San Gil Backpacking – Rafting, Hiking & much much more

san gil

Where is San Gil?

San Gil is nestled in the Santander department of Colombia. A small Andean city in northern Colombia, San Gil is a haven for the adventurous. A city renowned for its outdoor activities, the options abundant and the scenery lovely. San Gil is also built for those who don’t want to elevate their heart rates but want a taste of northern Colombian life.

San Gil, Colombia
San Gil, Colombia

What can I do in San Gil?

Because most people come here for the outdoor offerings, it’s only appropriate that we start with what outdoor activities are available. Also, because I know most of you readers are on a tighter budget, I will highlight prices of activities so you can plan accordingly. Keep reading for where to start your journey here:

Juan Curi Waterfall
Outside of Juan Curi Waterfall


The Rio Suarez is what drew me here and if you want to get your adrenaline fill, start here. Class 4 & 5 rapids combined with some tranquil Class 2 & 3s, your day on the river will be more than worthwhile.

  • Pickup: 10 am
  • River Time: 2 hours
  • Transport: 2 hours
  • Cost: 130,000 COP

Not ready to jump in the belly of the beast or the water level is to high? (The latter is common as some of my friends had to wait a week for it to subside). Take a more calm but still eventful raft down the Rio Fonce up to class 3 rapids.

  • Cost: 35,000 COP
  • Transport: 30 minutes
  • River time: 1.5 hours

Parapente (Paragliding)

San Gil Paragliding
San Gil Paragliding

Paragliding or Parapente, has glided into the list of must do while exploring Colombia. If you’re going to Paraglide in one spot in Colombia, this is it. Soaring into the sky for up to 30 minutes into the scenic Chicamocha canyon, your decision will be a highlight of your Colombia trip. Not only fly longer than any area in Colombia but also inside one of the worlds largest canyons.

  • Pickup: 8 Am – 10 Am
  • Transport: 45 minutes
  • Flight time: 30 minutes
  • Cost: 180,000 COP

Bungee Jumping

San Gil Bungee Jumping
San Gil Bungee Jumping

Live life on the edge? Or a square looking to step out of your box? San Gil provides you with 2 heights to unshackle your fears and boost your adrenaline. Starting at 70 meters & doubling the fun up to 140 meters. Aside from the rapid heart rate increase, the views from the platform in the mountainous setting are more than worthwhile.

  • 70 meters: 70,000 COP ($25)
  • 140 meters: 90,000 COP ($30)

Juan Curi Waterfall

Juan Curi waterfall is one of San Gil’s most popular and scenic waterfall. Why did I enjoy it so much?

  • Easy to get to
  • Gorgeous
  • Secluded
  • Refreshing
Juan Curi Waterfall
Juan Curi Waterfall

Getting to Juan Curi waterfall is very easy. Hop on the bus towards Curiti for 5000 COP and inform the driver that you want to be dropped at Juan Curi. (The entrance is right on the main road, so it’s incredibly easy to find). You will be on the bus for about 30 minutes before arriving.

Juan Curi does come with a cost. It is 9000 COP to enter and 20 minutes of light trekking until you arrive at the beautiful waterfall.

Juan Curi Cascade
Juan Curi Cascade
Lower Juan Curi Waterfall
Lower Juan Curi Waterfall

Most folks will only ooh and ahh at the beast in front of them but don’t be that person. After scaling across the stream make a left following a roped trail and follow it until you reach the first waterfall. You will be giddier than a fat kid with cake.

Lower Juan Curi Waterfall
Lower Juan Curi Waterfall

Mountain Biking

Don’t feel like jumping of a bridge, rafting, or any other activity? Grab a mountain bike and hit some of Colombia’s best trails. Day idea! Take the bikes out for the day for a thrilling ride in the Santander mountains. I hate riding uphill too but lucky enough for you, the ride is 95% downhill. Sign up a day early for a guaranteed dose of fun.

Hike The Camino Real

Camino Real
Camino Real

An ancient cobbled path constructed by the indigenous & then later used by the Spaniards in the 1800s for transporting goods throughout the Santander valley, the Camino Real shouldn’t be missed. Most people do the Barichara section to Guane but if you have more flexibility in your schedule I suggest the whole route. 2-3 days. Read more below about the whole trail.

San Gil Backpacking – The Complete Camino Real Trail

What else can I do in San Gil?

San Gil Market – Aside from the outdoor activities offered here, San Gil offers a surprisingly extensive market that became one of my favorites in all of Colombia. There are two large buildings that contain the madness but things are orchestrated well. One is primarily food to order and foods, whereas across the street is almost entirely food and various spices.

San Gil Market
San Gil Market

Tejo – Colombia’s 2nd national sport, Tejo is an extremely popular sport in the Santander department. Plan your Tejo night with Macondo Hostel, who organizes Tejo Tuesdays if enough people are signed up.

Tejo, Colombia

Where next?

With San Gils central location, Bogota is only 8 hours south, Medellín 8 hours West & Santa Marta 12 north. Need some more help or ideas to for these cities? Read the older posts below:

Bogota Backpacking: Street Art, Traffic and everything in between

5 Medellín Tours Every Backpacker Can´t Miss

Options are abundant in San Gil so getting stuck there is easy. If you are in search of other information, reach out to me for any travel planning or ideas. Until then, hope to see you in Colombia or any other city in the world.

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