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6 Ways to Experience Santander – Colombia’s Newest Travel Hotspot

Encompassing a range of dramatic mountains, rugged river valleys and charming pueblos, Santander is the newest captivating region in Colombia’s north Andes. It’s established a reputation as the country’s adventure hub and home to Colombia’s largest canyon, with no shortage of outdoor pursuits where you can be immersed in its natural beauty. But Santander is also rich in culture, with atmospheric colonial towns that boast incredible architecture and myriad opportunities to discover local traditions.

Far from Colombia’s cities and crowded cruise ports, Santander has emerged as a go-to destination for visitors wanting to get off-the-beaten tourist track. If you’re ready to discover its authenticity, storied history and breathtaking landscapes, here are six ways to experience Santander.

Encompassing a range of dramatic mountains, rugged river valleys, and charming pueblos, Santander is a captivating region in Colombia’s northern Andes. It’s established a reputation as the country’s adventure hub and home to Colombia’s largest canyon, with no shortage of outdoor pursuits where you can be immersed in its natural beauty. But Santander is also rich in culture, with atmospheric colonial towns that boast incredible architecture and myriad opportunities to discover local traditions.

Far from Colombia’s cities and crowded cruise ports, Santander has emerged as a go-to destination for visitors wanting to get off-the-beaten tourist track. If you’re ready to discover its authenticity, storied history and breathtaking landscapes, here are six ways to experience Santander.

1 – Feel the Nostalgia in Patrimonial Barichara

One of the most beautifully preserved villages in Colombia, Barichara is clustered with cobblestoned streets and perfectly preserved 17th-century colonial architecture topped by red-tiled roofs. At its heart lies the sandstone-built Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción while the Capilla de Santa Barbara watches over the village from a nearby hill. Barichara is an ideal place to experience Santander’s traditional cultures and community initiatives, including handmade paper production and building using 16th century rammed earth techniques. You can learn to play the game of Tejo that includes flying iron discs, gunpowder (and beer) or discover the secrets of regional cuisine during a local cooking class.

2 – Explore the Juan Curi Reserve and Waterfall 

Nature enthusiasts shouldn’t miss a visit to the Cascadas de Juan Curi, a 60-meter-high waterfall with a natural swimming pool at its base. Escape the heat with a refreshing dip after walking to the cascade while keeping your eyes peeled for colorful butterflies and hummingbirds in the surrounding nature reserve. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also rappel down the waterfall’s sheer face with a local operator.

3 – Shop for Traditional Handicrafts in Curiti

Translating as the “town of weavers” in the Guane language, Curiti is a small town that’s famed for its manufacture of goods made from fique, a natural fiber that’s extracted from local plants. It’s the perfect place to purchase sisal handicrafts such as rugs, bags, and tablecloths, as well as purses, hats, brooms and household goods. Watch a weaving demonstration (or get hands-on yourself), then sample the local Santander delicacy – fat-bottomed ants. Having been consumed for more than 500 years, these less-than-attractive insects emerge from the ground around April when they’re harvested for their strong and salty flavor.

4 – Hike the Royal Road of Guane

Connecting Barichara with the town of Guane, this historic route of stone trails was originally established by Colombia’s indigenous people before being used by the Spaniards in search of the legendary El Dorado. It offers good birdwatching and spectacular views from high up on the escarpment before dropping down into the valley where it undulates through peaceful countryside. Guane is a much sleepier version of Barichara, with cobblestoned streets where you can grab a refreshing drink at the end of your hike and watch the world go by.

5 – Descend by mountain bike through the Suarez Canyon

The spectacular Suarez Canyon boasts one of the most popular mountain biking routes in Colombia, with a steady downhill ride of 3,500 feet from above the colonial town of Barichara into the canyon’s base. It takes in the picturesque countryside of Santander along quiet rural roads, making it suitable for all experience levels, and includes stops at fruit, tobacco and fique farms along the way. Soak up the sweeping views of the Andes mountains and the Serranía de Los Yariguíes National Park, with an optional dip in the Río Suárez at the end of your adventure.

6 – Adventure into the wonders of the Chicamocha Canyon

Carved by the Chicamocha River, this steep-sided canyon is the largest in Colombia and a huge draw for adventure-seeking visitors. It can be explored on foot or by mountain bike, as well as from above while paragliding. Slowly float above the canyon while getting a bird’s eye view of its dramatic landscapes or experience the Chicamocha River far below on an exhilarating whitewater rafting trip. Aside from its natural beauty, the canyon’s fertile slopes are patch-worked with tobacco and coffee farms producing high-quality Colombian beans and home to the historic pueblo of Jordan.

Discovering Santander with Neotropic Expeditions

Santander never fails to captivate all who visit this region of breathtaking natural beauty, welcoming people and history-drenched pueblos. Neotropic Expeditions offers a selection of carefully curated programs that highlight Santander’s unique culture and adventure pursuits while ensuring that 70% of all tourism dollars remain within local communities. Drawing on more than 30 years of experience, we uphold the highest safety standards and maintain top-branded equipment to ensure our guests can experience all the adventure thrills of the region with peace of mind. In addition, we train and employee top-notch local guides with in-depth knowledge of Santander’s architecture, traditions and gastronomy, and a passion for sharing them with the outside world.

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