We worked hard to get to Barichara!

From Bucaramanga, we traveled south through a magnificent canyon carved by the Rio Sogamoso to the scenic town of Zapatoca (we’ll say more about Zapatoca in a future post). After lunch and a visit to explore a nearby cave, we set out on a challenging unpaved road that we hoped (!) would bring us to Barichara. After almost SIX nail-biting hours covering the 37-mile distance, we arrived – more dead than alive – at this lovely, cobble-stoned village. (Note: Barichara can be reached a lot faster from Bucaramanga via a modern highway, but we would have missed Zapatoca and some breathtaking scenery. It was worth it!)

Barichara is often called Colombia’s most beautiful town, and for good reason.

“The most beautiful town” became somewhat of a running joke on this trip, since many of the other pueblos we’ve visited have made the same claim. But Barichara truly lives up to the tag line. Sitting on a high plateau overlooking the Rio Suarez canyon, Barichara offers postcard-pretty vistas around every corner. Centuries-old houses are perfectly maintained and festooned with bougainvillea. Monumental churches and chapels are built of the reddish stone from the surrounding hills, creating a striking contrast with the whitewashed houses and bright flora. And the sky just goes on forever.

As usual with our photo galleries, you can click through each one to see a larger version.

There’s so much to see and do in Barichara.

We spent a week there, which was more than enough time to fall into an easy routine about town and suss out everything on offer. Here were our favorite activities.

Visit the artisan workshops.

Barichara is well-known for its community of artisans and the numerous talleres (workshops) in which they work. We especially enjoyed the Fundación San Lorenzo, created to teach women the craft of handmade paper from plant fibers such as fique. Another interesting stop is De La Tierra, run by architects who are dedicated to preserving the traditional building methods of the area using native soils, plants, and rocks. Visitors can create artwork using the vibrant colors of the different soils, along with many other activities.

Explore the beautiful cemetery.

Everyone who reads our blog knows how much we love cemeteries. Barichara’s is especially pretty and nice for a morning stroll.

Take a bike tour.

Bicichara is a brand-new cycling outfit started by a young couple, Victoria and Goyo. Goyo led us on a leisurely, morning-long tour through Barichara to visit the main sights and a few others we might not have found on our own. We highly recommend Bicichara!

Visit Chicamocha Canyon.

Chicamocha is the world’s second largest river canyon (next to Tibet’s Tsangpo Canyon). To experience it, we drove about an hour north to the Parque Nacional de Chicamocha. The Parque is just as cheesy as the guidebooks say – but the cable car ride (one of the world’s longest!) across the entire canyon was well worth the price of admission (about $7 apiece).

Breathtaking Chicamocha Canyon

Hike the Camino Real to Guane.

Just up on the mirador road in Barichara is the trailhead for the Camino Real, a centuries-old path originally created by the Guane indigenous people. In the 1800s, it was upgraded by a German engineer and merchant, Geo von Lengerke. (Side note: Lengerke was a fascinating man, and his “proliferation” is apparently the reason you see so many blue-eyed locals in and around Barichara! Here’s an interesting article about him.) The trail to Guane is about 9 km and is an easy downhill for the most part (we took a tuk-tuk back up to Barichara). Start early in the morning and take plenty of water – it’s a hot one!

Experience Cascada Juan Curí.

This beautiful waterfall and eco-parque is about an hour’s drive south of Barichara and well worth a visit.

Cascada Juan Curí

Check out other scenic towns nearby.

On the day we visited the Cascada Juan Curí, we popped into two picturesque nearby towns: Valle de San José and Curití.

Go whitewater rafting.

We did not go rafting; we simply ran out of time. But the opportunities abound, since Barichara is situated near the confluence of two major rivers, the Rio Fonce and the Rio Suarez. We hear the Suarez is especially challenging, with class 4 and 5 rapids. There are numerous rafting outfitters in the nearby city of San Gil. La próxima vez (next time)!

Where to eat and drink

Barichara has more outstanding restaurants and watering holes than we could have ever visited in a single week. These are some of our favorites.

Elvia. Fabulous, creative cuisine prepared with artistic precision by the dedicated staff. It’s a must for foodies (like us!).

Elvia’s kitchen staff assemble each dish with care.

Iguá Náuno. We had an excellent and relaxing lunch in this sweet little place, near the canyon mirador.

Independencia. This new-ish restaurant/bar right on the canyon mirador has the best view in town! An outstanding place to watch the play of the sun over the canyon as the afternoon progresses (and enjoy a few cocktails!). And the burgers are outstanding.

You can’t beat the canyon-side view at Independencia.

El Puntal. We had our first lunch here after arriving in Barichara, but it stayed on the top of our list. El Puntal is an excellent típico-style restaurant on two floors of a centuries-old building right on the Parque Principal. Excellent steaks and friendly service!

Insider tip: The best WiFi in town is at El Bodegon de Toñita, just a couple of doors down from the big church on the Parque Principal. It’s a great place to have a couple of cervezas and get caught up on your blogging, photo uploading, and other bandwidth-heavy tasks. The food’s good, too!

Where to stay

We absolutely loved our stay at Casa Mahanaim, a beautiful hacienda-style inn high on a mountaintop about a mile out of Barichara. (A big shout-out and thank you to bloggers Ian and Nicky of Above Us Only Skies for the referral!) Since we were the only guests, owners Henry and Lina took us in as if we were family. During our week’s stay, we got very attached to them and their two children as well as the sweet housekeeper, Johanna. I’ll never forget the way they welcomed two strangers with open arms (well, fist bumps) and served us a wonderful dinner when we arrived after dark and well past our expected time (see reference above to our five-hour dirt road adventure!).

Casa Mahanaim began as Lina and Henry’s private residence, but over time they expanded it to the unique and beautiful inn it is today. Their singular vision and creativity is reflected in every room and each public space. And its vantage point affords breathtaking views of Barichara and the valley below.

Next up: the enchanting heritage town of Monguí!

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  1. Penny Tracey Reply

    Hi, You guys are so great about exploring ! Love the photos and you guys look great!
    Penny and Bill

    • Thank you for taking us along on this amazing adventure!

      • John and Susan Pazera Reply

        Thank YOU, Mimi, for reading! Glad we could take you along 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Penny! Hope you two are well. You’re back in the states, correcto?
      – Susan

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      We feel we owe our Colombia experience to you two! I’m sure you’ll be back someday 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks – it really was a great trip! There are so many hidden gems in Colombia.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Rebecca! It was such a great trip.

  2. Wow! This looks gorgeous! I have Colombia high on my list to visit & this post just moved it up another notch! Barichara looks gorgeous & well worth spending the week as I would love to do all of these things. Thanks for sharing, I can’t wait to follow in your footsteps!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Sue! Since we live in Colombia, we’re doing what a lot of folks are in these covid times – exploring more of own backyard. I do hope you can visit this amazing country someday!

  3. Stunning view of Chicamocha Canyon. It sounds like a relaxing but as well active vacation 🙂

  4. So awesome to see you in Colombia as I very much want to return. Looks like you had an absolutely wonderful time and I will have to bookmark this for a future trip.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      I hope you can return to Colombia someday! We’ve just discovered how much there is to see and do by car, after spending the month of August on the road. It really was an amazing trip. Thanks for your comment!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      We feel so grateful for the opportunity to live in this fantastic country and explore it by car. Hugs to you, Henry!

  5. Wow what a great post and your photos really brought it alive. I think if I ever got to the viewpoint of Independencia I wouldn’t want to leave!!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Ha, yup – that spot was pretty hard to leave, for sure. Especially after a few mojitos 🙂 It really does have a spectacular view, especially in late afternoon. Thanks for your comment!

  6. Oh I am so envious! What a rich road trip you’re having. Barichara and environs looks fabulous, if only for the views! But the hiking and biking sounds good too. Wonderful photos.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      It was an incredible, eye-opening trip, Alison! Barichara was one of three heritage towns that really blew us away. I’m looking forward to writing and posting about the other two, Monguí and Villa de Leyva. Colombia really is chock full of treasures for travelers. Hope you guys are well!
      – Susan

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hmm, which blue t-shirt and what REI trip?? We’ve taken a few but it’s been years. Thanks, Pam!

        • John and Susan Pazera Reply

          Ahh, that one! Nope, not REI. It’s from travelislife.org. That’s an amazing travel blog run by a dude who lives in Ecuador, Paul Drecksler. It’s a very cool site.

          • Ha! no wonder you didn’t know what I was talking about! LOL. I got that shirt a couple of times on REI trips.

  7. I followed your adventures on FB, but these pictures tell the big story. Love the colors. Well-done!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Patti! Cheers 🙂

  8. Thank you once again for taking me along, but allowing me to skip the six hour trip to get there. Love the photo in front of the waterfall. Fabulous!!! Good for you. Lovely town, particularly liked the cemetery. Cheers, Muriel

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi Muriel! Cemeteries are so wonderful, aren’t they? Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  9. Marvelous, marvelous photos! I love every single aspect of Barichara and its surrounding areas in this post: the beautiful old churches and old houses, scenic hiking trail, pretty cemetery, the waterfall, and your lovely accommodation. I can see why this corner of Colombia is called the most beautiful town in the country. And your photos do this place justice.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Bama! All the best.

  10. I can see why it’s often called Columbia’s most beautiful town. Your photos are breathtaking. I wish I was there right now. I love that there are hiking and cycling opportunities.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Caroline! Barichara was just one of several fantastic towns we visited on the trip. We have an even greater appreciation for this amazing country we call home. Hope you’re well! 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks for reading! Hope you’re still enjoying Greece. Headed over to your blog now! 🙂

  11. What an amazing trip, Barichara looks stunning. Love the waterfall and everything looks so full of colour and life. Not sure about you guys sitting on what looks like the edge of a huge cliff though! Brilliant.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Jonno! Ha, it was safer than it looked. But yes, it was a long way down! Hope you and yours are doing well.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much! It was an amazing trip. Hope you’re well!

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