Barichara Colombia: Day trip from San Gil to Colombia’s prettiest town

Barichara Santander is known for being the most beautiful town in Colombia

Barichara Colombia is one of the country’s most beautiful towns. You can’t help but fall in love with its iconic architecture — from its white houses with red roofs to the atmospheric central plaza. In fact, Barichara is so beautiful that telenovela producers from all across the Americas come here to film.

 

What’s more, the natural setting is superb — in the mountains on the rim of the Chicamocha Canyon, one of the world’s largest. Adding to the appeal is a laid-back atmosphere and few tourist crowds.

 

You can easily visit this hidden gem in one day, basing yourself in the nearby city of San Gil. Read on to learn how to plan the perfect day trip to Barichara Colombia!

 

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How to get to Barichara Colombia

 

The Barichara main square is one of the best places to start exploring, with its beautiful cathedral.
From the moment you step off the bus from San Gil to Barichara, you’ll be surrounded by the stunning architecture.

 

Before you can do a day trip to Barichara, you’ll need to get to San Gil — the nearest city. San Gil is part of the Santander Department in northeast Colombia. It’s about 8 hours from Bogota by bus — or a very long journey from anywhere else in the country.

 

San Gil is a pleasant city to base yourself in for a few days. It’s known as the “adventure capital of Colombia” because of the large number of adrenaline activities in the nearby mountains. It also has one of the best hostels in Colombia and great food.

 

On the day you want to tour Barichara, set your alarm early. The town is most pleasant first thing in the morning, before it gets too hot and before tourists arrive en masse. Have a quick breakfast San Gil — Cafeteria El Zaguan is a cheap, central option with great arepas. Then walk a couple blocks up to the Terminalito Provincial, or local bus terminal.

 

Buses from San Gil to Barichara leave about every half hour-45 minutes throughout the day with the company Consangil. Buy your ticket from the small office on the right side as you enter the terminal. It costs 5200 COP. The buses are rarely full. They’re reasonably comfortable, but they don’t have a ton of space for bags and luggage.

 

It takes about half an hour to reach Barichara Colombia from San Gil. The bus stops along the way to pick up and drop off additional passengers. It’ll drop you off at the final stop — right on the main plaza in Barichara.

 

Things to do in Barichara

 

If you left reasonably early, you’ll probably arrive in Barichara around 9:30 or 10 am. This gives you plenty of time to explore the town without missing the last bus to San Gil (around 6 pm). The town is small and doesn’t have a ton of headline attractions — the appeal is more in the atmosphere and aimless wandering.

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Check out the architecture

 

The best part of a Barichara tour is simply wandering around.
Classic Barichara — wooden balconies, whitewashed houses with just a splash of color, and mountain views.

 

Barichara has earned its reputation as the most beautiful small towns in Colombia due to its perfectly preserved Andalusian architecture. The whitewashed houses with wooden balconies are what most visitors come to see. But the town also has some gorgeous churches and plazas. It’s one of the Pueblos Patrimonios — historical towns that receive special government funding for preservation.

 

The best way to see the architecture is to design your own mini-walking tour of the town. Since the bus drops you off in the main square, that’s a good place to start. You’ll immediately see the classic houses-with-balconies all around the edges of the plaza. In the middle is a leafy park — the perfect place to relax. Dominating the northwest corner is the main cathedral in town.

 

From the central plaza, walk five blocks north along Calle 6. The side streets to your right are some of the most photogenic in town, and they receive little foot traffic. (In other words — perfect for photos.) Eventually you’ll reach Iglesia de Santa Barbara, the town’s oldest church. The surrounding park is also worth wandering around in, as local artists have installed sculptures here.

 

Next, walk south along Calle 7 until you reach Carrera 5. You’ll want to stop for photos all along this road again, so take your time. Take a right on Carrera 5 and walk four blocks. Take another right and walk three blocks to reach the Capilla de Jesus. This bare-bones church occupies a beautiful park where locals hang out all day long. The cemetery is especially lovely.

 

Now you can head back to the central plaza along Carrera 7. This full loop will take you about 90 minutes, depending on how much time you spend taking photos.

 

Visit artisan workshops

 

Visit an artisan workshop to learn about local crafts.
Barichara has long attracted artists and artisans from all over Colombia. Today, the town has lots of sculpture and public art.

 

Barichara Colombia is home to many craftspeople — from small-scale paper producers to weavers and visual artists. You could spend hours perusing their shops and workshops to look for the perfect gift to bring home.

 

The most famous workshop in town is the Taller de Papel (paper workshop). You can take a tour or even join a class to make your own artisanal paper for just 3,500-5,000 COP. Call ahead (7-726-7234), as their hours are erratic. The shop has more consistent hours and is a great place to pick up stationary and other paper products.

 

The Taller De Ceramica Terricota is another popular option, where you can learn about the local methods for making clay pots. And the Taller Centro Dia is the best place to pick up woven bags.

 

Join the locals for a coffee on the central plaza

 

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Meet the locals over a cup of coffee on the main square.
Barichara isn’t exactly a coffee-lover’s destination — but the atmosphere in the cafe on the main square is fantastic.

 

As beautiful as Barichara is, the town actually sees relatively few gringo tourists. The locals are extremely welcoming to the folks who do make it here. They’ll stop you in the street just to say hi and ask how you’re enjoying your visit. But for a truly authentic local experience, head to the town’s most popular coffee shop.

 

Panadería Central has all the usual coffee options — from tinto (black coffee) to bougie espresso drinks. It also has great pastries, sweets, and full breakfasts. Prices are reasonable (1,200 COP for a cafe con leche).

 

But the real appeal is that Panadería Central is the main gathering place for locals in the mornings. Share one of the few tables inside and you’ll meet artisans, farmers, businesswomen, shopkeepers, and others from every imaginable walk of life. You may be invited to join a card game or share a slice of cake.

 

Enjoy the great vegetarian food in Barichara Colombia

 

This little town has several great vegetarian cafes.
Shambala has the best vegetarian food in Barichara — some of the best vegetarian food in Colombia, for that matter.

 

If you’re a vegetarian traveling in South America, you know the struggle is real to find anything edible and affordable. But I have good news — the food scene in Barichara will be a breath of fresh air.

 

Barichara Colombia has not just one, but two excellent vegetarian cafes. They’re right next to each other a few steps from the main plaza. They’re called Shambala and Shanti. Both menus feature international dishes from Thai noodles to Italian favorites. You can add chicken or shrimp to most dishes. The beverages are awesome as well, with refreshing variations on iced tea, juice and lemonade. Expect to pay around 20,000 COP for a meal with a drink.

 

Alternatively, head to Gringo Mike’s Barichara branch. It has the same menu as the San Gil favorite, with tons of veggie burger and burrito options. Everything is delicious and portions are huge.

 

Of course, you can always find pizza (7 Tigres and La Piazza are favorites). And if you look really hard, you might be able to find a typical Colombian menu del dia with vegetarian options — although most places stick with the local specialty of baby goat.

 

Extend your Barichara day trip: Hike the Camino Real to Guane

 

The Camino Real Colombia is a quick and easy hike you can do on your day trip to Barichara.
The Camino Real is an ancient Indigenous stone pathway linking Barichara to Guane.

 

The Camino Real is a stone pathway connecting the towns of Barichara and Guane (and extending to the Chicamocha Canyon). It was originally built by Indigenous peoples hundreds of years ago — many of the stones are, in fact, fossils. Signs along the way inform you of the historical significance of the route.

 

If you’re looking for something more active to do on your day trip to Barichara Colombia, you can add a short and easy hike along the Camino Real to your afternoon activities. If you’re doing this as part of your day trip, leave Barichara by 2 pm.

 

The effort-to-reward ratio of this hike is pretty incredible. The views all along the way are spectacular, and the hike is mostly downhill on the stone path. You need about 2 hours to cover the 9 km, assuming you walk at a decent pace but stop regularly for photos.

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Pick up the path at the north end of Calle 4 where it intersects with Carrera 10 in Barichara. A big sign marks the entry point. The trail is easy to follow and well-marked — there are a couple of side trails, but you’ll quickly see that they lead to someone’s home or farm.

 

Locals who live along the route sell drinks and snacks. But you should definitely set out with plenty of water and sunscreen. The first drink stop is after about an hour of walking.

 

You may not see any other people for the duration of your hike. But don’t worry, it’s completely safe. You’re never far from the main road.

 

The hike ends in the small town of Guane, which looks a lot like Barichara, but even more adorable. The center of town life is the plaza (wander around for 5 minutes and you’ll find it easily). You can buy an ice cream or coffee while you wait for a frequent bus all the way back to San Gil for 6,000 COP. If you’re not done exploring Barichara yet, you can get off the bus there instead.

 

Staying overnight in Barichara Colombia

 

Many of the hotels in Barichara Colombia have spectacular views of the mountains.
Many of the hotels and hostels in Barichara have spectacular views of the mountains.

 

If you have the time, Barichara is a great place to spend a couple nights unwinding from your trip through Colombia. While it doesn’t have a ton to do to occupy more than a day of your time, you could easily spend several days just soaking up the atmosphere and wandering around. Considering how much less touristy it is than Guatape and other small towns, this would be the one I’d pick to stay overnight in.

 

Possibly the best part of spending a night in Barichara is staying at Tinto Hostel. The facilities get top-notch reviews. I didn’t personally stay there, but it came so highly recommended to me by other travelers I met throughout Colombia that I feel comfortable recommending it to you.

 

Barichara has almost no nightlife. Your best bet is having a beer on the plaza in the evenings. A couple of semi-sketchy clubs operate on the fringes of town, but solo women might want to steer clear.

 

Whether you visit for the day or stay overnight, you’ll surely fall in love with Barichara Colombia. It’s hard to argue that it’s one of the most beautiful places in the country. And there are few places this charming that still feel this authentic and off-the-beaten path. Rumors are swirling that San Gil will open an airport as soon as 2020 — so go now, before Barichara ends up firmly on the gringo trail!

 

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Barichara Colombia is the country's most beautiful town. Discover how to do a day-trip to Barichara from San Gil. See the architecture, hike the Camino Real and more... #colombia #travel

 

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nailahhayward
nailahhayward
3 years ago

I’m planning to visit Colombia for the first time later this year so I’m happy to learn about some of the smaller out of the way towns. Thanks for sharing this!

juliee71
juliee71
3 years ago

I’m dying to go to Colombia, and I love that Barichara is still a little bit off the beaten path. I’ll have to get there soon! Thanks for all the tips and amazing photos.

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