Our Chicamocha Canyon travel guide: one of the natural wonders of Colombia

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The Chicamocha Canyon is one of the natural wonders of Colombia that’s definitely worth a visit!

Located between Bogota and Bucaramanga, in the Santander department, it is considered the second largest canyon in the world..

The scenery in the Chicamocha Canyon is spectacular, and can be admired from land, air and water! So many activities that are both fun and perfect for taking in the sights.

We give you all our tips in this post.

Disclaimer: we apologize in advance for any grammatical or syntactic errors, as our native language is not English (we're a Colombian-French couple), so we hope you'll forgive us and still enjoy the information we share with you! Please note that all the information on our blog is based on our own experience, and is checked and updated regularly.

Chicamocha Canyon

National wonder of Colombia

Our Chicamocha Canyon travel guide: one of the natural wonders of Colombia

It’s one of Colombia’s natural monuments: the Chicamocha Canyon is quite simply the second largest canyon in the world! At 2.000 m deep and 230 km long, it’s a good match for its better-known American rival, the Grand Canyon, with its depth of (only) 1.600 m..

A perusal of the Internet reveals that 46 million years ago (give or take a few), the area was a huge lake that was home to marine animals. You could say that, because apparently traces of them have been found.

The rio Chicamocha that completed the canyon is an impressive watercourse that rises in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy and joins the Suarez River to eventually form the Sogamoso River.

The impressively deep canyon offers sublime views of the road that winds between San Gil and Bucaramanga. We’re there to witness it! If you’re in a car, you can stop at various points along the way to admire the scenery. But the view from behind the window is already breathtaking.

On our road trip, we drove along this magnificent road that descends to the river and the puente del pescadero, before climbing back up (in traffic) to Bucaramanga. The temperature differences on the road between the top and the bottom of the canyon are impressive! If the air is cool at the top, it’s like an oven at the bottom of the river!

So, as Colombia thinks big, it’s rumoured that the Chicamocha Canyon has even been nominated to become one of the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Anyway, that gives you an idea of the majesty of the place.

Part of the Chicamocha Canyon is a nature reserve protected by national parks. It boasts a unique climate and ecosystem, with endemic plant species such as the “cacao indio” (zamia encephalartoides), a palm tree belonging to a group of plants whose existence dates back to the time of the dinosaurs. This tree is now endangered due to habitat destruction and over-exploitation for ornamental purposes, as is the “Arbol barigon”..

Surprising as it may seem, the Chicamocha Canyon is also one of the few places in Colombia where chestnut trees can be found, which immediately seems less exotic… and yet here it’s an incongruity.

The fauna of the Chicamocha Canyon is not to be outdone: tinajos (mountain paca), anteaters, opossums (didelphimorphia), iguanas, tigrillos (oncilla), armadillos… lots of strange animals that we’d love to observe in their natural habitat, but that’s always very difficult!

Paragliding over the Canyon

Best Things to do in Chicamocha Canyon

Our Chicamocha Canyon travel guide: one of the natural wonders of Colombia

Paragliding over the Chicamocha Canyon is a must for any self-respecting traveller (no offense). It’s an opportunity to combine the unique sensations of paragliding with the grandiose scenery of the Chicamocha Canyon… what more could you ask for!

A unique experience that’s a must if you’re visiting the San Gil and Santander region! You’re going to say to us, well then, why didn’t you do it? And the answer is: because we suck! But we can tell you that we won’t miss the opportunity next time. That’s right.

To do this activity, we advise you to contact our local partner. This is a recommendation from our friend Jules, an expert in adventure sports (he has an agency that we also recommend for nature activities around Medellín). He learned to paraglide with them, and recommends them for their reliability and experience.

Why fly with our partner “Parapente”?

Founded in 2009, this is one of the oldest local paragliding agencies, making it the most experienced (with over 30.000 flights to its credit). It’s the only company to work in collaboration with Chicamocha National Park, to the point of having its own take-off site high up in the Canyon.

All the instructors have over 10 years’ experience and are certified pilots and top-level freestyle and aerobatics athletes. With the largest group of pilots in the region, the agency is always ready to get you in the air!

CONTACTS FOR PARAGLIDING IN CHICAMOCHA

Parapente Chicamocha (#30)

To contact our local partner you can use the form below. You won’t pay any more, but it will let them know you’ve come from us.

IMPORTANT: If you don’t hear from our partner within 72 hours, please check your SPAMS first before contacting us.

Rafting on the Rio Chicamocha

Best things to do in Chicamocha Canyon

Our Chicamocha Canyon travel guide: one of the natural wonders of Colombia

After the air, it’s in the water that you can enjoy the Chicamocha Canyon! The Río Chicamocha offers rafting and kayaking in small rapids that are accessible to all, and are a feast for the eyes!

It’s another way to discover this exceptional natural site. From the bottom of the canyon, you can appreciate the incredible size of the site, offering perspectives only accessible by navigating the river.

Classed 3/4, the rapids of the Rio Chicamocha are accessibleto all levels and, depending on the route chosen, can be enjoyed by the whole family over a short distance, or over dozens of kilometers. The beaches along the river are ideal for relaxing and swimming. Day trips are possible, as are 2-day expeditions that allow you to spend the night at Jordan and explore the Canyon in all its splendour.

Once again, for rafting or kayaking in the Rio Chicamocha, we advise you to contact our partner agency in San Gil. An agency always highly recommended by our friend Jules (himself a rafting specialist around Medellín).

Why rafting with our partner

A pioneer of rafting in San Gil, the agency launched its activity in the early 2000s when nobody believed in the region’s tourist potential! Its founder, Cesar Diaz, is one of Colombia’s top kayakers and a member of the national rafting and kayaking team. He has taken part in the World Rafting Championships.

The agency’s idea is tocombine exploration, fun experiences and preservation ofColombia’srivers. They design itineraries focused on quality, safety, fun and adrenaline. Their motto: “Safety first, fun second”.

The agency’s guides are highly experienced and certified by national and international organizations (International Rafting Federation, Rescue 3 International, Tierra Salvaje Medical Institute and SENA).

CONTACTS FOR RAVING IN CHICAMOCHA

Colombia Rafting Chicamocha (#31)

To contact our local partner, you can use the form below. You will not pay more, but it will let them know that you are coming from us.

IMPORTANT: If you do not hear back from our partner within 72 hours, please check your SPAM first before contacting us.

Trekking in Chicamocha Canyon

Best Things to do in Chicamocha Canyon

Our Chicamocha Canyon travel guide: one of the natural wonders of Colombia

As you’ve probably guessed, after air and water, it’s land that brings us to the end of our discovery of the Chicamocha Canyon! There are a number of hiking trails to discover the bowels of the canyon, the most famous being the Camino Real, which links Villanueva to Jordan and then climbs back up to the Mesa de los Santos.

We mentioned it in our post on Barichara and in the one on San Gil, but caminos reales are ancient communication routes built by indigenous civilizations and then taken over by Spanish settlers. The literal translation is “royal roads”. Today they make perfect hiking trails, and there are many of them in the Santander region.

A trek in the Chicamocha canyon is an opportunity to discover the canyon’s unique ecosystem (whose aridity is sometimes reminiscent of the Tatacoa desert, although the landscapes have nothing to do with it) and to experience first-hand the incredible difference in climate and temperature between the heights of the canyon and the bed of the Rio Chicamocha.

An adventure in a fantastic setting that can be completed over one or more days, depending on whether you decide to continue or not once you’ve reached Jordan.

The Chicamocha Canyon trek can be done on your own, but you need to be very careful about timing, hydration and food, as the environment is quite exposed (sun and high temperatures).

To make the most of the experience and learn more about the Chicamocha Canyon, we recommend you contact our local partner, who also offers guided hikes.

Contact and topo TO DO THE TREK in Chicamocha

Colombia Rafting Chicamocha (#31)

To contact our local partner, you can use the form below. You will not pay more, but it will let them know that you are coming from us.

IMPORTANT: If you do not hear back from our partner within 72 hours, please check your SPAM first before contacting us.

Topo Chicamocha Canyon Trek

Villanueva > Jordan

  • Difficulty: High
  • Distance: 15 km (one way)
  • Duration: approx. 7h30 (one way)
  • Ascent: 1880 > 450 m
  • Return : No bus back to San Gil, but possible to return by private cab. Alternatively, continue to Los Santos (by cab or on foot).

The village of Jordan is tiny and almost ghostly. There are few options, but there’s a hostel to sleep in and a restaurant to eat in… everything you need!

Jordan > Los Santos

  • Difficulty: High
  • Distance: 6.5 km (one way)
  • Duration: approx. 6h30 (one way)
  • Difference in altitude: 450 > 1350 m
  • Return : From Los Santos, you can take a cab to the teleferico entrance! This is your chance to cross the Chicamocha Canyon by chairlift! And cut off the return route in the process. Once you’ve arrived in the middle of the canyon’s “theme park”, head for the main road to catch a bus that will take you back to San Gil without difficulty. Or, if you’ve got all your stuff, drive on to Bucaramanga.

Chicamocha “national” park

Amusement park

Our Chicamocha Canyon travel guide: one of the natural wonders of Colombia
credit: momentcapture1

Since 2006, an amusement parkhas been built at the top of the road between San Gil and Bucaramanga, in the most strategic location, offering the most spectacular views of the Chicamocha Canyon.

The misnamed “Chicamocha National Park” (not to be confused with Colombia’s National Nature Parks), offers an impressive array of services : restaurants, hotels, viewpoints, an aqua park, children’s games, a zip-line, a monument to the Santander people and a museum of Guane culture are all on a site that’s rather incongruous in such a landscape.

PRACTICAL INFO CHICAMOCHA AMUSEMENT PARK

Opening hours

Park opening times

  • Wednesday to Friday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m
  • Saturday, Sunday and public holidays: 9am to 7pm

Cable car opening times

  • 10:30am-11am
  • 12:30-13 h
  • 14h30-15 h
  • 4pm-5pm

Prices

Park admission only

  • Adults: $25.000 COP
  • Children (up to 1m40): $18.000 COP

Park entrance fee Cable car

  • Adults: $50.000 COP
  • Children (up to 1m40): $32.000 COP

Water park admission only

  • Adults: $25.000 COP
  • Children (up to 1m40): $18.000 COP

Water park entrance fee

  • Adults: $38.000 COP
  • Children (up to 1m40): $32.000 COP

Park entrance fee water park cable car

  • Adults: $58.000 COP
  • Children (up to 1m40): $43.000 COP

Other more WTF activities include virtual reality, a cinema, an ostrich farm and even an “ecological” skating rink..

Chicamocha Canyon cable car

One of the main attractions, and clearly worth the detour, is the Plazuela Mesa de los Santos cable car, which crosses the canyon from one end to the other. The journey takes around 20 minutes, and can be taken from Chicamocha Park or from Mesa de Los Santos, a canyon viewpoint close to Bucaramanga.

Where to stay near Chicamocha Canyon

Where to stay in San Gil

San Gil, the best hotels

Meraki Boutique Hotel

Hotel

Meraki Boutique Hotel

Double room : $100.000 to $150.000 COP

The Meraki boutique hotel is located 5 minutes from the town center, a little way up in San Gil, offering a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. It’s a beautiful colonial house, beautifully decorated and full of color! You’ll feel right at home here, thanks in no small part to the warm welcome from Felipe and his family.

San Gil, the best hotels

La Provincia Lodging House

Hostal

La Provincia Lodging House

Dormitory : $0 to $25.000/Double room : $0 to $100.000 COP

La Provincia in San Gil is one of the least expensive hostels. Nevertheless, many budget travelers will find it to their liking: well located in the center of San Gil in a beautiful, bright house, with friendly staff… Although the rooms are basic and the decor classic, it’s still excellent value for money.

San Gil, the best hotels

Traveler Hostel

Hostal

Traveler Hostel

Dormitory : $25.000 to $50.000/Double room : $0 to $100.000 COP

The Traveler hosterl in San Gil has been recommended to us by blog readers. But we’ve noticed that it’s also been recommended by the Traveler community! Large rooms, a great atmosphere, and a beautiful terrace overlooking the city, all located right in the center of San Gil.

Where to stay in Barichara

Barichara, the best hotels

Casa Canela

Hotel

Casa Canela

Double room : $150.000 to $200.000 COP

A lovely hotel in a great location near Barichara’s main square. Guests appreciate the service, cleanliness and welcome. Their swimming pool is undoubtedly a plus!

Barichara, the best hotels

Artepolis

Finca

Artepolis

Double room : $100.000 to $150.000 COP

For those looking for peace and quiet, just outside the village of Barichara but relatively close to the center. Artepolis offers a really pretty setting at a very affordable price!

Barichara, the best hotels

10-day Road trip in Colombia: our itinerary from Bogota to Santa Marta by car

Hotel

Oniri House

Double room : $250.000 to $300.000 COP

Hotel Casa Oniri is where we stayed during our visit to Barichara. It’s a superb boutique hotel located in the heart of the city, just a stone’s throw from Barichara’s main square. The little extra: a rooftop with a view of the cathedral!

How to get to Chicamocha Canyon

The Chicamocha Canyon covers an enormous area, over a length of 230 km, so “getting to the Chicamocha Canyon” doesn’t really mean much, but to give you some information we’ll use the National Park as a point of reference to give you an idea.

BUS | BUCARAMANGA <> CHICAMOCHA (1h30)

  • Fare: approx. $15.000 COP
  • Departures: every 1/2 h
  • Companies: Cotrasangil, Cotrasaravita, Trasander…

BUS | BUCARAMANGA <> SAN GIL (3h)

  • Fare: between $15.000 and $25.000 COP
  • Departures: every hour from 00:30 am to 11:30 pm
  • Companies: Copetran, Cotrasangil, Cotrasaravita, Trasander…

BUS | SAN GIL <> CHICAMOCHA (1h40)

  • Fare: approx. $15.000 COP
  • Companies: Cotrasangil, Cotrasaravita, Trasander…
  • Departures: every 1/2 h

BUS | BOGOTA <> SAN GIL (6h)

  • Fares: between $50.000 and $70.000 COP
  • Companies: Copetran, Berlinas del fonce, Expreso Brasilia, Omega
  • Departures: approximately every hour from 00:30 am to 11:30 pm

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Authors

Angélica & Samuel

We are Angélica and Samuel, a French-Colombian couple, professional photographers and web editors specializing in travel to Colombia. We created this blog to change the image of the country, help you prepare your trip and inspire you to discover Colombia in a different way!

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