Adventure in San Gil, Colombia’s epicenter of extreme sports

Bea Palop
Bea Palop

All South America is nature, exoticism and adventure. But if you are looking for a place that really makes the adrenaline run through your veins, you will find it in Colombia.

San Gil, municipality of the Department of Santander and located 5 hours away from Bogota, is the epicenter of adventure tourism on this side of the Atlantic. Its benign weather and majestic nature filled with rivers, waterfalls, caves and mountains make it suitable for this.

Tourists get licensed in extreme sports there. Rafting, canyoning, caving, rappel and paragliding take place along its 150 square kilometers.

Nattule invites you to discover it with 6 activities only suitable for the fearless:

1. Rafting and Riverboarding in Fonce River

Rafting was the strong bet of the municipality when, in the 90’s, risk sports became a trend in Colombia. The inhabitants of San Gil thus became pioneers in offering these types of activities.

Fighting against white water

The options for practicing it throughout the region are varied, but most of those who practice it coincide in the Fonce River, the main artery of San Gil. The river crosses the Natural Park El Gallineral, a natural sanctuary in the middle of the municipality, that has rapids of different categories and breathtaking views.

The route usually starts at La Arenera and finishes 10 kilometers downstream, in the heart of El Gallineral Park. You will descend among the majestic vegetation that surrounds the river, in which some ceibo specimens of more than 300 years old stand out. Hopefully, you can also see some iguanas, since they usually approach the shores.

Fonce River

In addition to rafting, another of the adventure sports in Colombia increasingly demanded is the riverboarding. And the waters of the Fonce River are perfect to practice it.

Riverboarding consists of lowering the rapids with a floating table on which the body rests on, which leaves you at the mercy of the mighty waters. This is why you have to demonstrate even more agility to avoid rocks while rafting.

If you are an expert in these sports and want to try something more extreme, you can dare to test the waters of the Suárez River, the bravest of Colombia.

Fun guaranteed in the riverboarding

2. Rappel in Juan Curí Waterfall

Colombia is full of curious rocky formations that make it an ideal destination for rappel practice, a frenetic activity in which you must descend by ravines with the help of ropes and climbing equipment.

Sometimes the descent is made by waterfalls of high altitude, which adds more excitement to the adventure in San Gil. This modality is known in Colombia as “torrentismo”.

“Torrentismo” or descent in waterfalls

One of the best places to practice this activity is the Juan Curí Waterfall. Located in the Cascadas de Juan Curí Ecological Park, this waterfall is considered the highest and most difficult of the country with its 200 meters high. Once you pass through it, you will fall into a natural well of about 2 meters deep. It’s a challenge that defies you.

You can complete your visit to the waterfall with a horseback ride or a hiking trail to enjoy the landscapes that surround you.

Rappel in Juan Curí Waterfall © Arianwen

3. Caving in El Indio and La Vaca Caves

Exciting and curious, caving is an activity increasingly demanded by the most fearless adventurers. It is advisable to always carry it out with an expert guide, as the caves carry dangers that sometimes, due to inexperience, are overlooked.

In Santander there are several interesting caves. Some of them are:

El Indio Cave

Located in the municipality of Páramo, in the north of the country, 12 kilometers away from San Gil. This cave is reached descending by a pulley of 70 meters long and you get out swimming.

Cave of El Indio © Marcela Flórez

You will have to cross three large rooms connected by narrow channels and pass through small but deep puddles. During the route you will notice the presence of bats that live in the walls and hollows. The unique noise of its flutters helps you to enter the magical environment of the cave.

In order to get out you will have to prepare yourself, since you will have to jump into a natural well from about 5 meters high. Without a doubt, it’s an experience that is difficult to forget.

La Vaca Cave

About 10 minutes from San Gil, is the cave of la Vaca, listed as the most extreme cave of Santander.

It is accessed through the water and along the route you will have to walk, crawl and swim among the great variety of calcareous formations. It is one of the most interesting caves for lovers of speleology, although it also leaves the beginner speechless.

Cave of La Vaca ©

The duration of the tour can vary between 2, 4 or 10 hours, depending on the agility and skills of the person.

4. Bungee-jumping in Fonce River

The culmination of extreme sports is undoubtedly bungee jumping. To many this is madness; however, it’s one of the best activities to defy vertigo, throwing yourself into the air with only a rope tied to your feet.

Just 2 kilometers from San Gil, passing by the Charalá route, near Unisangil University, is a superstructure that was built exclusively for the practice of bungee jumping.

With a height of 70 meters over the middle of the Fonce River, this huge podium rises so that before the perfect jump you can admire the wonderful natural landscape that surrounds you.

Bungee jumping over Fonce River © Laura Vorique

5. Zip-line in Chicamocha National Park

In the Chicamocha National Park, one hour north from San Gil, you can release adrenaline by launching off of one of the 3 zip-lines that are there.

The longest one, 450 meters, crosses the Chicamocha Canyon from side to side: an impressive gorge with a depth of almost 2 kilometers, deeper than the Colorado Canyon.

Zip-line in the Chicamocha Canyon

Besides the speed, the great attraction that the zip line provides is the shocking way of appreciating the views. You will want to ride again and again to record it in your retina all the beautiful panoramas of this enclave crossed by the river. The adjectives that are most heard about this place after visiting it are: imposing, majestic and fascinating.

In the zip line, located more than 1,400 meters above sea level, temperatures can become capricious, since they vary between 11℃ and 32℃ depending on whether it is day or night. It should be taken into account and it is not bad idea to carry an extra coat in your backpack.

Chicamocha National Park

To complete the visit to the National Park you can visit the curious Monument of “Santandereanidad”, in which many bronze figures recall a march of “comuneros” in the eighteenth century.

6. Paragliding in Chicamocha Canyon and Curití

Paragliding is the ideal option to admire the landscape of Santander. There is no better way to enjoy the nature of this municipality than by air, from where you can contemplate the immensity and the spectacular coloring of the area.

There are two places where it is mainly performed:

Chicamocha Canyon

If the speed of the zip line has not let you admire this canyon, you have a second chance to do so.
Paragliding in Colombia should be an obligatory activity to get to know and appreciate this incredible mountain scenery from up high.

As you fly over the canyon, you can feel the thrill of flying in the wild. An experience that lasts about 30 minutes; enough time to hold in your memory that moment in which you are alone with the air and the nature.

Alzando el vuelo © Arianwen


If you have never practiced this sport, this place is the best to break the fear of heights. The beautiful landscape of Curití, together with the strong currents of air, make of this area a perfect place.

Surfing heights at more than 1,000 meters high helped by strong winds, will keep you in the sky for longer. Enjoy the scenery under your feet and let the experience embrace you completely.

Flying over Curití © Arianwen

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Between descending a brave river and taking a warm bath there is no comparison. To know the difference between the tachycardia and calm you have to come to San Gil. A tip: leave your eyes at home. This zone of Colombia is not made for you to look at, but for you to live it.

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