San Gil is a little city in Santander province of Colombia. Known mostly as a mecca for adventure sports enthusiasts, San Gil is still a great place to visit even if you have no intention of jumping off a cliff, paragliding, rappelling down a waterfall, or going white water rafting. Simply sitting in the plaza of San Gil watching the world go by munching on one dollar spites of meat and corn, talking to the locals, is well worth the visit.
The following is an extreme budget travel guide for San Gil, Colombia.
Places to Stay
Hostel Santander Aleman
This is a quiet hostel just up the hill from the central park on Calle 12. It costs 35,000 pesos for a double with a shared bathroom and around 20,000 for a dorm bed. It offers a small breakfast, WIFI, a common room with a tv and dvd player. The shared shower has hot water and there is a kitchen guests can use. The real reason we love it is that the staff is super friendly and it is so small and quiet that the hostel is simply a nice place to be.
Hotel Central Real
We only stayed here one night because they were painting the hotel, but at 35,000 pesos for a double room with a private bathroom and tv, it didn’t seem like a bad place at all.
Where to Eat
We mostly cooked for ourselves in San Gil, so we don’t have too many suggestions for restaurants.
The best local restaurant is probably El Mana which gives you a huge meal and free drink refills and desert, but it is a bit pricey for vagabond budgets at 9,500 pesos.
For dinner, the fast food restaurant just diagonal from the church on the park makes good cheap hamburgers and pizza, but you can’t beat the price of the local women grilling sticks of meat in the park.
Many tourists in San Gil seem to take part in adventure sports like rafting, paragliding or rappelling. If you are interested in any of these you can ask for information at your hotel or at the companies aroung Parque Gallineral in front of the river.
Below are some free activities that you can do around San Gil:
Pozo Azul: A local swimming hole on the river, just a kilometer north of town. The water isn’t exactly crystal clear, but it is free and refreshing.
Pescadarito: The Pescadarito is a swimming hole in the nearby town of Curiti. Take a local bus to Curiti and get off at the end of the main road, right before the bus turns right. Follow the road up and around about 20 minutes till you come to the Pescadarito. It has natural water slides and is a nice spot for a swim, but the area around it is trashed with litter from local families who picnic here on Sundays.
Cascadas de Juan Curi: These are some impressive waterfalls not far out of town. Take a bus to Charala departing from the local bus station on calle 10. Tell the driver to let you off at the cascadas, about a half hour away. The owner will charge you 4,000 pesos to go on a 20 minute hike up to the waterfalls. The path is clear and well maintained and at the top there are ropes to help you cross to the best view of the falls, or even get right under them if you want. The owner also has a restaurant with peacocks, ducks and geese wandering around.
Barichara and Guane: A beautiful small colonial town in the mountains. Buses to Barichara leave from the local bus station on Calle 10 and take about 40 minutes on windy roads. Once you are in Barichara you can wander around the cobblestone streets, eat at the many restaurants or shop in the artisan shops. There is also a two hour hike on an old road to Guane, a tiny village in the mountains. Guane has an interesting small town museum featuring a mummy and unidentified dinosaur bones. The last bus from Guane back to Barichara is at six.