore get very crowded during the high season (December to mid-January, June, July, Easter and the holiday weekends).
The falls generally carry more water during the rainy season (April, May and September and October).
Transport in Santander
To get around in Santander, there are several options available depending on the destination, budget, and preferences of each traveler. Some of the most common options are:
The bus is an economical and accessible option for getting around in Santander, as there are several transportation companies that cover routes between municipalities in the department and other regions of the country. The Bucaramanga Bus Terminal is the main departure and arrival point for intermunicipal and interdepartmental buses. The San Gil Bus Terminal also offers bus services to other tourist destinations such as Barichara, Guane, Curití, and Socorro.
The taxi is a practical and safe option for getting around within cities or between nearby places. Taxis in Santander have meters that indicate the fare based on the distance traveled. Taxis can also be requested by phone or through mobile applications. The cost of the service varies depending on the city, time, and traffic.
Private or rented car
Another option for getting around in Santander is to drive a private or rented car. This option provides greater freedom and independence to explore different places in the department at your own pace. However, it’s important to consider that some roads may be in poor condition or have tolls. Additionally, you need to have a valid driver’s license and mandatory insurance.
The bicycle is an eco-friendly and healthy option for getting around in Santander, especially in rural or natural areas. The bicycle allows you to enjoy the scenery, climate, and local culture in a different way. Additionally, it’s an ideal choice for exercising or engaging in eco-tourism.
What I like and don’t about Santander
Santander is an excellent tourist destination. There are plenty of outdoor activities and the high altitude makes the temperature perfect. Culturally, you will also find some of the most beautiful villages in Colombia in the department. The residents are super friendly and I always felt very welcome on my visits.
With the Chicamocha Graben, the department also has a unique attraction. I think this department will increasingly attract international tourism in the future.
What I don’t like is that I think you can find some of the most miserable road users in Santander. General driving skills are underground and 25% of road users should be sent back to driving school.
Colombia Travel Guides
Here you will find travel guides for the most popular regions in Colombia, which we have put together during our extensive travels around the country.
- Colombia Travel Guide
- Bogota Travel Guide
- Medellin Travel Guide
- Santa Marta Travel Guide
- Cartagena Travel Guide
- La Guajira Travel Guide
- Llanos Travel Guide
- Providencia Travel Guide
- Coffee Triangle Travel Guide
- Amazonas Travel Guide
- Choco Travel Guide
- Santander Travel Guide
- Boyaca Travel Guide
- Villa de Leyva Travel Guide
- San Andres Island Travel Guide
- Tayrona Park Travel Guide
- Palomino Travel Guide
- Cali Travel Guide
- Heritage Towns Colombia Travel Guide
- 7 Wonders of Colombia
- Chicamocha Canyon Travel Guide
- Colombia Golf Travel Guide
- Colombia Museums Guide
Travel Guides to Colombia’s Small Towns
Here you will find travel guides for less popular destinations in Colombia. Some of these destinations are even real insider tips and not even known to the Colombians as travel destinations.
- Monteria Colombia Travel Guide
- Magangue Colombia Travel Guide
- Turbo Colombia Travel Guide
- Arauca Colombia Travel Guide
- San José del Guaviare Colombia Travel Guide
- Pasto Colombia Travel Guide
- Tunja Colombia Travel Guide
- Armenia Colombia Travel Guide
- Villavicencio Colombia Travel Guide
- Ibague Colombia Travel Guide
- Quibdo Colombia Travel Guide
- Manizales Colombia Travel Guide
- Yopal Colombia Travel Guide
- Popayan Colombia Travel Guide
- Barranquilla Colombia Travel Guide
- Barrancabermeja Colombia Travel Guide
- Valledupar Colombia Travel Guide
- Sincelejo Colombia Travel Guide
- Tulua Colombia Travel Guide
- Tumaco Colombia Travel Guide
- Palmira Colombia Travel Guide
- Neiva Colombia Travel Guide
- Buenaventura Colombia Travel Guide
- Ipiales Colombia Travel Guide
- Mitu Colombia Travel Guide
- Mocoa Colombia Travel Guide
- Puerto Carreno Colombia Travel Guide
- Puerto Asis Colombia Travel Guide
- Cucuta Colombia Travel Guide
- Pereira Colombia Travel Guide
- Bucaramanga Colombia Travel Guide
- Riohacha Colombia Travel Guide
- Florencia Colombia Travel Guide
- El Carmen de Bolivar Colombia Travel Guide
- Aguachica Colombia Travel Guide
- Sogamoso Colombia Travel Guide
- Inirida Colombia Travel Guide
- Caucasia Colombia Travel Guide