Hidden among the hills of Colombia’s Santander region is a sleepy, colonial town with cobblestone streets and scenic views.
Most backpackers who arrive in nearby San Gil for a quick adrenaline rush usually skip a visit to this gem, which has earned the title of one of the “most beautiful town in Colombia” according to CNN.
If river rafting, paragliding, or drinking the night away with adventurous backpackers at one of San Gil’s party hostels simply aren’t your thing, Barichara might just be your kind of place.
Barichara charms visitors with its natural and man-made beauty. Strolling along the town’s streets with houses boasting colourful doors and windowsills might tempt you to take up photography professionally.
The best part? It is only a 40-min bus ride from San Gil, which means that if you do want to go mountain biking (or participate in any activity offered there), the commute is short and a small price to pay for the inspiration you will receive from Barichara’s serenity.
Read more of our Colombian travel guides here.
Where to Stay in Barichara
There are plenty of amazing, stylish and friendly budget options in Barichara that can be booked online. Check out accommodation options in Barichara on Booking.com or check out some of our favourites below…
Tinto Hostel – With its wooden terraces and comfy hammocks, Tinto just might ruin you for all future hostels! This gorgeous little place, which even has a small pool, feels more like a lovely, relaxing home than a hostel, especially if you make yourself a meal in its well-equipped kitchen. Book in advance, as this hostel is a backpackers’ favourite – for good reason! Dorms from $9 US per night and privates from $22 US.
Color de Hormiga Hostel – While I haven’t stayed there myself, I heard good things about this hostel from travellers who arrived in town to find Tinto fully booked. From $14 US per night for a dorm bed and $29 US per night for a double room, both options include free breakfast. Housed in an old building with a pleasing patio and garden, this is a place to chill out and soak up Barichara’s tranquil beauty.
Hostal Casa Nacuma – Another budget-friendly place not far from the main plaza of Barichara is the Hostal Casa Nacuma, that gets excellent reviews from its guests. Also located in a historical house with a pretty courtyard and hammocks, it’s a great place to relax with a good book. The bilingual owner, Camilo, is super friendly and knowledgeable about the area. Free breakfast with fresh fruits included in the price. Dorms from $12 US. Double rooms from $20 US.
La Juanita Casa Boutique – Pitching itself as more of a bed and breakfast than a hostel, La Juanita Casa is great value for money for what you get. With an outside terrace where you can relax and take in the views of Barichara, delicious breakfast included in the price of the room, friendly staff and tasteful design (oh and did we mention a plunge pool?), you won’t go wrong staying here. Dorms (4-bed) from $13 US. Privates from $48 US.
La Casa de Hercilia Boutique – A stylish and cosy place to stay with a lovely peaceful courtyard, great food and a relaxing atmosphere. All-day coffee is also a bonus. Centrally located, 200 metres from Barichara Bus Station, weary travellers will find it easy to relax here. $15 US for a dorm bed or $36 US for a double room.
Things to do in Barichara
Barichara is a destination neither for the thrill seeker nor for the activity junkie. In fact, the less you do in this town, the more you will experience! Put on your Baricharan attitude for a few days, visit the market to buy some fresh fruits, get a manicure at Yaja Sala de Belleza, walk around town aimlessly. Barichara might just surprise you with what you find in its nooks and crannies.
People watch in the main plaza
Get a delicious ice-cream stick from the store next to the ATM machine in the main plaza, find an empty bench in front of the Church of the Immaculate Conception and watch how Baricharans have managed to stop time.
Visit the nearby town of Guane
Guane is an even smaller version of Barichara and like all Colombian towns, has a main plaza with a church in the middle of it. While it consists of more or less eight streets, one can easily spend an hour or two watching the locals go about their day, sampling their famous goat milk, and visiting the fossil museum.
Hike El Camino Real
While buses frequently shuttle locals between the Guane and Barichara, the historic Camino Real is a scenic, stone-paved path, connecting the two towns. The 9 km hike is not tough and takes about two hours with plenty of rests to take in the view.
Unless you want to hike both directions, I recommend walking to Guane as it is more downhill and then taking the bus back to Barichara. Remember to leave enough time in Guane before the last bus departs around 18:00. (Ask for an updated schedule at the ticket office by the main plaza in Barichara).
Casa de Aqueleo Parra
For a bit of history, visit the home of Aquileo Parra (1825-1900), Colombia’s first president, who was born in Barichara.
Taste a Baricharan delicacy
Fried giant ants! If eating crunchy insects isn’t your thing, go to La Casona for a delicious goat lunch or try an arepa burger at Igua Nauno.
How to get to Barichara
Barichara is a 30-40 minute local bus ride from San Gil. Beware as there are two bus stations in San Gil and the main busses coming from Bogotá or Santa Marta drop you off on the side of the main road. Best take a cab for 4,000 – 5,000 pesos and ask them to take you to the local bus terminal on Calle 15/Carrera 10.
Where to go next?
From San Gil, overnight buses run to most main destinations. Santa Marta and Medellin are approximately a 12-hour bus ride away. If you couldn’t get enough of Barichara’s serenity and are on your way south toward Bogotá, stop by Villa de Leyva to check out another gorgeous Colombian town!
About the Author: Nathalie Alyon is a Tel-Avivian Turk currently traveling in Latin America and writing about it. Follow her blog on intercultural living at www.packthestory.com