Barichara is often called the prettiest town in Colombia.
A compact little hillside town on a hot plateau, all whitewashed houses, cobbled streets, and red-tiled roofs. A National Monument dating all the way back to the Spanish conquest, with some of the most perfectly preserved and beautiful architecture in the Americas.
Barichara should really feature in every Top 10 list written about Colombia in the future.
Where is Barichara & How to get there?
Barichara is a small town (very small; less than 10,000 inhabitants) in the Santander department, about 118km from the state capital, Bucaramanga, and around 450km from the national capital Bogota.
To travel to Barichara, you’ll need to pass through San Gil, where minibusses (colectivos) regularly leave to make the 45-minute journey through the desert landscapes of the Santander countryside.
They will arrive in Barichara’s main square, and you will find yourself instantly transported into a world of calm and relaxation.
Barichara deserves more than a short day trip
Barichara is a popular tourist destination. However is generally visited by day-trippers, so my number one tip for visiting the town would be: don’t limit yourself; stay for a night or two and really soak up the tranquility and history of the place.
Once the day-trippers leave, you can wander the dimly lit streets along the cobble-stones in complete peace, with virtually no one else in sight: as travel romance goes, it doesn’t get much better. The same goes in the early morning when the buses and cars have yet to arrive, and the town is calm and peaceful and pleasantly cool before the sun comes up.
Take it slow in Barichara
This is the real beauty of Barichara – its calm and laid-back vibe.
It’s really impossible to feel like you’re in a hurry here, partly because the town is only about 12 blocks by 12, so any tourism can be done at a practically sedentary pace.
There are some gorgeous churches, a handful of artisanal craft shops, some lovely little bars and restaurants, and…actually, that’s about it!
Aside from that, at the top of town, there is a gorgeous lookout over the Suarez River and the canyon Chicamocha that twists and turns through.
How is the weather in Barichara
Speaking of the sun, make sure you bring plenty of sunblock; Barichara is set on a high, dry plateau, and maintains a uniformly hot climate (although the nights are chilly to say the least).
The streets offer little in the way of shade, and as walking the streets is the main activity in the town, you’ll be in the sun a lot!
Never fear though, as far as I’m concerned, the second best activity is finding a shady spot and reading a book, so there’ll be a chance for regular respite.
My preferred spot was a delightful little hotel/cafe half a block from the main church: I never did catch its name, but it has a blue door, and a fantastic courtyard full of little fountains, plants, and wild birds, with a view onto the church.
They made a lovely little cup of coffee, and I spent many happy hours there, forgetting what the time was.
The Camino Real from Barichara to Guane
The Camino Real between Barichara and Guane is a 10km hike (mostly downhill, don’t panic) along a small section of the old ‘Royal Road’. It winds along the edge of the beautiful Chicamocha canyon, through Santander’s lush, green countryside.
I swear, if it wasn’t for the cacti and the sun, I could have been in Wales!
The only sounds I could hear were the gentle trilling of birds, and the occasional cow (or goat) bell, ringing somewhere off in the canyon. For a few hours of peace and quiet, this trail is just about perfect.
It starts at the top end of Barichara, just along the road from the mirador, and can be identified clearly by the two marker stones that signal the start of the road.
From there, it’s simple: just follow the old cobbled Camino Real until you reach Guane. There isn’t really much more to say than that: if you manage to get lost, it would be a fairly heroic effort!
The hike itself is not too strenuous, although I would recommend starting earlier in the morning to avoid hiking in the heat of midday, which is intense in this part of Colombia. Even so, wear a hat and bring plenty of water; there’s nobody selling it along the trail itself. It’s mostly downhill, but the old cobbles can be a bit uneven and slippery when wet, so wear some sensible shoes for hiking.
Bird lovers will be in heaven for the 2-odd hours it takes to walk this trail; birdsong fills the air, and the trail is brightened by the regular sight of yellow finces, blue tanangers, and iridescent motmots. It’s a wonderful little slice of untouched nature, and it’s pretty much yours for the duration of the hike. My hiking buddies and I only saw one other ‘tourist’ along the trail; other than that, it was just goatherds and local kids who crossed our path.
When you arrive in Guane, you’re in for a treat as well. For anyone who thought Barichara was just way too busy and commercialized (this is a joke, it’s not really at all), Guane is the place for you. A few delightful little cobbled roads, a nice archaeological museum, and some shops selling goat’s milk; Guane is the perfect place to end the hike.
For those of you with more energy, the hike back would take an extra half-hour or so, because of the added uphills, and if you’re full-up from all the milk, then the bus to Barichara costs a few bucks, leaves regularly, and takes just 20 minutes or so.
Where to stay in Barichara
Accommodation is plentiful, being a popular tourist spot: you can choose between a range of places, from high-end boutique hotels to backpacker hostels.
I stayed in Tinto Hostel (Carrera 4 N. 5-39) and have to say that it was one of the nicest places I’ve stayed in Colombia: it boasts a little pool, lovely gardens and high-ceilinged, airy rooms.
At just 2 blocks from the main square, it’s perfectly located and contained my 2nd favorite ‘sitting in the shade and reading’ spot in the town: a bench overlooking the red roofs of Barichara.
Author’s note: This article was originally published by Chris on the site www.seeColombia.travel. It has now been edited by Thomas Espeute, following the acquisition of SeeColombia.travel by Tomplanmytrip.