Eastern Andean Region


The Eastern Cordillera is one of the three main branches of the Cordillera de L andes in Colombia. Among its relief highlights the Altiplano and Sierra Nevada de Cocuy (with the only snow-capped peaks of this range). The E Cordillera in Colombia is a dynamic region economically thanks to its rich soil, many lakes and rivers and fantastic weather.

 

250 million years ago, a shallow inland sea covered the area of the high Andean plains – the Altiplano Cundiboyacense. As the Cordillera Oriental of the andes formed, the sea dried up leaving huge salt deposits which the pre-Colombian Muisca civilization mined and traded with people throughout the region. The extensive marine fossil deposits near Barichara and Zipaquirá’s Salt Mines are amazing testaments to areas past geological history.

 

The Altiplano is a high flat plain and sits at an altitude of about 2,600 m above sea level. The altitude is the reason why Bogot&á, and much of its surroundings can be a bit chilly. Historically, this area largely coincides with the former territory of the Indigenous Muisca tribe.

 

The main activity outside the metropolitan of Bogotá are farming and raising livestock, including dairy cattle and goats and growing crops, including potatoes, corn, wheat, barley, soy, peaches, tree tomato, Cape gooseberry, blackberry and decorative flowers. Outside of Bogotá you can view many of these crops while traveling the beautifully scenic highway on your way to Zipaquirá and Villa de Leyva.

 

Santander is one of its most visually stunning regions, with plains, steep mountains, deep canyons and raging rivers. The department offers to visitors a variety of climates ranging from humid and warm to temperate and cold.

 

One of the greatest attractions of Santander Department is the Cañón de Chicamocha. For an amazing view, a 6. 3km long cable car runs across it and is the longest of its kind in South America. This is a region for adventure, fun and excitement – the multicolored and dramatic scenery of the Canyon will literally take your breath away.


Bogotá

Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, is sometimes referred to as the “Athens of South America” because of its well-educated and cultured citizens, its world-class museums and superb public spaces. The land this sprawling historical city was built on was once home to several indigenous cultures and later colonized by Spanish and European settlers.

This sprawling metropolis of almost 8 million people is the third highest city in the world at over 2,600 m (8,600 ft). The air is thinner and the climate is cool and often rainy so when visiting it is advised to bring with you a good set of lungs and a decent water resistant jacket.

In contrast to the city's chaotic rush-hour traffic, lawless taxis and diesel spewing busses are the quiet residential neighborhoods, multitudes of public parks and verdant green mountains that surround the city. Thanks to thoughtful urban planning, the city has gone through a dramatic transformation in the last 15 years. Its museums, nightclubs, shopping and business centers are world class. Recently, a new environmental focus has burgeoned as well. Partially motivated to improve air quality, Bogotá has some of the most extensive and comprehensive network of bike paths of any city.

The area surrounding Bogot&á often surprises visitors with its multitudes of parks and protected areas. The high-altitude ecosystems of Parque National Natural Sumapaz and Parque National Natural Chingaza can both be visited on a day trip from Bogotá and are amazing places to view a large diversity of flora and fauna in pristine and gorgeous natural settings. Closer by is Parque Natural Chicaque with excellent marked trails, a nice restaurant, camping and great views of the surrounding countryside.

Bogota, Captial of Colombia

 

The following is a brief tour of sorts highlighting our favorite landmarks within the city and surroundings:


Plaza de Bolívar: This plaza was once known as the Plaza de la Constitución and within just a few blocks of the main square there is enough to see and do to keep most visitors busy for several days. In the middle of the Plaza is a large bronze statue of “Liberator in Chief” Simón Bolívar, and is a gathering point for the cities seemingly endless parades and demonstrations.

Plaza Bolívar Colombia

 

Capitolio Nacional finished construction in 1926, this building houses the Colombian Congress. The structure has Neoclasical and Renaissance design influences and is one of the most valuable architectural buildings of the city. In 1947 for the Inter American Conference, artist Santiago Martínez Delgado painted a majestic mural in the fresco style representing Bolivar and Santander exiting the Cucuta congress during the creation of Colombia. The mural is considered the most important fresco in the country. In addition there is a noble Statue of Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera in the north courtyard.

 

El Palacio Liévano is a historic building located on the west side of the Plaza and is the seat of the Alcaldía Mayor de Bogot&á (Supreme Court). The building has three levels and a courtyard on the south end where there is a statue of national heros Jose Acevedo and Santander Gómez. The current structure, designed by French architect Gastón Lelarge, is an excellent example of the Renaissance style. Construction on the building was completed in 1907 and was declared a national monument in 1984.

 

La Catedral Primada de Colombia, officially called Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada Basílica Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción de María en Bogot&á is an enormous Neoclassical style church located in the north eastern corner of Plaza de Bolívar. The cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Bogotá and was designed by Petrés Sunday and built between 1807 and 1823. It is an absolutely spectacular church and understandably was declared a national monument in 1975.

  La Catedral Primada Bogotá Colombia  La Catedral Primada Bogotá Colombia Interior

 

The immense church occupies 5,300 sq.m and has golden stonework that turns deep orange at sunset that contrasts with the whitewashed buildings surrounding it. Inside are no less than 14 different chapels with the main chapel featuring a triple nave and is supported by two long rows of Corinthian columns with domed vaults at the centers. A beautiful grey marble floor reflects the intricately painted domed ceiling and its many crystal chandeliers.

 

Capilla del Sagrario de la Catedral de Bogotá stands separate from, but is actually part of the main cathedral. This beautifully ornate example of Neo-Grenadine and Baroque architecture was constructed between 1660 and 1770. Inside houses an important collection of works by the painter Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos depicting themes of the Old and New Testaments. During holy week every year, the chapel is visited by thousands of Catholic pilgrims from all over Colombia.

 

Palacio Arzobispal, situated on the eastern side of the Plaza de Bolívar was constructed between 1752 and 1759. It replaced the old Archbishops Palace which was nearly razed by the Bogotazo of 1948 (the massive riots that followed the assassination in Bogotá, Colombia, of Liberal leader and presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán). During the Reconquista, the building was the office of the Viceroy Pablo Morillo and Juan Samano.

 

Colegio Mayor de San Bartolome was founded by the Jesuits in 1604, and still functions as a high school and has turned out an incredible 26 Colombian Presidents and other noteworthy people, including San Pedro de Clavar, who is known as the Patron Saint of Slaves. During the 40 years of his ministry in Colombia, it is estimated he personally baptized around 300,000 people. In Cartagena, a beautiful church and Plaza in his name were dedicated to this noble champion of the oppressed.


Museo de Oro: The Bogot&á Gold Museum is simply the most impressive museum of its kind in the entire world and is one that no visitor to Bogot&á dare miss. Within the walls of this modest building located just across from Parque Santander, is housed exquisite artifacts from the Calima, Quimbaya, Tayrona, Muisca, Tolima, Sinu and Magdelana indigenous groups.

 

There are at least 34,000 artifacts, all celebrating the wealth, talent and mysteries of the indigenous groups that lived in Colombia long before the Conquistadors arrived. The museum is divided up into four major themes; People and Gold in Pre-Hispanic America, Mining and Metalwork, Cosmology and Symbolism, and offerings – all comprising of everything from simple earrings to large sacrificial vessels, some dating back more than 2,500 years.

 

The exhibits are also themed by regions, which allows you to see the differences between cultures. The main displays are housed in a vast vault with one of the most famous pieces being the "Balsa Muisca," and elaborate 48 cm (19 in) long golden raft. The Sala de la Ofrenda alone is worth the price of admission. Here, you enter the pitch-black main room, the doors close, beautiful and haunting Pre-Columbian music begins to play as multicolored lights brighten the room. Out of the darkness an impressive display emerges, completely covered in gold artifacts of various sizes and types.   Museo de Oro   Museo de Oro    Museo de Oro    Museo de Oro


Teatro de Cristóbol Colón: This gorgeous building sits adjacent to Hotel de la Opera and was designed by Italian Architect Pietro Cantini and completed in 1895. The theater features a Tuscan Doric and Neoclassical style façade and a lavish Florentine style interior. Here you can watch ballets and other live performances, and countless films during the Iboamerican Theatre Festival.


Real Jardín Botánico José Celestino Mutis: >These lush tropical gardens were named after the famed Spanish Scientist who led the first botanical expedition into the Americas. The Museum was built in 1955 and spans more than 50 acres featuring 2,300 species of plants native to Colombia. The botanical displays are arranged in 35 ecological zones ranging from hot and dry to rainforest environments. The main arboretum comprises rooms containing ornamental plants, bromeliads and orchids, rainforest plants and dry desert adapted species. Of special note is an immense rose garden containing the blooms of 73 different rose species.   View 360 Panorama Jardín Botánico Bogotá   View 360 Panorama Jardín Botánico Bogotá   View 360 Panorama Jardín Botánico Bogotá


Barrio la Candelaria: Barrio La Cadelaria is where some of the most interesting Boroque historic colonial buildings in Bogot&á are located. There is much to see and do packed into this small barrio of central Bogot&á. Literally every building, alleyway and street corner played some role in the rich history of the city. This is arguably the most important zone of Bogotá so at least a few hours should be set aside to explore all that it offers.

Barrio la Candelaria Bogotá Colombia  Barrio la Candelaria Bogotá Colombia  Barrio la Candelaria Bogotá Colombia

 

The barrio of La Candelaria formerly known as Fuenlabrada, is the historical and cultural heart of the city occupying an area of 70 city blocks to the south of Avenida Jiménez de Quesada. Because the original financial district of the city moved, this area remained largely intact and is one of the best-preserved examples of urban colonial architecture in Latin America.

 

Today La Candelaria is a hotbed for artists, writers and academics and is also an educational hub of the city because of its many highly esteemed universities and schools. Visitors can view well preserved colonial houses and buildings with carved doors, latticed windows, red barrel tile roofs and sheltered eaves. The barrio was declared a national monument in 1963.

 

In La Candelaria is also the site of the city's main square - Plaza de Bolívar. Historical and significant sites of interest include the Museo de Botero, Museo de Arte, Casa de Moneda, Teatro de La Candelaria and Teatro Colón de Bogot&á, among many others.


Museo Arqueológico del Marqués de San Jorge: Housed within a beautifully preserved 17th century Colonial mansion contains the largest and most important collection of Pre-Columbian ceramics, jewelry and basket work from indigenous groups including the Guane, Tayrona, Muisca, Quimbaya and Sinú cultures, among others. In addition to featuring artifacts from various Colombian indigenous groups, artifacts from Peruvian and Ecuadorian indigenous groups are also present.


Palacio de Nariño: This regal century-old neoclassical style building was the official residents of the president of Colombia since 1908 and also the main office of the executive branch. The building sits on the site where Antonio Nariño (translator of the Rights of Men) was born in 1765. The building also houses works of art and furnishings representing several hundred years of Colombian history. Its garden houses the Observatorio Astronómico de Bogot&á, designed by Fray Domingo de Petrés and built in 1803.

Palacio de Nariño photo by Miguel Olaya

 

Museo Botero: Just in front of the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, Museo Donación Botero exhibits 123 drawing, paintings and sculptures of Colombian Born Fernando Botero. The museum also houses and nice collection of about 85 works of art from renowned international artists such as Monet, Renoir, Chagal, Dali, Picasso, Pollock and Miró, among other artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.  Museo de Botero


Casa de la Moneda: The Numismatic (coin) Collection of the Republic Bank opened in December 1996 in the colonial cloister of the Mint in Bogot&á, the place where the first American gold coins were minted in 1622. Down its halls is a journey through the history of Colombia, highlighting significant events of national life, as well as the history and risks inherent in the production of coins and bills presented in a historical context. The exhibition also provides information about the technical processes used in the production of coins and bills. The bank's gold and silver coin collection spans several hundred years.


Iglesia de la Candelaria: This beautiful and charming 3-nave church and built in 1703, making it one of the oldest in Bogotá and as such has very obvious colonial character. The inside of the church shelters fine carvings, quilded reredos and important artworks by Pedro Alcantara Quijano. The high cieling of the central nave features a beautful Baroque painting.


Cerro del Monserrate is visible from just about anywhere in sprawling Bogotá because it sits atop 3152 m/10340 ft high ridge on the eastern edge of the city. The gleaming white Santuario de Monserrate becomes a shinny beacon, especially when the sun is out (which is not very often). From the top of the Cerro, you can get amazing views of the city below. On a rare cloudless day, it is even possible to see all the way to Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados. Here sunrises and sunsets are absolutely breathtaking. Monserrate is accessible by funicular railway and a cable car. If you are in good shape, it can also be reached on foot. The grade of the path is not too steep and summit can be reached in about 1 1/2 hours. The best views are in the mornings since it often becomes cloudy by the afternoon.  Cerro del Monserrate  Cerro del Monserrate in the evening  Basilica of Monserrate


Parque del Centenario de la Independencia: Built in 1910, Parque de la Independencia is a beautiful and peaceful oasis of green contrasting sharply with metropolitan Bogot&á's cement, red brick and glass structures and commemorates the anniversary of Colombia's independence. The landscaping here was carefully planned and features a large variety of native plants and trees. Among the species you will find here include wax palms, large eucalyptus, pine, rubber and acacia trees, including some very large and mature specimens. The park is a nice place for bird watching since the many blooms and fruits produced by the plants of the park attract many species of bird from the surrounding countryside.


Planetario de Bogotá is a great place to view laser light shows and learn about astronomy and cosmology. The planetarium has become a cultural center and a hub for scientific activities and astronomical studies. In addition, the building houses the Museum of Bogot&á (former Museum of Urban Development), the Santa Fe Gallery, and Sala Oriol Rangel.


Jardín botánico de Bogotá: The Bogot&á Botanical Garden is the largest botanical garden in Colombia. Sunlight in this part of the world averages almost 12 hours a day, and with the combination of high rainfall Bogot&á is famous (infamous) for, this creates the ideal venue for the incredible variety of plant species the gardens features. Roughly 2143 plant species are represented here including many native palnts representing palms, orchids, rose, conifers and medicinal plant species.


Museo Nacional de Colombia: This is Colombia's oldest museum and its red-brick fortress-like exterior hints at the fact that the building served as a penitentiary until 1946. The building includes arches, domes and columns forming the shape of a cross where hundreds of prison cells were once located. Permanent exhibitions include pre-Colombian archeology and ethnography artefacts dating 10,000 BC, to present day indigenous and afro-Colombian art and culture.  Museo Nacional de Colombia Bogotá  Museo Nacional de Colombia Bogotá  Museo Nacional de Colombia Bogotá

 

Here the entire 1st floor relates to the conquest and subjugation of pre-Colombian indigenous groups. The second floor of the museum is dedicated to the history of the Colombian Republic up to 1886 and the 3rd floor relates to industry and progress of modern day Colombia.

 

Paintings by masters including Débora Arango, Fernando Botero, Enrique Grau, Ignacio Gomez Jaramillo, Santiago Martinez Delgado, and Guillermo Wiedemann are also part of the museum's permanent collection.


Plaza del Torros la Santamaría: Bullfighting is a national Colombian passion and this is evidenced in the bullrings quality of construction and the attention to detail built into Plaza de Torros la Santamaría's ornate Moorish façade. The structure was completed in 1931, financed by the wealthy cattle baron Ignacion Sanz de Santamaria and designed by architects Eduardo Lazcano and Adonaí Martínez.

 

During bullfighting season, January to February, this bullring is filled to its 15,000 person capacity with throngs of energetic Colombian’s screaming, Ole, Ole! Although bullfighting is controversial, it is seen as a cultural celebration among Colombians. Supporters of bullfighting argue that it is a culturally important tradition and a fully developed art form on par with painting, dancing and music.


Zona G: Parque Lleras is a snazzy tree-lined park that has become a hub for the city’s nightlife. Bordering the park are many upscale bars, nightclubs and restaurants. At night and on the weekends, the place comes alive with people from all over the city (but mainly the upscale parts).


Zona Norte (Zona T and Zona Rosa): Northern Bogot&á is a nice mix of well-preserved colonial sectors combined with ultra-modern buildings that house top Colombian corporations, law firms, chic boutiques and designer stores, popular bars and world-class restaurants serving any style of cuisine you can imagine. This area is often regarded among the safest of areas in Bogot&á to explore at night so most feel free to wander without too many concerns for crime (although like any city, it’s best to remain vigilant and not flash money around or sport too much expensive jewelry).  Zona T Bogotá

 

Zona G (Chapinero), is so named because it has become famous for its fine gourmet restaurants and eateries serving cuisine of every possible taste and nationality, along with charming bohemian bars where one can order fine Colombian and international microbrews. The area features prestigious and exclusive restaurants owned and operated by world-renowned chefs, including Harry Sasson and Mark Rousch (Criterion Restaurant). Other noteworthy restaurants are Masa, La Herencia (Colombian Cuisine) and Magnolio (fine dining often frequented by Colombia’s rich and famous).

 

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Lourdes: Located on Cra 13 #63-27 in Zona G is Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Lourdes. This is beautiful Gothic style church—built in 1875, making it the first example of Gothic architecture in the country and is considered the symbol of El Chapinero.


Parque Simón Bolívar: One of the most beautiful and important parks in Bogot&á, Parque Simon Bolívar is a giant green dot in the middle of this spraling city. With a total area of 113 hectares including sports, recreational and cultural settings and surrounded by important sites of interest including Parque Los Novios, el Museo de los Niños, la Biblioteca Virgilio Barco (una de las mejores bibliotecas de la ciudad), el Complejo Acuático and El Centro de Alto Rendimiento..  360 Panorama of Parque Simón Bolívar in Bogotá


Usaquén: Like Barrio la Candelaria, Usaquén has some nice historical sections as well as historic buildings that have been converted into botique shops and restaurants. Here the atmosphere is different from the rest of Bogotá. Once a farming community, its brick building lined streets are narrow and in a grid pattern. The area has some of the best bars and nightclubs in Colombia. Important sites of interest here includes Parque Usaquén, where the Santa Barbara church (constructed in 1665 and modernized in the 20th century) is located, the Usaquen Manor (now a mall) and the San José de Usaquén seminar.  360 Panorama of Parque Usaquén in Bogotá  360 Panorama of Santa Barbara Usaquen Interior in Bogotá


Parque Natural Chicaque: Only forty-five minutes separates sprawling Bogot&á with all its red brick and glass from an exquisite green natural paradise with amazing panoramic views of the countryside far below. When the skies above Parque Natural Chicaque is clear, you can see all the way to the white peaks of the snowy Tolima and Santa Isabel Ruiz inside Parque Los Nevados Natural Nacional, over 160 km/ 100 miles away (as the crow flies). This is a well-organized and maintained park with something that will appeal to all ages.

 

Parque Natural Chicaque covers an area of over 300 acres with old-growth virgin forests and an impressive biodiversity of plant and animal life. The park is host to 300 species of birds, some of which are endemic, more than 20 species of mammal as well as many amphibian and reptile species. In this privately owned park, you can trek through natural gardens of pine, eucalyptus and bromeliads to a waterfall 72 meters high. Another path culminates in one of the best viewpoints in the country at 2,200 m / 6600 ft above sea level.


Zipaquirá

Founded in 1600’s and located in the Abra Valley just 50km/31 miles from Bogot&á, Zipaquirá was once the center of the Muisca Empire and is still a surprisingly charming colonial town. The town's archaeological museum is filled with Muisca ceramic and carved stone antiquities, including instruments used to mine salt deep in the tunnels dug into the hillside behind the museum. Salt has been mined from these deposits long before Spanish arrived.

 

Colonical Center: Although most people come specifically to see the mine and Salt Cathedral, the colonial sections of Zipaquirá are certainly worth a few hours of exploration. The historic core is still very well preserved, with quaint whitewashed houses, most uniformly decorated with olive green trim and bases - many of which also have large balconies that hang over the narrow cobble stone streets below.

 

Plaza De Los Comuneros:  The main square is surrounded by beautiful colonial buildings, many of which are national monuments. Since most of the buildings in the square are distinctly Spanish Colonial, the 1929 classic French styled Palacio Municipal (City Hall) stands out from the rest. It is possible to take a guided tour inside the Casa de Gobierno and the Palacio, both sporting emerald-green roofs, and admire the sculpted carved hallways and banisters and elaborately decorated rooms full of paintings of Colombian patriarchs, including many of Simon Bolívar.

 

Catedral Diocesana de San Antonio de Padua: Towering over the square, the well-worn Catedral Diocesana de San Antonio de Padua took 111 years to build and was completed in 1916 and features a remarkable interior of red brick and stone. Guided tours of the cathedral, which include rooftop views of the square can be arranged.

interior of Catedral Diocesana de San Antonio de Padua  interior of Catedral Diocesana de San Antonio de Padua

 

Parque de Sal: Just past the Museo Archeologico you will come to a very long flight of steps leading up the hill to Parque de Sal, which includes a museum, several cafe style restaurants, gift stands, an outdoor theatre and the entrance to the underground salt mines. The entire complex, including the fantastic views of Zipaquirà below should not be missed. Allow at least four hours to explore the Park and the surreal underground surroundings of engineering and artistry covering 25 acres on three levels.

 

Beyond the entrance into the mine, you first come through wide dimly lit halls that lead past 14 Stations of the Cross, each sculpted by a different artist and bathed in eerie light alternating with blue, green and red light. This section is then followed by rooms cut into the salt that represent the narthex, choir and baptistery (with a running water source) and sacristy.

Catedral de Sal

 

The lower level features a beautiful sanctuary carved by miners in 1932. It also features the main cathedral dating from 1954, hallowed out of the pure halite that was deposited there 250 million years ago. The cathedral floor covers a staggering 8,500 sq meter/91,00 sq ft and measures 120 m/394 feet long by 22 m /72 feet tall with a huge cross cut directly from the rock above the high altar. Here, don’t miss the Creation of Adam, a piece based on the creation of Adam by Michelangelo, carved into the cathedral's floor.

Catedral de Sal  Catedral de Sal  Catedral de Sal

 

The entire cathedral complex is something you simply must “experience” with your own eyes. A prominent feature of the mine is the intricate lighting effects created by well placed neon lights that are hidden behind features such as sculptures, giant pillars and natural salt formations. Because the lights constantly change in color and intensity, this creates complex hues and shadows that sparkle off every halite crystal of the immense open interior. No static photo could ever capture the intense surreal beauty of this special place.

Zipaquirà Colombia

 

Along with the religious elements of the interior salt mine, there is also a very interesting market area (also cut into the salt mine) where all types of souvenirs, gift items and crafts made of halite from the mine can be purchased. Along with the shops, stores, and restaurants, there are also a rather striking relief carving cut into the walls of the market, as well as a large “mirror room” located behind a nice coffee shop.

Zipaquirá Salt Mine Coffee Shop colombia

Raquirá

One of the most beautiful towns in the Department of Boyacá, brightly colored and unique from other Colombian towns, Raquirá is located 80 km from Tunja and makes a great day trip from colonial Villa de Leyva. The town is world famous for the quality and craftsmanship of its clay pottery. When the Spanish conquistadors first arrived there and saw the diversity of ceramic vessels and utensils and the great skill of the indigenous Chibcha people, they gave it the name of “Village of Pot Makers." In fact the name "Raquirá" literally means "city of pots" in the Muisca language.

 

The town definitely lives up to its namesake. Its residents produce all kinds of clay items, including flower pots, jars, pitchers, piggy banks, tea and coffee sets and utensils. Nearly every square meter of Ráquira is covered by pottery made in the traditional way - by the hands of experts who take clumps of clay and turn them into works of art. The town is also famous for the production of beautiful and colorful handmade blankets and hammocks as well as baskets, toys, cribs and decorations.


Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva is a colonial town and municipality in the Boyacá department of Colombia, located 40 km west of Tunja and 166 km from Bogot&á (3 hours by bus) and has a population of roughly 9,600 people. It is considered one of the finest and most picturesque colonial pueblos in all of Colombia, and was declared a National Monument to preserve its architecture. Because Villa de Leyva sits at 2,144 meters (7034.12 feet) above sea level, the town has a very comfortable climate year round.

 

Much of its architecture, especially its colonial center has been preserved in its entirety through stringent heritage laws and so has not changed much in the last 500 years. This is an undeniably beautiful place with one of the largest central plazas in the Americas. Colorful balconies adorned with flowers and plants hang over narrow cobble stone streets lined with white washed municiple buildings, stores, boutique hotels and other business. It makes a “must see” day trip from Bogot&á but most travelers get caught up in the magic and stay for at least a full weekend. There is plenty to do and see inside the pueblo as well as its gorgeous surroundings.

 

While standing in the middle of the cobble stone plaza, where the Mudéjar fountain is located, you will feel like you've just been transported back to 16th Anduucía. At one time, the plaza often held gallows filled with enemies of Spain, but now the plaza hosts a number of festivals. Festivals de los Vientos y los Cometas (a kite festival) is held in August, the Festeval de los Luces (Festival of lights) is held in December and Festival Astronómico (Astronomical Festival) is held at the end of January.  Plaza Mayor Villa de Leyva Colombia

 

Just outside of town you can engage in many outdoor and extreme sports, including rappelling down waterfalls, riding 4-wheel motorcycles, horseback riding, camping, trekking and caving. In addition, like most of Colombia, this area of the Boyacá department is blessed with a large diversity of plant and animal life making Villa de Leyva a great launching point for nature related activities such as birding and wildlife spotting. The best places to experience wildlife are Parque Ecologico La Periquera and Santuario de Flora y Fauna Iguaque – both are located less than hour's drive from the town.

Villa de Leyva Plaza Mayor

 

The following is a brief tour of sorts highlighting our favorite landmarks within Villa de Leyva and its surroundings:


Iglesia Parroquial de Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Villa de Leyva  This picturesque church was constructed back in 1608, this church dominates the central square and the rolling hills directly behind it combine to make a postcard quality photo opportunity. The inside of the church has a 3-part gilded alter that contrasts with the church's relatively simplistic interior.

 

Casa del Cabildo: On the south side Plaza Mayor is the Casa del Cabildo. Over the years this location has served as the prefecture, the circuit court, the municipal court and even a jail.

 

Casa Museo de Antonio Nariño: As a testimate of how much Colombians adored Nariño a museum was set up here - at the place of his death to honor him. He was famous for his bravery and the tactics he used in fighting the many battles for Colombia's Independence. The museum sits inside this elegant 17th century colonial mansion featuring an elegant archade bordering a beautiful courtyard.

 

Casa del Primer Congreso de la Provincias Unidas: This is the location where the first Congress of the United Provinces of New Granda met and held historic elections between 1812 - 1816.

 

Casa de la Primera Fábrica de Destilaciones del Nuevo Reino de Granada:  Also known as The Real Liquor Factory was founded in 1736, making it one of the first spirits factory in Colombia. The museum holds various exhibitions and conferences, and an auditorium used by Villa de Leyva's residents. Inside there is still equipment from the old factory. Above the Boroque entry doorway is an ornate 16th Spanish Coat of Arms.

 

Casa Museo de Antonio Ricaurte: Known as the Héroe de San Mateo, Antonio Ricaurte was another hero of the Independence Movement and was born in this house. The inside was converted to a museum in his honor and features weaponry he may have used in his campaigns as well as period decorations, fixtures and furnishings.

 

Monasterio de las Carminitas Descalzas: Plazoleta de Carmen was founded in 1645 and features a convent as well as the Andulucian styled Iglesia de Carmen.

 

Also part of the plaza, the Museo de Carmen houses hundreds of pieces of 17th-20th century religious artifacts, including beautiful paintings, carvings and alter pieces, and is one of the best collections of its kind in the country.

 

Casa Museo de Luis Alberto Acuña:  This splendid 17th century colonial mansion turned museum features a number of paintings and sculptures by Colombian born Luis Alberto Acuña. The patio is filled with his paintings and murals and conveys the artist's fascination with mythology and indigenous story telling. In addition to art, the museum also features a number of archeological artifacts and fossils that Acuñ and others collected over the years.

 

Museo Paleontológico: On the way out of town, on the road to Arcabuco and located in the oldest wheat mill in Colombia is this paleontology museum which displays fossils dating back 120 million years. The Museum provides an excellent introduction to the region's ancient paleontological riches. Exhibited here are fossilized Ammonoidea (ammonites), bivalves, gastropods, echinoderms and vertebrates such as lizards and marine fish as well plant fossils.


El Mirador: In the foothills high above Villa de Leyva is El Mirador. From this vantage point, you can get outstanding views of Villa de Leyva and surrounding valley and mountains. Hiking up to this site also provides a great opportunity to see some of the area's diverse flora and fauna.El Mirador Villa de Leyva Colombia


Parque Archeológico de Monquirá, El Infiernito: On the way to St. Sophia, 8 km outside of Villa de Leyva you will find El Infiernito (Little Hell). This is the site of an ancient Muisca's solar astronomical and religious site. Here you will find 55 stone columns dating back to at least 900 BC, many of which are phallic shaped and were most likely laid out as a primitive solar observatory. The way the columns were configured helped the Muisca track the sun at its zenith, equinoxes and solstices. This helped them with crop rotation and even predict solar eclipses - this ability bestowed a supernatural reverence on the priests who knew how to interpret the complex shadows projected by the pillars.


El Fósil: 250 million years ago the entire area that surrounds Villa de Leyva was once the bed of an ancient sea. Because of this, the surrounding countryside is littered with vast numbers of fossils. In testament to this ancient marine environment, this museum features a 20 m long Quensladicus kronosaurus, a short-necked plesiosaur which dates back to 120 million years ago. This is an extremely rare fossil, with the only other one of its kind on display in Australia.


Casa de Terracota: On the outskirts of Villa de Leyva, on the road to Sutamarch&an, you will find the amazing Casa de Terrocota (a.k.a. Casa de Barro). Designed by Colombian architect Octavio Mendoza and completed in 2007, the house is made entirely of hand sculpted locally sourced argillaceous clay.

 

From a practical standpoint, the house is eco-sustainable and extremely durable and because of its thick clay walls, the house stays cool year round. Located on the roof are passive solar hot-water heaters and numerous unevenly shaped stained glass porthole windows that bathe the interior with exotic multi-colored light.

 

From an architectural and artistic standpoint, the entire structure is an absolutely amazing display of ingenuity and creativity. Exploring the interior is like walking into a sculpture right out of a Dr. Seuss book or Grimm's Fairy Tales. Every wall, ceiling, doorway and entire rooms are unevenly shaped and sculpted - there is not a straight line or right angle to be found. Intricately placed mosaic tile work adorns the many rooms, bathrooms and its astonishingly beautifully crafted kitchen. Multiple staircases, closets, shelves, beds, chairs, counters and tables appear to be sculpted out of one giant piece of red clay. In fact, the structure is considered the largest single ceramic art piece on earth.

Casa de Terracota Villa de Leyva Colombia

Granja de Avestruces: The farm offers an opportunity for adults and children to enjoy nature and learn about raising ostrich through direct contact with these giant birds. This Granja is located in one of the most beautiful scenic areas surrounding colonial Villa de Leyva.


Pozos Azules: Located 2 1/2 km outside of colonial Villa de Leyva in the foothills surrounding the pueblo is Pozos Azules. Here you will encounter several natural ponds colored blue by the action of sulfur salts and other minerals. They are in the middle of a very scenic desert-like landscape that is the perfect place for trekking and horseback riding.  Pozo Azules Villa de Leyva Colombia

Pozos Azules Villa de Leyva Colombia

Pozo de la Vieja: Located two kilometers from Villa de Leyva, this is a place locals call El Pozo de la Vieja. Here giant stones were carved by moving and swirling water, and water cascades off tall ledges into boiling pools below. This is an ideal place for relaxing and going for a dip in the refreshingly cool water.


Convento Santo Ecce Homo:  in 1620, Convento Santo Ecce Homo is an impressive Dominican monastery located a few km from the town of Sutamarchán and 8 km from Villa de Leyva. The convent was declared a National Heritage site, and in 2007 was even a finalist in being named one of the seven wonders of Colombia.

 

The monastery was built on a hillside following common Spanish construction patterns of the era. The compound consists of a cloister, a church and a cemetery, as well as living quarters that flank the east side of the square. The church and cemetery are considered fine examples of Mudejar architecture.

 

Framing a beautiful flower filled courtyard with a center well are several museum exhibit rooms organized into themes. Some rooms featuring hundreds of pieces of religious art, including sculptures and paintings, vestments, liturgical pieces and books dating back to the 16th century. Other rooms contain traditional Muisca farming and building tools and garments along with other historical artifacts. The walls and floors of the convent contain thousands of embedded fossil ammonites, testament to areas prehistoric past. The convent also sits on an important pre-Columbian site known as Pavachoque.

Convento Ecce Homo Villa de Leyva Colombia

Parque Ecologico La Periquera: This is a private nature reserve and tourist destination, located less than 20 km from Villa de Leyva. It has several magnificent waterfalls, surrounded by dry oak tree forest containing a high biodiversity of flora and fauna.

 

El Rio Cebada winds through the park forming a chain of waterfalls, the tallest of which, called Periquera has a vertical drop of 15 m / 50 ft. The park is an excellent day excursion from Villa de Leyva and a great place to go trekking, nature watching, and rock climbing, as well as practice extreme sports such as waterfall rappelling and canopy zip-lining.


Santuario de Flora y Fauna Iguaque: Located about 120 km northeast of Villa de Leyva is the entrance to Santuario de Flora y Fauna Iguaque. About 40 minutes’ walk from the entrance is a visitor's center, the Central de Visitants Furachiogua, featuring a nice restaurant serving good food at reasonable prices, accommodation for 48 visitors, camping areas with cooking facilities, toilets, showers and great views of the surrounding countryside.

 

Throughout the park, there are guided paths and marked trails to several of the parks glacial lakes, the most popular being Laguna de Iguaque. The small picturesque lake is central to the Muisca Indigenous people’s mythology. The trails meandering throughout the park are steep and often muddy so wear appropriate hiking shoes. Because of the mist, frequent rains and cool temperatures, it’s also a very good idea to dress in layered clothing, wear a rain poncho and/or a waterproof jacket.

 

The 6750 ha park features a very high rate of biodiversity. The cloud forests contain oak, fig trees, ferns, orchids, epiphytes, lichen and bromeliads. For birders, this is a choice area for sighting hummingbirds, Green Toucans and Yellow Finches. You may also catch sight of fox, White-Eared Opossums, Paromo Deer and even Ocelots, among many other species.


San Gil

San Gil is a charming 18th century pueblo with a nice a colonial central plaza, buildings and houses with large overhanging balconies and winding cobblestone streets. Because of its location in the valley of the Rio Fonce, and nearby Rio Chicamocha and the mighty Rio Suarez, it has a privileged location making it one of the best places in the country to go white-water rafting, canoeing and kayaking. Besides river sports, San Gil has evolved into one of the country's main centers for mountain bike, trekking and hiking, caving, rock climbing – in fact, San Gil is rapidly becoming the adventure sport capital of the world.

 

San Gil and its surroundings offers a multitude of activities to suit all tastes. This is a place to relax in between your adrenalin charged adventures, relive history by strolling through colonial towns like Girón, Barichara and Guane, swim under a stunning waterfall at Parque Juan Curí, and take part in one of the many activities available at Chicamocha National Park, one of the most spectacular canyons on the planet. The combination of so many exciting outdoor activities, breathtakingly gorgeous countryside, great food, a relaxed atmosphere and friendly locals make San Gil a hard place to leave - and definitely one of the best places in Colombia to vacation.

 

The following is a brief tour of sorts highlighting our favorite landmarks within San Gil and its surroundings:


Parque la Libertad: A.k.a. Parque Principal dates back to the 18th century and given San Gil’s year-round spring-like temperatures and large Ceiba and Heliconia trees; the park is a relaxing place to visit in the afternoon or stroll through at sunset. This is the most common meeting place in the town and so is a great place to mix with the town’s friendly locals. There are many vendors selling snacks and beverages and the stores around the square serving beer and even shots for those looking for a bit of social lubrication in anticipation of a night of evening fun.


Catedral de la Santa Cruz:  in 1791, Catedral de la Santa Cruz overlooks Parque La Libertad. The Cathedral is the most striking in San Gil and features sand-colored stone, a rich and intimate interior complete with a large ornate altar and a beautiful coffered ceiling painted in pastel colors.


Casa la Cultura Luis Roncancio: This small museum is housed in a gorgeous 18th century colonial house and is a great place to learn about the culture of the Guane people that inhabited the Santander region for centuries before the Spanish arrived.


Parque el Gallineral: This park was founded in 1919, is located on a island formed where the Quebrada Curití runs through the delta of the Rio Fonce. The park spans an area of 4 ha covered with Ceibas, Heliconia, Chiminango and other tree species. Chiminango, representing 80% of the parks trees, have a tendency to hang their elegant moss covered branches close to the ground and therefore become popular roosts for domestic gallinas (chickens) – hence the parks name (Gallineral). Streams meander through the tranquil park, along with several waterfalls providing a delightful and relaxing natural botanical garden, often filled with many species of bird and butterfly.

  Parque Gallineral San Gil Colombia

 

The park has a nice restaurant and with San Gil’s comfortable temperatures and the sound of nearby streams, this is a pleasant place to have lunch or evening meal as you watch the setting sun sparkle through the translucent curtains of Spanish moss. The Parque Principal has a lovely fountain at the center, and a natural swimming pool fed by the Rio Fonce. At night, the trees are illuminated making this an ideal place for a romantic evening stroll.


Cascadas de Juan Curí: , exciting, wild ... This is how visitors describe the landscape that holds the spectacular Cascada of Juan Curi. The waterfall, 120 m (393 ft) tall is located only 40 minutes from San Gil on the road leading to Charalá. From the entrance to the privately owned park, you can already get photo perfect views of its magnificent waterfalls. Here, the journey through Santanderean forests along well marked rustic and amazingly beautiful paths to the foot of the thunderous waterfall is a major part of the experience. Along the trails you will pass several smaller waterfalls that crash into pools full of fresh cold water that are ideal places for an afternoon swim.

 

Although most people stop at the base of Cascada Juan Curi, you may want more adventure and its possible to continue climbing up trails made slippery from the mist created by the ruckus pounding of the tall waterfall. Climbing to the top, where the cascade is born is not easy, and you will get plenty soaked from the mist and spray, but the view from high above is well worth the effort.

 

The Park is a magical place to recharge your inner energy and enjoy the supreme beauty of nature, and is one of our most recommended places to visit near San Gil. Besides trekking, this is also a popular place to practice rock climbing and waterfall rappelling (torrentismo). If you visit San Gil, do not miss the opportunity to visit this amazing place.

  Cascadas de Juan Curí San Gil Colombia

Curití: This small town of barely 12,000 residents makes a pleasant day trip from San Gil. The town has lovely narrow streets lined with white-washed buildings, typical of the Santander region. The town is well known for its unique artistry in weaving sandals, handbags, purses and espadrilles (a type of simple shoe) out of the natural fibers of the Fique plant. For thousands of years, the indigenous peoples of the region have used this material to make clothes, shoes, rope, baskets, and other useful objects.

 

Two of the most famous caves in the Santander region are located near Curití - Cueva del Yeso and Cueva del Vaca. Large numbers of fossils and pre-Columbian artifacts found in the caves is evidence of human occupation spanning back thousands of years. While Cueva del Vaca is wet and muddy, with access restricted to certain months, Cueva de Yeso is dry, more accessible and full of interesting rock formations. Also near Curití is Pescaderito - a popular place for swimming with great natural water slides perfect for tubing. Camping areas are available.


Los Santos (Mesa de los Santos): The main tourist attraction of Los Santos is the nearby breathtakingly beautiful La Mesa de los Santos (a tall waterfall that cascades off a canyon mesa). The site is accessible via winding nature trails taking you past gorgeous green scenery and with nice views of the canyons of Chicamocha National Park. This wonder of nature attracts tourists from across the region and is a great place for paragliding, practicing rock climbing and nature watching. There is also a cable car linking the main trail with an amazing viewpoint.

Mesa de los Santos Colombia

Parque Nacional Chicamocha (Panachi)

Fascinating, imposing, and majestic is how most visitors describe the Cañon de Chicamocha. Deeper than the Grand Canyon in the USA, this 2 km (1.24 mile) deep, and 227 kilometers long canyon was formed some 4.5 billion years ago. The Chicamocha River continues to carve through the floor of the canyon far below, and further down river joins the Fonce, Suárez, and Sogomosa rivers.

 

Part theme park, nature preserve and zoo, the 264 ha Panachi theme park sits like a sentinel overlooking the northern rim of the park. Taken together, the awesome spectacle of Chicamocha Canyon (part of the group of 261 destinations in the campaign to select the top seven natural wonders of the world) and Panachi has become one of Colombia’s top tourist destinations.

 

The park has something for young and old alike. One of the most rewarding activities, in particularly for nature lovers, is to trek along the well-maintained and marked pathways that meander along the rim, then to the canyon base far below. However, arguably the most exciting activity is to catch a scenic ride on the parks aerial tram. Covering a distance of some 6.2 km (4 miles) making it one of the longest cable tram rides in the world, the trip offers amazing views high above Rio Chicamocha. The tramway stops at 38 cabins and three stations, spanning the entire Canyon.

 

Other activities offered inside the park include zip-lining, canoeing, rafting, paragliding, off-road buggy rides, mountain biking and helicopter tours. For the little ones, there are water slides and playgrounds, an ostrich farm and a petting zoo full of goats and other friendly animals.

 

Panachi has a total of 3 ziplines - the first one, at the back of the park, is 450 m long and treats visitors to views of the entire canyon. The second one is shorter, but still quite thrilling, and the shortest of the three is for children.

 

Canoe and rafting trips down the Rio Chicamocha offer thrills and adventure and are a great way to view the majestic beauty of the park. The price for these trips varies according to the number of people and the route and duration selected.

 

For those who crave even bigger thrills, paragliding tours starting from an altitude of 1,554 oven the canyon floor are available. Flights are done every day from 9 am to midday, and it's a good idea to schedule your flight in advance.

 

In addition to the rides and adventure sports, you can visit the Monument a la Santandereanidad, which commemorates the "Revolución de los Comuneros ”. Created by artist Guillermo Vallejo, this is an enormous structure comprised of 35 smaller sculptures, the main one being of independence heroine Manuela Beltrán.

 

The Chicamocha National Park complex is comprised of several distinct plazas, each one representing the daily lives of the inhabitants of the department of Santander. Among them are Plaza de las Costumbres, Plaza de las Banderas, and Plaza del Comercio, with flags, customs, and information on trade and commerce. The Exhibit Hall features works of art and crafts from artists of the department. Lastly, Plaza de las Hormigas (Plaza of the Ants), so called because people “look like ants” when observed from the distant Monument to Santander Pride, is an interesting and informative place to visit. is also an excellent museum dedicated to pre-Columbian Guane culture.

 

Panachi is open from Tuesday to Thursday between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm, and from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

Chicamocha Canyon Panochi adventours Colombia

Barichara

Barichara is a small town of little more than 7,000 residence and is located just 20 km northwest of San Gil, high above the Río Suárez, and was f in 1706 by Francisco Pradill y Ayerbe as "Villa de San Lorenzo de Barichara." The name Barichara comes from Barachalá, a Guane Indian word which means "a good place for a rest." The town is a National Monument and considered "the most beautiful town in Colombia." As you stroll through the narrow cobble stone roads, it's easy to envision Simon Bolívar himself galloping past on one of his legendary campaigns.

 

After all the adrenalin pumping activities you took part in while visiting the Santander region, you will appreciate Barichara’s extremely laid back, unhurried and friendly bohemian atmosphere. With its obligatory fountain, unusual benches, tropical plants and trees, Plaza Principal is a great starting point for exploring the rest of the town and surroundings. We recommend taking part in one of our guided tours, but you can also simply enjoy wandering the narrow cobble stoned streets at your leisure.

 

The town has numerous restaurants, hotels, cafés and bars all housed in well preserved colonial architecture. Because the town has changed little in the past few hundred years, it has also been a location for many Colombian telenovelas and movies, as well as hosting f f (Verde Film Festival Barichara), theater and other events.

 

The following is a brief tour of sorts highlighting our favorite landmarks Barichara:


Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción: Rising over Plaza Principal, Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción, completely built of yellow stone and framed by twin stone towers, is the main Catholic building in this town. At sunset the stones of the church’s exterior take on a deddish glow which contrasts dramatically to the surrounding white washed buildings. The beautiful church features a clerestory, far more commonly found in Romanesque and Gothic style churches, and accents the dramatic interior and brings in a great deal of light through its many stained glass windows.

 

The church’s carved wood beam ceiling is supported by ten 5 m tall monolithic columns and features a gilded center alter and a chapel dedicated to the Virgin de la Piedra. At night, the facade of the church is completely illuminated making evening strolls through the main park a spiritual, yet romantic experience.


Parque de las Artes Jorge Delgada Sierra: Up the hill on Calle 11 and Calle 6, behind Capilla de la Santa Barbara Church is a nice park featuring contemporary stone carvings by local artists and fantastic views of Barichara and the neighboring valley.


El Mirador: At the top of Carrera 10, one of the highest points in Barichara, El Mirador allows panoramic vistas across the Rio Suárez, all the way to the last section of the Cordillera Central.


El Camino Real (Barichara to Guane): This ancient road is part of the old Camino de Herradura that traversed the countryside from Girón, near Bucaramanga, to Barrancabermeja on the banks of the Río Magdalena. It was originally a key pathway for the Guane indigenous people long before the Spanish arrive. Linking Barichara to Guane, this is the most trodden stretch of road in the area.

 

The stone-paved trail gently slopes downhill for nine kilometers (5.6 miles) from Barichara, winding through a breathtaking landscape full of cacti, trees, birds and butterflies. Clearly visible ancient marine fossils are embedded into the stones that make up the path, and are readily apparent in the cliff faces and rocky outcroppings - all proudly testifying to the incredible geologic history of this region, once part of great inland sea some 60 million years ago. Although this is not a particularly arduous trek, make sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes with ankle support (the large cobblestones on the trail can easily twist an ankle), bring plenty of water and use high factor sunscreen.

 

For those in great physical shape and a thirst for adventure (and more time), you can opt to go on a three-day trek from Barichara taking you through the towns of Guane, Villanueva, Los Santos and the abandoned town of Jericó, bringing you down into Chicamocha Canyon and up the other side. You can sample local food and drinks at the many hostels and small stores and vendors along the trail. Adventours Colombia can make all the arrangements for this journey.


Guane

If Barichara seems stuck in time, in Guane time must have never existed at all. This tiny but incredibly beautiful town was once the center of Guane culture and like other small colonial towns throughout Colombia, Guane village life revolves around a pleasant central plaza. This one features mature acacia trees and a fossil studded monument dedicated to Guanetá, the last Cacique (or indegenous leader) of the Guane. The plaza is dominated by the 300-year-old Iglesia de Santa Lucia.

 

Museo Paleontológico y Archeológico de Guane: For such a small town, Museo Paleontológico y Archeológico de Guane is a surprisingly good museum, stacked with roughly 10,000 fossils all dating back to the Paleocene Epoch - more than 60 million years ago. In addition to the fossils, the museum features archaeological treasures of pre-Columbian Guane culture. Included in the collection is a 700-year-old Guane mummy, ancient pottery (jars, pots, and bowls), grinding stones and textiles among other indigenous artifacts.


Bucaramanga

One of the largest cities in Colombia, Bucaramanga is the capital of Santander province and is located about 100 km north of San Gil. The city, with roots deep in colonial history, sits inside the Rio de Oro Valley and is blessed with year-round comfortable temperatures accented by fresh mountain breezes.

 

Bucaramanga, with its wide avenues and bustling commercial life, has not less than 160 parks gving the city an intense carpet of green flora and has earned the city the nickname "La Ciudad de Los Parques" ("City of Parks") and "La Ciudad Bonita de Colombia" ("Colombia's Beautiful City"). Although Bucaramanga's inner beauty and nearby colonial Girón attract thousands of tourists each year, it is generally thought of as a “jumping off” point for exploring the incredible beauty and variety of its natural surroundings.

 

Bucaramanga nightlife is vibrant and alive and features near non-stop heart pounding Latin and popular music rhythms. Popular bars, café and restaurant lined gathering locations include Barrio Cabecera, Zona Rosa and many great locations are situated along the road to the airport. The most famous venues in the city include Babilonia, Mi País and La Salsa Allstar - all of these locations barely get started until 11:00 pm and don’t slow down until dawn the next day.

 

The region surrounding the city is replete with diverse geologic contrasts and unparalleled natural beauty. The Eastern Andean Mountains, with its unique geography is the main catalyst making the area an adventure sport mecca. Here you will find Colombia’s best whitewater rafting and kayaking rivers, deep valleys and spectacular multicolored canyons. This is an amazing landscape where geography and climate come together to make adrenaline pumping sports such as world-class paragliding, skydiving, rafting, caving, rock climbing, and mountain biking possible.

 

The following is a brief tour of sorts highlighting our favorite landmarks within the city and surroundings:


Parque Custodio García Rovira : Located on the city’s west side, this park was founded back in 1897 and is a great starting point for a tour of this fascinating city. The park has plenty of tall shade trees and benches to relax and enjoy the spring-like temperatures, or have a picnic lunch on the grassy area at the park's center. Here you will find the statue honoring General García Rovira, a statesman and an ardent supporter of Colombia's Independence Movement. The main Santander historical and governmental buildings surround this central plaza.


Casa de la Cultura Custodio García Rovira: This two-story house, built in the 19th century, houses the Museo Artesanal de Santander with its collections of art by artists such as Pablo Hernández, Luciano Jaramillo y Luis Alberto Acuña, as well as music, painting, ceramics and crafts by local artists and several exhibitions on indigenous Guane history, culture and art. The building itself is in the Spanish colonial style, with clay walls and decorative details in the Colombian Republican Style.


Capilla Nuestra Señora de los Dolores: Built in 1750, this small and modest church, with simple architecture, including whitewashed walls and exposed rough stones, really harkens back to the days of early Spanish colonialism. A national heritage monument, and one of Bucaramanga’s most important historical buildings, this is the oldest surviving church in town and is the burial place of poet Aurelio Martínez Mutís.


Museo Casa de Bolívar: Housed in an elegant colonial style mansion where Bolívar stayed for two months back in 1828, this museum consists of several rooms that chronicle the story of Simon Bolívar’s stay in this house – he came there to replenish his supplies and to plan his campaigns. Also housed here are various historical and archaeological exhibits, including weapons, paintings, historical documents, and an extensive pre-Columbian collection of mummies, pottery and other artifacts from indigenous Guane history and culture.


Parque Santander: Located at the heart of this modern part of town, Parque Santander is replete with large shade trees with the center of the park featuring a sizeable 19th century statue of Francisco De Paula Santander, a prominent player in the fight for Colombian independence. Lighting the park at night, and giving it a nice European feel are the many elegant street lamps originally imported from Paris.


Catedral de la Sangrada Familia: Built an 1887 and dominating Parque Santander, this clean white Romanesque revival style cathedral has twin sextagonal bell towers and statues of San Jose and the Virgin Mary in between. The cathedral is by far the largest and most impressive church in the city. Statues of the Sacred Family greet visitors as they enter the interior, which consists of three naves, colorful stained glass windows, paintings by famous local artists such as Luis Alberto Acuña and Oscar Rodriguez Naranjo, and an exquisite Italian marble altar. The ceramic cupola was brought to directly from Mexico.


Museo de Arte Moderno: Housed in a neo-republican building dating from the 1940s, this museum features cultural exhibitions, including film festivals as well as permanent and temporary exhibits by national artists, with a strong emphasis on sculptures. The permanent collection includes work by Eduardo Ramirez Villamizar, Eduardo Estupiñán as well as pieces by artists such as Venegas Espinosa and Ricardo Gómez.


Parque de Aqua: Parque de Agua is a splendid public space in the middle of the city connected to the Metropolitan Aqueduct of Bucaramanga (AMB) and features beautiful and creatively landscaped attractions using the elements of water, light, shadow and nature. The combination of flora and small ponds full of fish, turtles and waterfowl and accented by cascading waterfalls all communicate a sense of beauty, peace and harmony.


San Juan de Girón: San Juan de Girón is considered a suburb of the municipality of Bucaramanga and is well known for its well preserved colonial architecture and its great variety of tourist attractions. Founded back in 1631 on the banks of the Rio Oro, and recognized as a Colombian National Monument in 1959 because of its superbly preserved and extensive colonial architecture, making this place a popular weekend destination for Bucaramanga residents and international tourists alike. Here you will find charming center plazas surrounded by majestic white-washed cathedrals and churches, cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carts and a laid-back atmosphere – giving visitors a glimpse of what life must have been like four centuries prior.

 

Important sites of interest in the town include Basílica Menor de San Juan Bautista, located on the main plaza, and the Mansion de Frailes, where the Colombian Independence was signed into law. Other sites of interest include El Humedal del Pantano (an ecotourist and conservation area), El Parque Peralta and El Parque Las Nieves, among others.


Floridablanca: This is a lovely and peaceful town that's a superb place to learn about the pre-Columbian culture and history of the region. Located just a few blocks from its main plaza sits a monument of great historical significance known as the Piedra del Sol ("Rock of the Sun"). The monument exhists as a large boulder decorated with spiral and circular designs carved by Guane people more than 1000 years ago.


Jardin Botanical Eloy Valenzuela: The 7.5 ha (18.5 acre) Jardin Botanical Eloy Valenzuela (aka El Paragútas) is located along the banks of the Rio Frio and features a large collection of plant species native to the wet and dry forest of the Santander region. The gardens feature an Asian style garden and other themed areas containing collections of orchid species, heliconias, epiphytes, ferns, medicinal plants, tall bamboo species and many others. Close to the river, the protected area surrounding the gardens is dotted with lakes and is home to reptiles such as tortoise, iguana, and chameleons, many species of butterflies and birds, mammals, including squirrels, giant anteaters, armadillos and even fox (among many others).


Museo Archeológico de Guane: This museum is nationally known for its extensive collection of artifacts from the indigenous Guane culture. Founded in 1994 the museum currently houses roughly 850 archeological pieces that include gold objects, skeletons and skulls, pottery and ceramics, textiles, spears, and rock art dating from the 8th century to 16th centuries..