A Little about San Gil
For a small town San Gil is seriously mighty. In the adventure world it is known as a mecca to get your adrenaline fix. It is one of those towns that as soon as you get there you realise you’ll want to spend longer. The mix of having a quaint colonial 300-year-old town square with the extreme sports of white water rafting, rapelling, paragliding and much more makes this town a hit with all tourists.
The energetic atmosphere of travelers means you can take a seat at the end of the day, grab a delicious bite to eat and sip a drink (or many) while you’re still buzzing with the high of adrenaline!
The craze of Canyoning caught on for people wanting adventure anywhere in the world. It is the ultimate afternoon out, the tour takes you to a canyon near San Gil where you spend the 5 hours climbing, rappelling, jumping off and descending down enormous waterfalls and 40 meter cliffs of the canyon. The views while you are doing this are incredible, the cliffs have a lush rainforest poured over its surface and you can see into the tree canopy as you make your way down the rock faces. You also have the opportunity to swim in the natural pools all near the canyon. This is run by a tour company guide with expertise in every element of the afternoon, to ensure everything is safely and professionally done.
- Price: 75,000 COP ($25 USD)
- Time: allow 5 hours
- Tips: Bring a towel, a spare pair of clothes and something warm incase you get chilled, there might be a chance you haven’t got the best weather for this activity. I would also suggest bringing food and canyoneering shoes if you have some. They sometimes do make a pitstop for food but not every time.
- Adrenaline level: 4
The canyoning is all good and well but for the real show, the ultimate in rappelling has to be at Juan Curi waterfall in San Gil. Depending on the season Juan Curi can be ferocious, particularly with recent rainfall. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience hanging 60 feet in the air while an enormous waterfall roars down beside you with everyone below you like ants.
- Price: 75,000 COP ($25)
- Time: Allow 2 hours
- Tips: An extra pair of clothes, towels and food. You get soaked through by the end of the rappel and its probably best to have something warm incase it gets colder as there is some waiting round involved.
- Adrenaline level: 6
Theres nothing like running towards a drop that is 2000m high to really get the adrenaline pumping. The science behind paragliding uses the thermals of the canyons and mountains around you to glide in the air and gain height all while the parachute is strapped to your back. Science to the side, I spent my time with my stomach constantly dropping to my feet with every look down into the bottom of the canyon. Next was the suggestion of acrobatics in which you ascend into a flurry of spinning mountains going past you and being flailed left to right with the pull of the parachute. It was amazing!
In San Gil there are two options for paragliding, the first at Chimamocha Canyon. The flight lasts 30-minutes and is the more popular, it is considered one of the best paragliding sites in the world based on the perfect thermals and the lack of the rain. However for the ones that get travel sick easily, it may not be the best idea as lots of people feel nauseous on flight! We had a full five minutes in our health and safety brief on exactly what to do if you do end up being sick mid-flight! So with this in mind there is also a second option, a shorter flight being around 12-minutes at Curtiti. If you are also pressed for time this is a great options because its a 45-minute drive rather than the 2 hour drive it takes to get to Chimamocha Canyon.
- Price: 150, 000 COP ($50)
- Time: Allow 6 hours
- Tips: Bring suncream, despite the parachute you are exposed to strong UV rays in flight. You also have a stop off on the way to grab some lunch so don’t worry about food and drink. The entire event takes around 6 hours, that’s including the journey there, the health and safety brief and the flight.
- Adrenaline level: 7
- Price: 60,000 COP ($20)
- Time: Allow 3-4 hours
- Tips: Take suncream. Being high up you are exposed to the sun rays, it takes about three hours depending on wait times and travel, so easily enough time for the sun to cause harm.
- Adrenaline level: 6
White Water Rafting
No doubt you will see Rio Fonce walking around the outskirts of the San Gil, it is the main river that runs beside the town. Rio Fonce is a beautiful river to paddle along and white water rafting can be done by children or weaker swimmers on its calmer waters. It is classed as ‘class 2 or 3’ in the water water rafting world, 1 being the easiest 5 being the hardest. This makes it a perfect introduction to white water rafting and water sports in general for beginners or the slightly more nervous.
If you are wanting something however that gets your adrenaline going the river would be Rio Suarez, which is generally the more popular option in San Gil. These are class five rapids which mean they are some of the most challenging you are going to get! The Spanish and English speaking tour guide help and provides information on how the river works, the local geography and the guiding of the boat through the currents and rocks. All the equipment along with insurance for the activity is included in the price by the tour provider. The rapids of Rio Saurez also include a great lunch, water and snacks for the day.
- Price: 35,000 ($12)
- Time: allow just over 2 hours
- Tips: You’re in a boat and going to get splashed. I’d recommend wearing swim wear and sports clothes. If you have waterproof sandals that would be ideal, if not know that sports shoes may take time to try after this activity. You’re near a river, so I would recommend insect repellent. While not essential a towel or something warm to change into at the end. You’ll probably get splashed and if the weather isn’t great you may get cold hanging round at the end.
- Adrenaline level: 4
- Price: 130, 000 COP ($45)
- Time: allow 5 hours
- Tips: With class five rapids you are going to get drenched! I’d recommend wearing swim wear and sports clothes. If you have waterproof sandals that would be ideal, if not know that sports shoes may take time to try after this activity but thats the best next option. Being near a river insect repellent would be a good idea. You will no doubt be drenched and a journey back in wet clothes is never very nice! I would strongly recommend a change of clothes and a towel, for a comfortable journey back.
- Adrenaline level: 8
No doubt the biggest appeal for the adrenaline junkie, the bungee jump. San Gil offers the largest bungee jump in Colombia at 70 meters high! Looking up at the platform a few common ‘It doesn’t look too high’ were uttered. But there was no denying it, feeling the strength of the wind growing, slowly being able to see the surrounding canopy and with birds circling next to you rather than above you, even if you don’t look down, you are well aware you are very high. Being cranked up 70 meters above the noisy Rio Fonce below the nerves well and truly kick in, no matter how tough you feel.
Bungee jumping is not for the faint hearted but it’s one of those bucket list activities that can’t be missed. As a plus this Bungee is ideal for people who are tight on time as it’s a ten minute taxi from the town square to the crane, you can tick it off your bucket list in less than 45 minutes!
- Price: 60,000 COP ($20)
- Time: 1 hour
- Tips: The harness is tight to your waist, don’t wear small clothes as the harness may pull on your skin around your waist. I’d advise sports leggings and a top for women. Oh and once you’re up there, just jump!
- Adrenaline level: 9
Tips for San Gil
San Gil is a 8 hour bus journey from Bogota or alternatively a 7 hour bus journey from Santa Marta, make sure to plan your time in, my guide to traveling Colombia can help with this.
There are many choices of really nice, restaurants all dotted around the centre of San Gil. However there are good supermarkets with lots of choice meaning that saving money on food is easily done in San Gil. Check out my guide to cooking healthily on a budget while on the road to save even more while your traveling!
There are plenty of hostels and hotels that cater to every budget in San Gil, the go to hostel is Sams VIP hostel. While the bedrooms aren’t five stars, it has a pool, a fantastic common area including a balcony overlooking the colonial square centre and a pool. All with a free breakfast thrown at the price I would recommend this to my friends, so of course, I would recommend it to you guys reading as well! When you are looking to do your activities step out your hostel and shop around, often hotels and hostels put a ‘deposit’ on the cost of the activity. This is just 10,000-20,000 COP they have chucked on the top of the cost that they keep.
San Gil is a bus ride away from Santa Marta, which is close to the best diving in Colombia. If adventure and adrenaline are what you’re after, diving in Taganga should be on your itinerary!
Have there been any great countries you have got your adrenaline fix in? If so, what’s your favourite once in a lifetime experience to get the adrenaline pumping?
Three years ago doctors in London diagnosed me with illnesses that made me so ill, they said I would never be able to travel again. Despite this I completely turned my life around; diet, lifestyle, exercise, and attitude to life, I changed everything. These changes meant despite the doctor’s warnings I amazingly recovered from a life of illness. I now want to show you can make the most of life through travel so started The Chance of Choice. I intend to be the first chronic illness story and second documented woman in history to travel to every sovereign state. It’s a place to find out how easy it can be to the most of a life traveling, experiencing once in lifetime activities while staying healthy and happy. Everyone can make the most of their life no matter what you want to do! If you want to follow my journey you can do so on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. For now, here is my guide for everything adrenaline related in San Gil, Colombia!