About seven hours north of Bogota you’ll find the town of San Gil (map), surrounded by mountains, rivers, and colonial towns. I don’t know why, but this part of Colombia gets skipped in a lot of travel itineraries, while there’s so much to do! The beautiful scenery of San Gil is the ultimate playground for the thrill-seekers among us. But even those who aren’t high on getting that adrenaline pumped up will enjoy the relaxed vibe in this little town and its lush surroundings.

Paragliding over the Chicamocha canyon in San Gil Colombia

Living on the edge in San Gil

Crowned as the ‘adventure capital of Colombia’ you can guess what to expect. Whitewater rafting, paragliding, bungee jumping, rappelling down waterfalls, crawling through caves, cliff jumping, it’s all part of the fun around here. So adrenaline junkies out there, this is your place to be! Shall I make your day even better? It’s incredibly cheap as well. $20 dollar bungee jumping or $15 dollar paragliding, it does make you wonder if safety’s first, but hey, I made it out alive! (Might wanna check your travel insurance beforehand…)

Crazy local games

San Gil is not only your outdoor thrill-seeking mecca, even indoors they know how to spice things up. This is the place where I “learned” (or you could better say “tried”) the local game of Tejo. Tejo involves heavy metal balls, a circle full of clay, lots of beers, and gunpowder. Strange combination, but the locals treat it like it’s part of the Olympics. Basically, you try to smash the heavy metal balls into this circle of clay, hoping it will hit the little envelopes of gunpowder which gives you points (and deafness) and makes you drink even more beers. Lots of fun, but unfortunately, needless to say, I sucked at it.

Playing Tejo game in San Gil Colombia
colombian delicacy of fried ants

San Gil delicacies

Since San Gil seems to be the place for firsts, I had another once-in-a-lifetime (but never again) experience. Apparently, they got some sort of delicacy around here called hormigas culonas. For those who don’t speak Spanish; big-arsed fried ants, literally. My mom always taught me to try first, but I kind of wish I forgot about that wisdom here. These crispy little insects remind you first of popcorn, but then the taste kicks in and it definitely doesn’t taste like popcorn. Can’t say I dove in for seconds.

oldtimer in the streets of Barichara

Taking it slow

For those who aren’t so fond of all these new exciting experiences, San Gil actually has some relaxing things in store for you as well. Dipping in one of the many waterfalls and natural pools around or strolling around the beautiful colonial towns like Barichara makes time standstill. No ants for dinner? Gringo Mike’s has some proper Mexican-American-style dishes that will fill you up and make you wanna roll back to wherever you’re staying.

The many faces of San Gil

San Gil really is a place for everyone and it is so easy to add a few days to your initial plan. The town will surprise you with its people, amazing food, beautiful surroundings, and of course, its overload of activities. Spice up your life (wise words by the Spice Girls) or enjoy the tranquility of the rolling hills and old towns that take you back in time, San Gil got it all.


Paragliding over the Chicamocha canyon in San Gil Colombia

Photos by: M. Barends ©

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