Often described as the prettiest town in Colombia, Barichara really does live up to its name. A hilltop colonial town, surrounded by green rolling hills and undulating valleys, Barichara has cobblestone alleys, stone, whitewashed buildings and a sleepy, warm atmosphere that will make you want to stay for more than just one day. It’s hard to get enough of the simple but charming beauty of this picture-postcard Colombian destination. In this short guide, you’ll find all the information you need about what to do in Barichara to make your stay as magical and possible.
Barichara is a small town, located in the Santander region of Colombia. It’s not far from San Gil, Colombia’s adventure sports capital.
From San Gill– As San Gil is fairly close there are many buses and taxis that run the 23km to Barichara. Taxies can be flagged down anywhere in town and you’ll have to go to the San Gill bus terminal to catch the 45-minute bus to Barichara.
From Bucaramanga – You can fly into Bucaramanga airport from which you’ll have to get to Bucaramanga bus station from where you can catch a bus first to San Gil and then to Barichara.
From Bogota– Barichara is a 7-hour bus ride from Bogota and I doubt you’ll find a direct bus. It’s often better to take the bus to San Gil and then change for a taxi or bus to Barichara.
WHERE TO STAY
Barichara has plenty of lovely, colonial-style accommodation for you to choose from both right inside the town itself and outside where you can enjoy your natural surroundings and the Santander countryside. In my opinion, luxurious accommodation in Barichara isn’t great value for money as you can often find something very similar in quality and room size for half in the price. For the mid-range and budget traveller, there are an array of great options.
Mid-range – Hotel Hicasua y Centro de Convenciones – Located a little way outside the town itself, this grand, colonial-style hotel is simply charming. Armed with an on-site restaurant, spa and a lovely swimming pool, the sunsets from the top deck of this property are idyllic. Rooms are spacious and minimally decorated in a rustic, colonial style. A superb place to relax at the end of your day.
Mid-range– Serrania del Viento – If you’re seeking more of an eco-friendly, sustainable option surrounded by countryside then this is the perfect place to stay. Accommodation ranges from rustic, colonial huts to eco-domes and even a beautiful, luxury teepee. There is a restaurant on-site, decent wifi and a swimming pool to relax in after a morning of exploring. The views encompassing the property are spectacular and you’re surrounded by nothing but rolling green hills. The only downside is that it’s located some distance outside Barichara and you’ll need to call a taxi to get there- something the staff have no problem doing for you.
Budget– Casona Chara – This simple colonial mansion makes the perfect stay right in the centre of Barichara town. It’s quiet and has a really welcoming, relaxed atmosphere with a lovely backyard to relax in, eat in and meet other travellers. The rooms are simple but spacious and all of them have lovely wooden exposed beams that have survived for centuries. Each room also has a charming little balcony with a hammock on which you can relax and read a book
WHERE TO EAT
The Santander region of Colombia is famous for its culinary heritage and if you feel adventurous, Barichara has many different delicacies for you to try. Some specialities to try are fried ants and carne oreada – a jerky style dried beef steak. Colombian veggie classics to try are cassava and patacones– fried cakes made from plantain.
Shanti – This wonderfully friendly and welcoming cafe is a great option for either lunch or dinner with a menu that’s really flexible. Almost all the options on the menu are vegan and you can choose to add cheese or even fish or chicken. Dishes range from burritos to salads and stir-fried vegetables and the ingredients used are really local and fresh.
Shambala– another lovely little veggie-friendly cafe, it serves a variety of both vegetarian and meat dishes. The food is delicious, heavy on the vegetables and the staff are happy to add or remove ingredients to your liking. We tried the veggie ceviche and it was great.
WHAT TO DO IN BARICHARA
Barichara is a small town and there isn’t that much to do or see in terms of sights. 1-2 days is a perfect amount of time to spend in this town, walking around and exploring its colonial history and marvellous views.
WALK AROUND THE TOWN
The beauty of this town really becomes apparent as you walk around it. You’ll find old colonial mansions newly restored into hotels and shops, cobblestone streets, charming stone chapels and cathedrals with beautiful domes all with wonderful green hills as their backdrop. Visit the main square and the cathedral then take a seat in the main square under the shade of a tree and people watch. Walking around town will also, quite easily provide you with your daily dose of exercise as it’s anything but flat.
WALK THE CAMINO REAL
The Camino Real is an old trading route originally established by the indigenous Guane people and later rebuilt by the Spanish during colonial times. The main route runs from Barichara to the village of Guane but it can be extended to Villanueva and even on to the Chicamocha Canyon if you fancy a multi-day trekking adventure. The easy and scenic hike to Guane is the most popular part of the trek and the 9km, mostly downhill path takes about 2 hours. You’ll pass through the rolling green hills, farmland and occasionally cross the modern road. Once in Guane, don’t miss out on exploring this lovely colonial village too. To get back to Barichara you can trek back the way you came or get the bus back to Barichara from the main square.
WATCH THE SUNSET FROM EL MIRADOR
Barichara sits on top of a ridge overlooking the Suarez river canyon. El Mirador is a dramatic viewpoint located on the Western side of the village. From this viewpoint, you can take in the entire canyon and the adjacent hills and the view is magical. The best time to come is at sunset where, as the sun dips below the hill it cast a magnificent orange light over the whole valley.
VISIT A CHAPEL (CAPILLA)
Barichara has a few wonderful little small chapels located around town. Two of the most significant are the Capilla de Santa Barbara, located in the north of the town and Capilla San Antonio located south of the main plaza. Both chapels are made from large stone bricks with an imposing wooden door. The Santa Barbara chapel has a cute side spire with bells hanging from it, while the San Antonio chapel is larger and has a whitewashed top half. It’s also worth poking your head inside if you find them open.
GET PAMPERED IN A SPA
Embrace the slow, village pace of life in Barichara with a spa treatment to truly relax and enjoy your surroundings. There aren’t many spas around this part of Colombia but ones that come highly recommended are Hotel Boutique and Spa Terra Barichara and Spa Sanarte Barichara. At Terra Barichara, non-guests are welcome for a variety of treatments from massages to facials and Spa Sanarte offers thermal baths, massages and a sauna right in the centre of town.
TAKE A HALF DAY TRIP TO SAN GIL
Located just a 30-minute drive away, San Gil is Colombia’s adventure capital and if you are a fan of sports like paragliding, canyoning, caving, rafting and bungee jumping you’ll probably want to take a trip to San Gill and reserve your adrenaline-pumping experience. If not, you still might want to visit the town, it’s main square and El Gallineral Natural Park, a botanical garden-like park right in the centre of town, however, San Gil is nowhere near as charming as Barichara.
VISIT THE CATEDRAL DE LA INMACULADA CONCEPCION
This is Barichara’s main cathedral, which takes up most of one block on the north side of the main square. Made from large sandstone bricks, its squat structure towers over the square and the town itself. Like with most regional churches in Colombia, the outside is more intriguing than the inside but it’s still worth a look.
Have you got any comments or questions about what to do in Barichara? Leave them below, I’d love to hear from you.
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