Bucaramanga is located in the northeast of Colombia and is the capital of the department of Santander. The city, which lies on a plateau of the Colombian Andes, is the sixth largest in terms of population in the country and is fast becoming a tourist hotspot due to its beauty and wide range of extreme sports available in the surrounding areas. With an average temperature of 22 °C (71 °F) Bucaramanga is much cooler than a lot of Colombia’s major cities and is also cooled further during the day by winds coming from the mountains.
What to see and do in Bucaramanga
The city of Bucaramanga itself is one of the prettiest in Colombia and thus has been granted the name ‘La Ciudad Bonita de Colombia’ (Colombia’s beautiful city). One of the main reasons for this accolade is the vast green landscape it offers with over 160 parks in its vicinity. Parque del Agua (Water Park) is a great place to visit with its total relaxation vibe offering solace in the city. Thanks to its fountains and landscaping ponds this park is a great place to chill and take pictures. Parque del Agua is especially beautiful during Christmas when it is embedded with lights and a huge Christmas tree, proving a popular attraction for local families.
Elsewhere Parque Santander is considered one of the most famous parks in the city and is often used as a meeting point. This park is simply stunning at night with a series of lights illuminating the historical buildings round its edge, including the remarkable cathedral.
For a more social feel you should head to the Parque de las Palmas (Park of the Palms) where you will find a plethora of fine bars and restaurants. Centrally located this park is often lively at night with people dining while being entertained by the various storytellers who congregate.
Nightlife, Dancing and Eating Out
Bucaramanga’s Cabecera district is a great place to enjoy a variety of foods with Mexican, Italian and Thai among the various restaurants available. Meanwhile for those looking to go on late into the night Carrera 33 is highly recommended for bars and clubs. Many clubs are focused around salsa music and if this is your scene then Cepita is a good place to visit. This bar, located at the Hotel Chicamocha, continually recreates the traditional salsa feel with photos of famous musicians lining the walls. Meanwhile for those looking for a more western feel Mi Pais is a good alternative. This popular venue, situated on Carrera 34, has three-levels and is attended by locals and tourists alike, you should note that it is unlikely to get lively before midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Places to visit near Bucaramanga
Outside of the city the surrounding areas of Bucaramanga offer a whole host of extreme sports including paragliding, rafting, kayaking and rappelling. Ten minutes from Bucaramanga is Alto de las Aguilas, a great location where companies give guided paragliding experiences as well as a great place to view the city. Meanwhile in the small town of San Gil, 96 km from Bucaramanga, you can discover other extreme sports. Rafting is one of its most popular activities here with experienced guides offering several trips on the rivers. The excursions which take place on either the Fonce or Suarez river offer adventurers differing levels of difficulty, making use of rafts, kayaks or hydrospeed - a form of river bodyboarding. Other activities in the countryside surrounding San Gil include paragliding, caving and rappelling. Rappelling can be done on the incredible 180-meter Juan Curi cascades. The cascades are worthy of a visit even if not to be rappelled down, as you can get a guided tour through jungle to an incredible pool and view point of the water falling from above.
Visitors interested in incredible engineering feats should visit Chicamocha National Park in Panachi, about 50km from Bucaramanga, to see the world’s longest cable cart. This cart is no less than 6 km long and contains 39 cabins, each of which has a capacity of eight passengers. The system covers the entire Chicamocha canyon from La Mesa de los Santos to Panachi and includes three stations in between, allowing people to get out for a moment and enjoy the park by foot. The system is opened from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9am to 6pm. The Chicamocha Canyon also accommodates outdoor activities such as paragliding, kayaking, mountain climbing, camping and fishing.
Best time to visit Bucaramanga
Bucaramanga hosts an annual ‘Words Festival’ usually at the end of September to the beginning of October. During this ten-day event the city welcomes national and international participants to perform dances, comedy and tell stories in the various theatres and halls.
Getting to and from Bucaramanga
The city’s airport - Palonegro International - is located 30 km west of the city and is reachable by buses marked ‘Aeropuerto’ or mini buses from the city centre. There is also a bus terminal to the southwest of the city which has routes to most of Colombia’s major cities.
Getting around Bucaramanga
Once inside the city it is relatively easy to navigate with two bus services available and inexpensive taxis on every corner. The modern ‘metrolinea’ is the best way to travel as it is; clean, safe and as it’s separate from the roads is not affected by heavy traffic.
Safety in Bucaramanga
Bucaramanga is a relatively safe city although it is advisable to stick to the trendy Nuevo Sotomayor area when choosing where to stay. Usual precautions should be taken at all times such as taking taxis at night rather than walking and preferably using ones which has been booked over the phone. The poor areas known as ‘Comunas’ should be avoided completely unless accompanied by a local who is familiar with the area.
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