Santander is home of very unique towns you should visit. Among them, it is worth highlighting the ones considered as Peoples Heritage such as Barichara, Socorro and San Juan de Girón
Barichara has been called the “prettiest village in Colombia” and its name means “place of rest” in the guane dialect of the native peoples. Its foundation dates back in 1701 when there was an apparition of the Virgin Mary carved on a stone. The town was declared a National Monument in 1975.
Barichara is one of the most visited places in Colombia and Santander, for the beauty of its colonial architecture, majesty of the surrounding landscapes, richness of its cultural agenda and especially for the tranquility of its simple life.
The best tour guide you can have in Barichara is allowing yourself to walk freely through its magical corners. Start your journey in the Main Park where you can appreciate the splendor of its colonial style in its beautiful cobbled streets as well as in its outstanding old houses with white walls, wooden balconies and colorful doors and windows.
After that, dedicate sometime to visit the temples dating from the XIX century such as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (built to commemorate the apparition of the Virgin of the Rock), the Chapels of San Antonio and Risen Christ and the Church of Santa Barbara. It is also worth a visit to the House of the Culture Emilo Pradilla González and the home of former President Aquileo Parra.
To witness the unique scenery, do not miss the Mirador Rafael Ortiz Prada, one of the most beautiful viewpoints of Santander, which is located at the high part of Barichara. At the viewing platform, you can see the imposing Andes Mountains while enjoying a delicious ice cream or a tasty chicha (traditional alcoholic drink made from corn).
Barichara is also a cultural epicenter. To initiate, you can visit the Park of the Arts Jorge Delgado Sierra, which exhibits twenty stone carvings sculpted by national and international artists. Also, the town has a busy schedule of events sucha as the Green Film Festival Festiver created by a non-profit organization founded by renowned Colombian actors Toto Vega and Norida Rodriguez. This festival is held annually and it seeks to promote the protection of the environment.
Last but not least, you will be glad to have the opportunity to come into contact with people from Barichara. They are called “Patiamarillos” because of the particular color of the land dyeing the plants of their feet and of the color of the limestone that they work with their hands. The natives are considered the best carvers of Colombia and Latin America, and stone sculpture is one of the main sources of employment in the region. Keep in mind that you can support traditional arts and crafts visiting workshops such as the Arts and Crafts Workshop or the Paper Workshop.
Before saying goodbye to Barichara, schedule a visit to the beautiful village of Guane. To reach this small town, you have two choices: walking or taking a car. Walking is the alternative that I recommend. Take the “Camino de Lengerke” or “Royal Road” named National Heritage in 1977. This route, of no more than 5 kilometers, was built by the German merchant and engineer Geo Von Lengerke in 1867 supported by the hard work of indigenous people.
The main objective of this road was to mobilize the goods by mule through the wild lands of Santander to trade them throughout the country. The second alternative is to take a public vehicle or private transport, in which case the journey will be approximately 15 minutes.
Arriving at Guane, take the time to sit in the Central Plaza and you will be surprised by the peaceful life of its inhabitants. Try the Sabajón (alcoholic local beverage made from milk, eggs and brandy). You can also visit the Church of Santa Lucia (temple dating from 1600), and the Archaeological and Anthropological Museum that preserves ancient fossils and remnants of the former ethnic guane.
How to get to Barichara?
Barichara is 1,300 meters high and its average temperature is 21 °C. It is located 110 kilometers from Bucaramanga and only 21 kilometers from San Gil. To get there, you can use your own car or take a bus approximately 3 hours from Bucaramanga or 30 minutes from San Gil. If you use public transport, go to the Transport Terminal of Bucaramanga or to the so-called Terminalito located in the center of San Gil.
El Socorro was founded in 1681 and its name comes from a legend that Virgin Mary appeared in this land to save a little girl from Satan.
After many adventures in San Gil, travelling to Socorro is a perfect plan in order to relax with the history of the city, the department and the country. Socorro,known as the “cradle of independence”, is actually the origin of the liberation struggle of the Latin American and of numerous episodes that reflect the entrepreneurial spirit and courage of Santanderean people.
To explore this city, we recommend starting the route at the historic center, declared Good of National Cultural Interest in 1963. Begin at the Independence Park, where you will find the statue of Jose Antonio Galan, leader of the Movement of the Communards that took place in 1781 when Latin American first rise against the Spanish crown. You also will find the Monument to Antonia Santos, hero of the independence fight who was shot to death there in 1819.
You should also visit the imposing Cathedral Nuestra Señora del Socorro, with a height of 96 meters making it the third highest in the country after the cathedrals of Manizales and Las Lajas.
Right after, walk to the House of Culture Horacio Rodríguez Plata, beautiful colonial building dating from the XVIII century, which recalls some of the many ways in which Socorro is a pioneer nationwide including having the first House of Culture; the first toll; and the first plants of beer, tobacco, yarns, and brandy.
Leaving the House of culture, you can visit beautiful temples like the Church of Nuestra Señora de Chiquinquirá and the Chapel of Jesus of Nazareth. Also, get ready to visit the religious gems that survived over time such as the Convent of the Capuchins (first Convent in the Americas and where the Independence of El Socorro was signed on July 10th of 1810, ten days before national independence), and the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception and San José del Socorro (where more than 20,000 hosts are made daily ad represent around 70% of consumption of all Catholic churches in the country).
If you visit the Socorro, be sure to try the Maicenitas, traditional sweets of the municipality.
How to get to El Socorro?
El Socorro is 1,200 meters high and its average temperature is 23 °C. It is located 121 kilometers from the city of Bucaramanga and just 23 kilometers from the city of San Gil. You can get by your own car or by public transport traveling 3 hours from Bucaramanga 20 minutes from San Gil. If you choose to use public transportation, you can take a van from the Transport Terminal of Bucaramanga or San Gil.
San Juan de Girón
San Juan de Girón, formerly Villa of the Knights of Girón, is commonly known as Girón and called “the white city of Colombia”. The municipality is one of the places of which the Santanderean people are most proud about and was declared national heritage in 1959. Destination of white houses, beautiful chapels, stone paths and charming bridges, Girón is a must to do if you plan to explore the pleasing department of Santander.
Religious tourism is the one that attracts more visitors to this town. Churches, chapels and oratories are centers of pilgrimage for believers and tourists that come more frequently in the Holy Week and December. Start your route at the Main Park where you will see the Basilica San Juan Bautista, built in 1639 and where the image of the Lord of Miracles is worshiped. This beautiful building was erected as a replica of the famous Church of Santa Maria in Rome, Italy. At the Holy Week, the Viacrucis departs from the Basilica and you can see the processions of religious sculptures by different colonial streets of the town. Also in the framework of September 14th, day of the Lord of Miracles, masses and celebrations bring together more than 50,000 people between locals and visitors.
Afterward, go through the Mansion Museum Casa del Frayle, illustrious colonial building which is currently an exhibition hall with pieces of the XVIII century.
Save some time for the Parque de las Nieves, where the Chapel of the same name was built in the 1600s, and where an image of the Virgin of Our Lady of the Snows originally brought from Spain is venerated. This stunning temple is one of the most photographed sites in the country.
Girón is a place of reflection and meditation, where you can also enjoy the beauty of perfectly preserved Spanish colonial infrastructure. Walk through the old town and see the imposing buildings made with adobe and mud. Do not forget to cross at least one of the 6 bridges of calicanto, high stone structures that surrounds the main Park.
How to get to Girón?
Girón is located at 777 meters above sea level and its average temperature is 24°C. The municipality is only 7 kilometers from Bucaramanga and 57 kilometers from San Gil. You can travel by car in 15 minutes from the Bucaramanga center or 2 hours from the town of San Gil.