When you tell people back home that you are going to Colombia the reaction is almost always, “Really?! But it’s so dangerous there!” Once you’re here you realize it’s actually far from the drug and crime filled images that are portrayed in the media. Colombia, in general, is a peaceful country filled with beautiful natural wonders, the friendliest people, and quaint small towns.
San Gil Adventures
If you were still hoping for an adrenaline-rush and an awesome story you can tell the friends back home, don’t worry. Your time in Colombia might not be filled with adventures of running from the drug lords, but how about rafting 4+ rapids and paragliding off of the largest canyons in the country? If you are looking for true Colombia travel adventure, you have to stop by San Gil – the official adventure sport capitol of Colombia.
San Gil is a small town about 7 hours north of the capitol, Bogota. It’s a popular spot for both foreign backpackers and Colombian travelers to stop due to its perfect location about halfway between chilly Bogota and the hot Caribbean coast. Surrounded by huge mountains and one of South America’s biggest rivers, the area is just packed with things to do!
With its location in some of Colombia’s finest mountains, San Gil is a perfect spot to grab a bike and hit the trails. You can rent bikes from a few places in town or sign up for a tour with a guide. It’s a great way to explore the regions canyons and rivers and most of the trails are fine for a beginner.
Afraid of small spaces? Then this isn’t the adventure sport for you. San Gil is surrounded by caves that can be explored with local guides. See bats, crawl through small tunnels, and find hidden, underground waterfalls. Most tours last about 2 hours but if you are really adventurous, consider signing up for a multiple day tour where you’ll get to actually camp in the cave!
How would you like to jump off a cliff? In Curiti, just outside of San Gil, you can jump off Chicamocha Canyon, the largest in Colombia, with experienced paragliders. Want to go it alone? There are also paragliding courses where internationally accredited pilots teach you the ropes.
Rafting and Kayaking
The Suarez River is one of South America’s biggest and as it passes by San Gil, it provides rafters and kayakers some serious action with Class 4+ rapids! Different groups are formed depending on experience level and you can even sign up for kayaking courses that teach you how to go from complete beginner to tackling rapids.
After a few days in San Gil, you’ll probably be ready for a break. Lucky for you, you can still find a bit of adventure without even stumbling out of town. One of the local delicacies surely qualifies as adventurous eating – ants! Hormigas Culonas Tostadas, literally toasted fat bottomed ants, are served around town and are actually quite tasting, almost like crunchy popcorn!
Most of these activities can be booked at any number of San Gil tourist companies. A word of caution though – many of these companies offering super low prices are cutting corners when it comes to safety. Make sure you research each company’s safety record and ask around town to see what other travelers have to say about the safety on their tours. San Gil is situated in a beautiful part of Colombia but it is also a remote region and this is not the place you want to get hurt.
If you are planning on participating in these activities, be sure your travel insurance covers them. It might also be wise to consider a service like Emergency Assistance Plus which covers emergency medical evacuations and other expenses not covered by many budget travel insurance companies. As always, be smart, consider the risks, and in all likelihood you’ll enjoy an amazing adventure or two in San Gil.