Barichara | What to do and see in Colombia’s prettiest town
Welcome to Santander’s Barichara, Colombia’s prettiest town. While some places can seem over-hyped once you actually get there, with Barichara we can absolutely see why it was given this title. Unlike other pretty pueblos that have stunning centres but plain-looking outskirts, Barichara has the same colonial style all the way to the very edges. Though there aren’t that many things to do in Barichara, it’s still popular with tourists, but not by any means a tourist trap or overrun by travellers. You’ll see a few little touristic shops in which to buy locally-produced souvenirs, but nothing too overwhelming. It’s managed to maintain its Santander pueblo charm, for sure. Check out our video of our time visiting Barichara, Colombia here:
Things to do in and around Barichara, Colombia
Barichara was primarily a place for us to relax. After the bustle of San Gil, it was amazing to just sit back with a bottle of wine and enjoy the views, the way a Santander pueblo should really be appreciated! That being said, there are at least a few other things to do in and around Barichara, Colombia 😉
– Hike the Camino Real from Barichara to Guane
What we did do, other than walk around and people-watch (and also Champions League-watch from a plaza bar) was hike the Camino Real from Barichara to Guane, a teeny tiny pueblito with all its authenticity still very much intact. The so-called ‘royal road’ is 9km, but the majority of it is downhill on the way to Guane, and the walk is cobbled the whole way.
It took us around 2 hours to complete the hike, and while we only spent about an hour exploring and getting lunch in Guane before heading back to Barichara, it was definitely worth it. About a kilometre from Guane, you’ll come to a small campesino house on your left through an arched gate. Go up to the house and ask to be directed to ‘la piedra’. This rock sits at the top of this family’s property and gives amazing views of the valley. Visiting la piedra is free, but if you’re going to do so it’s only polite to buy a drink or two from the house.
In the town of Guane, we mostly just milled around (this is becoming pretty standard for us). There are excellent viewpoints over Santander to the edge of town, and we recommend eating a goat lunch at one of the small restaurants. The bus from Guane to Barichara leaves from the main plaza every hour, and they take 30 mins.
No pueblo in Santander, Colombian would be complete without a beautiful church at which to marvel, and Barichara has 3 that we’d consider worth a stroll around. The size of the churches reflects the size of the town, so don’t expect El Santuario-level amazement, but they’re interesting all the same.
Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción is the cathedral you’ll see when you first alight the bus from San Gil in the main square, whilst the Capilla de Santa Bárbara can be found right on the northern edge of town, a little up from where the hike from Barichara to Guane begins. Capilla San Antonio is another you may want to have a peek in at, just south of the centre of the pueblo.
– Find peace at the graveyard
To the West of town, on the edge of a very quiet plaza, you’ll find a cemetery. This is both beautiful and peaceful, and some of the tombstones are really interesting, with personalised additions like footballs carved in.
– Check out the views from El Mirador
What only adds to the beauty of this town is that to the West, the ground just drops into the cliff-edge of the Chicamocha Canyon. For those who don’t know, this is the second-largest canyon in the world, and one that you can paraglide over on an excursion from San Gil. This provides absolutely breath-taking sights from the edge of town, and thankfully a few small cafés and restaurants have taken advantage of their unusual back garden to offer refreshments with a view.
You will pass El Mirador anyway if you hike from Barichara to Guane, but it’s worth a stop-over for a smoothie or local Colombian beer all the same.
Where to stay in Barichara, Colombia
While there are a few hostels and hotels scattered around the centre of the prettiest town in Colombia, we chose to stay on the outskirts (only 6 blocks from the main square) at Artepolis. It’s more of a hotel and more luxury than we’re used to, but the price was well within our budget of £20 a night. The staff there are wonderful and the views are excellent.
For more of a hostel vibe in the centre of Barichara, we would recommend a stay at Hostal Casa Nacuma. It’s set in a typical Santander house with a courtyard and has tried to stick to its traditional roots. We’ve heard good things!
How to get to Barichara from San Gil by bus
The easiest way to get to Barichara by bus is via San Gil, Santander. There are direct buses to San Gil from Bogotá which take 6 hours on average, or from Bucaramanga to San Gil which takes 2 and a half hours. Head to the main bus terminals of those respective cities to hop on.
Once in San Gil, you need to go to the terminalito (there are two bus terminals in San Gil; this one is closer to the centre). In the office there, you’ll see a sign for Barichara at the desk. Once you’ve bought your bus ticket, head out to the bus sitting under a Barichara sign. Simple! The bus from San Gil to Barichara takes half an hour and costs 5,200 pesos (£1.30).
Where to go next after Barichara, Colombia?
Well, if you only passed through San Gil to get to Barichara, then get yourself back to San Gil and spend at least a few days there. The town is significantly bigger than Colombia’s prettiest pueblo, and while its reputation as a heartland for adrenaline junkies is an accurate one, there are still other things to do and see which would interest the scaredy-cats among us.
If you want to get further off the beaten track and have enough time/patience to get there, visiting Quebrada las Gachas in Guadalupe, Santander is an incredible experience to have during your trip to Colombia. These ‘natural jacuzzis’ in a purple-algae-covered riverbed are a sight to behold, and the pueblo is really beautiful, too.
How long to spend in Barichara, Colombia: 1-2 days
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