The view from atop our hotel

From the picturesque village of Doradal, Colombia’s own Santorini, we traveled north – following the Magdalena River for quite a while on a schizophrenic road that alternated between a fast and modern four-lane highway and a bumpy two-lane track that was choked with truck traffic. In late afternoon, we fetched up in Bucaramanga, Colombia’s sixth largest city and the capital of Santander department.

Bucaramanga is known as the City of Parks, for good reason.

We might add that it’s also a city of beautiful churches. After a couple of days exploring on foot (our favorite way to experience a place), we had seen many beautiful parques y iglesias. We also enjoyed visiting the city market and the outlying heritage town of Girón.

San Juan de Girón

Situated on the southwestern outskirts of Bucaramanga, Girón was the first Pueblo Patrimonio (officially designated heritage town) we encountered on this trip. This pretty pueblo has roots dating back to the 15th century, and its beautifully preserved historical district is well worth a visit.

Other Things to Do Near Bucaramanga (If They’re Open!)

On our last day in Bucaramanga, we decided to explore a few more of the outlying sights: El Santísimo, billed as the second-tallest statue of Christ in South America, and the nearby Cervecería Clausen, the oldest continuously operating brewery in Colombia. Sadly, both were closed; El Santísimo despite online info the contrary. (Cervecería Clausen’s website clearly states they’re only open on weekends and holidays, so that was our bad.) We also wanted to visit a botanical garden in Floridablanca on the outskirts of Bucaramanga, but it was also inexplicably closed. Oh, well! Lesson learned: call ahead or ask the locals.

This is as close as we got to El Santísimo, but the city views from the hilltop are amazing!
The nice security guard let us walk around on the beautiful grounds of Cervecería Clausen.

Next stop: the fantastic heritage town of Barichara!

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  1. Thank you for this amazing tour of Bucaramanga. I am sooooooo missing travel, and love traveling vicariously with you two. I look forward to Barichara!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi Donna! Sorry for the belated reply – we got home yesterday and we’re playing catchup. Just got Barichara up today – have a look!

  2. Bucaramanga looks like a really beautiful city with all those parks and churches. And the market looks inviting as well — I’m curious about all those different vegetables. Are those places you mentioned closed because of the pandemic? Because here in Indonesia during the pandemic many cultural sights are often closed when the COVID situation gets worse, and reopened when things have improved.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi Bama! We just got home yesterday. The places I mentioned were open on weekends, but closed during weekdays. Not sure if this is a pandemic-related phenomenon or if they just don’t get enough visitors during the week to justify staying open (which might also be a result of covid). Anyway, glad you liked the post, and I hope things are going better there in Indonesia. Thinking of you!
      – Susan

      • The situation has improved at least here in Jakarta. The government has lifted some restrictions and I still take extra precautions when I go out. Yesterday, however, was the first time I dined out in almost two months — at a rather empty restaurant that is — and that was very refreshing to say the least.

        • John and Susan Pazera Reply

          I can imagine! Glad things are getting a little better there.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi Henry – hope you’re well! Playing some catchup today 🙂 and just got Barichara up. Have a look!

  3. Exploring on foot is great and this town looks so charming. What are the Covid-19 restrictions like in Colombia at the moment ? Do you need to wear a mask in public?

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi Gilda! Just got home yesterday and playing a bit of catchup. Yes, mask-wearing is universal here; it’s really rare to see someone without one. We wore ours constantly when out and about. For us, it’s a sign of respect as well as a protection measure (I think Colombians would agree with that). I’ll bet you guys are getting excited for your Camino trek – how amazing!

  4. Great pictures! I always love that style of church and the colorfulness of it. Looks like an ideal place to stroll around and soak up such a beautiful city 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much! It was a very interesting city. We saw and did so much after that, it seems like a lifetime ago! Anyway, thanks for reading 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Ha, right?? First Jesus, and then the brewery turned us away. We made the most of the day anyway! Are you home from Greece? We enjoyed following your travels!

  5. Bucaramanga looks like a lovely city to explore – especially with all those parks, but it is Giron that really captured me. I love these pueblos magicos (as they’re called in Mexico).
    I’m enjoying this virtual trip with you. It must be so lovely to be on a road trip.
    “a schizophrenic road that alternated between a fast and modern four-lane highway and a bumpy two-lane track that was choked with truck traffic.” This sounds so like India 😂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi Alison! Ugh, can’t believe I let myself get so behind on my replies. But we just returned home yesterday after some real challenges with connectivity on the road. Anyway, thanks for your comment. I like “pueblos magicos” – that really captures some of the magic we experienced on this trip!
      All the best,

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi there! So sorry for the late reply. We just got home yesterday and had all kinds of connectivity issues on the road. Yes, traveling during covid is always interesting, but people here are very, very careful about mask wearing and other precautions (as are we).

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Muriel! We get that – that’s why we’re in a hurry to see as much as we can (or as much as covid restrictions will allow). Hope you’re well!
      Cheers back,

  6. Keith Woolford Reply

    Gracias vecinos! I’m glad you’re enjoying traveling around Colombia and to read about it. I expect to return next year.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi Keith – so great to see you on our blog! Keep reading 🙂 And please let us know next time you come – we would love to show our little neck of the woods. Take care!

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