I had no idea what I was getting into until I set foot in San Gil, Colombia. But if you’re craving days filled with adventure at a super affordable price, then San Gil is your dream destination. Whether it’s bungee jumping, paragliding, wild rafting, or any adrenaline-pumping activity you can think of, this place has got you covered.
So, no more suspense, let me introduce you to this adventure wonderland. It’s not only incredibly exciting but also perfect for budget-conscious travellers. Despite not being an adrenaline junkie myself, I dove headfirst into it all.
Where is San Gil?
Well, in Colombia…😃 And more precisely here ↓
San Gil is nestled in the Santander region. Tucked away in the northeastern part of the country, amidst the Andean landscapes of the Colombian Andes, it’s roughly 300 kilometers (186 miles) northeast of Bogotá, the nation’s capital.
This Colombian gem is often hailed as the “Adventure Capital of Colombia” thanks to the variety of adventure sports and activities. Nearby, you’ll find the Chicamocha River Canyon, one of the world’s largest canyons.
How to Get to San Gil?
There are several options for reaching this somewhat remote area (more remote than other cities but definitely worth it!):
- We opted for an overnight bus journey from Santa Marta, but you’ll find long-distance buses departing from Colombia’s major cities. Two main companies operate the Santa Marta-San Gil route: Copetran (the one we chose) and Espreso Brasilia. It cost us around 25-30 euros for a journey of around 13 hours. To be honest, the bus was very comfy, and there was plenty of space.
- Another convenient option is flying into Bucaramanga airport (BGA). You can book flights to BGA from Colombian cities like Bogotá, Medellín, or Cali. Upon arrival, simply hop into a taxi or catch a bus to the main bus terminal, Terminal de Transportes de Bucaramanga. From there, you’ll find buses that can take you directly to San Gil. Alternatively, if you prefer more comfort and convenience, you can opt for a taxi ride.
3 Top Things to Do in San Gil, Colombia
♥ Paragliding in San Gil
Personally, I never thought I’d find myself doing something like paragliding (I’m really not the adrenaline junkie type), but there I was, perched atop a hill, preparing for takeoff.
Before I dive into the experience, here are some practical details.
We decided to go paragliding in Chicamocha Canyon, but I’ve heard that Curiti is another great spot for it. The trip was organized through Traveler Hostel San Gil. The typical paragliding experience lasts around 20-30 minutes.
We paid COP 200,000 (€40),which included:
- Round-trip transportation from your hostel to the paragliding takeoff point.
- Accident insurance coverage.
- Specialized paragliding equipment.
- Hydration (read: beer at the end) during the adventure.
- The guidance of experienced and certified paragliding pilots.
Our launch site was nestled high on a hill, granting us a great view of the surrounding valleys and the Chicamocha Canyon countryside. As I listened to my instructor’s guidance, my nerves began to kick in. However, before I knew it, I found myself running toward the edge of the hill, taking that leap of faith, all while hoping for the best.
And it truly was the best. The sensation of gliding through the air, sharing the sky with birds, defies description. The tranquility and serenity of being up in the air, far away from the daily chaos, felt sort of magical. It was as if the only things in existence were the wind, the clouds, and our glider. Time seemed to stand still, and nothing else mattered.
As we neared the end of the experience, my instructor surprised me with an unexpected question: “Ready for an extra dose of adrenaline?” To this day, I’m not entirely sure why I agreed, but I did. Without hesitation, he initiated a series of maneuvers, sending us spinning through the sky. Typically, you’d have to pay extra for that, and looking back, I can’t help but call myself crazy. Yet, it was an absolute blast.
Finally, we executed a smooth landing back on solid ground.
♥ White-water rafting in San Gil, Colombia
♥ Bungee jumping in San Gil, Colombia
Now, this was a hard pass for me, but Nicky was up for the challenge. We made our way to the bungee jumping site, where we hopped (well, I tried to escape that part, but…) into a cable car that would transport us to a 140-meter drop above the canyon. If I’m not mistaken, it’s South America’s tallest bungee jump. Sitting in that cable car was my adventure limit – I clung to it for dear life, avoiding any downward glances.
However, curiosity got the better of me. I had to steal a glimpse when Nicky spread his arms like wings and took that daring leap. And yes, here you don’t jump from a bridge but from this cable car. The platform swayed considerably, and I found myself holding my breath, asking the crew if he was still alive. Yep, I guess I’m not exactly the daredevil type! 😅
When he returned, he was absolutely thrilled by the experience. I could see it spark in his eyes. He couldn’t stop talking about it and even began researching other bungee jumping spots worldwide. Nope, no way!
The cost of the bungee jump in San Gil was COP 80,000 (around €15), and for an extra COP 20,000, you could rent a GoPro camera to capture the moment (or avoid losing yours). We booked again through Traveler Hostel San Gil as this was the easiest way. The cost didn’t include transportation, but it’s easy to get there with local buses from the main square park in San Gil, or simply by taking a taxi (which is what we did).
It’s a small price to pay for such an adventure, especially when compared to rates at other locations (e.g., in New Zealand, it’s something like €160, similar to rates in Europe).
One More Tip for Foodies
Oh, if you’re on the hunt for some delicious grub, you absolutely must check out “Gringo Mike’s San Gil.” Craving Western-style dishes? This spot is your go-to. Be sure to sample the burrito, burger, and giant brownie – they’re to die for. And the big salads were amazing too! In fact, we found ourselves there almost every day. Bon appétit!
Final Thoughts on San Gil, Colombia
San Gil truly is a hidden gem, and I’m genuinely amazed I hadn’t heard of it before my journey through Colombia. What’s more, it’s incredibly budget-friendly compared to other adrenaline-packed destinations. I mean, bungee jumping for 15 euros can’t be easily beaten, right?
So, if you’re looking for a destination that offers both thrilling adventures and an authentic Colombian experience without breaking the bank, San Gil, Colombia should be at the top of your bucket list.
And if you’re hungry for more adventures, be sure to check out this article for other travel experiences around the world.
Oh, and did I mention that when arriving in or departing from Colombia, you should definitely consider the sailing crossing from Panama to Colombia (or the other way round), with a stop in the San Blas islands? It’s an absolute blast! You can find more information about the San Blas and the boat crossing right here.