When I (Floor) bought my Lonely Planet book on my first trip to Colombia in 2011, the section for Santander was already quite small. Let alone the section for Barichara. Maybe one page? Two? Either way, back then it was a town not often visited by foreign tourists. Even though Barichara was declared the prettiest town of Colombia in 2013.
Although tourism has risen slightly over the last few years, for many tourists it is still not on the top of their list. A bit of a hidden gem if you will. But we really love Barichara and are happy to elaborate on what there is to do in this small colonial town and why you should certainly visit for a few days!
How to get to Barichara?
There are plenty of ways to get to Barichara. The most obvious is by car. You could fly to Bucaramanga and then take a car to Barichara. The road through the Chicamocha Canyon is stunning and it is really nice to go during the day and enjoy the views. You will pass nearby San Gil before getting to Barichara. But hey! If you are like Virginia and get carsick, please take some medicine and lots of water with you.
There are also really great off-road biking trails (from Bucaramanga to Zapatoca to Barichara is more or less a two day bike ride). ´Graveling bike friends´ who ride from Mexico City to Lima declared this road to be one of the prettiest they had seen so far. You can also walk there with a guide, there are several routes that take you through the canyon to Barichara.
What to do? Do nothing in Barichara!
Once you get to Barichara, there is plenty of stuff to do. And we will get to that. But it is also an excellent spot to just do…. nothing. The warm but mostly dry climate makes Barichara an ideal spot to just lay in a hammock, read a book, listen to or make some music. Most hostels and hotels have beautiful gardens full of birds and other small fauna.
Actually, the name of Barichara comes from barachalá, a word in the language of the Guane People. They were the first to inhabit this place. And what does barachalá mean? Well, it translates to… lugar de descanso, or resting place in english.
And if you want to go out for a bit? Almost everything is within walking distance if you don’t mind a steep hill here and there.
Art in Barichara
Over the years Barichara has attracted a number of national and international artists who reside in Barichara at least part of the year.
We highly recommend visiting ´Jardín Invisible´. This art gallery exhibits beautiful nature inspired art. We discovered Barichara based artist Jose Arboleda there and very much love his work. Art wise also make sure to visit Taller de Oficios (Carrera 5 #4-26). This beautiful place and non-profit makes sure that traditional as well as modern artisanal techniques are not lost. They teach young and older people how to weave with “fique”, traditional cooking and many more. You will find their gallery as soon as you enter. Walk downstairs and you will find a very good option for lunch or dinner!
Terracota is a good stop if ceramics is more your thing. Juan Sebastian Rueda is a ceramic artist making elaborate pieces or art. He learnt about pottery empirically from people in the region and then won a scholarship that is granted only once every six years. After studying for four years in Europe, he graduated and became a teacher at the Taller de Oficios before establishing his own gallery. His girlfriend Yuli wanted to create one of a kind jewelry. Her art pieces are literally one of a kind, made in Barichara and from soil around Barichara! You can find her ceramic jewelry in our Routonomy store, or you can visit their store that opened in 2023.
Last but not least, you will find plenty of fun artisan objects around all of Barichara. But please visit our lovely neighbor La Hilandera. They offer a wide range of products made by ´artesanos´ from all over Colombia, although Santander primarily.
Paper and bookworms Barichara
So, Barichara has this amazing bookstore Aljibe Liberaria right on the plaza. Fun fact! The owner of this bookstore served as inspiration for the character of Maribel in Disney´s Encanto. But even if she is not there, you will find very knowledgeable book store clerks who are happy to help you navigate their store. Their selection of English books is slim, but good. And if you are able to read Spanish, the options are endless. And then you can circle back to your hammock and just let Colombian small town life pass by you.
Another stop if you like paper is El taller de Papel, what is in a name! This foundation was established in 2001 with the purpose to bring people from Barichara and its surroundings together and share their knowledge. They use fibers like fique and pineapple to make paper and other products. If you want to visit them, we highly recommend calling a bit in advance.
One of the must-do’s in Barichara is to paint with sand / earth. In the surroundings of the most beautiful town of Colombia there are many colors of earth / sand to be found. The people of De la tierra Casa Taller teach workshops about painting with all those natural colors. We have seen some truly amazing artwork by their participants!
Another option if you are into colors is checking Altos del Viento. This hotel / cultural space makes and sells natural indigo ink and often has cool dyeing workshops!
Barichara for active travelers
What else is there to do in Barichara? For more active travelers we strongly recommend biking and hiking around. There are a few cool hikes, but the most famous one is the hike to Guane. Start early! It is not a long path, maybe 5 kilometers, but it gets warm quickly. At the risk of sounding like a worried mum, bring enough sunscreen! And water! You will end up in the village of Guane. Which was also the name of the people living in the canyon and surroundings before Colombia was colonized. If you are up for it, you can walk back up to Barichara, or you can take a bus or taxi back to ´the prettiest town of Colombia´.
There are several bike agencies around. Because of the cobblestone roads within Barichara, the village isn’t ideal for biking. But the surroundings are stunning. You can either go with a guide or find your own way.
You´ll find many nice places to eat in Barichara. There are so many options from home to professional kitchen and from very traditional food to international cuisine. There are way too many to list here, so we will name two restaurants that we think deserve a separate mention.
The first recommendation is Elvia. You'll need a reservation. This restaurant is listed among the 50 best restaurants in Latin America. The food is amazing, the service is great and we feel like the best thing is that it is still a very chill and relaxed atmosphere and reasonable prices for the quality (although admittedly, it is not for low budget travelers). You can see into the open (and very pretty) kitchen and the chef often checks on his guests.
Another option we love is Epice. The Middle Eastern food served here tastes truly authentic. The restaurant is very small and the garden might not be the prettiest in town. But trust us, the food makes up for it. Inspired? You can buy spices and oils there too! From the store, just walk down to the garden and enjoy the wonderful food. Additional recommendation? Go with a group of people if you can! That way you can enjoy and share most items on the menu!
Eco-Friendly Clothing in Barichara: Routonomy
Need a shirt to go out for dinner at Elvia? Or got your clothes dirty during a workshop with natural ink? No worries, we are here to help! Check out our store at the Carrera 7 # 6 - 43 or better said one block away from the main plaza. If you are facing the church just walk down to the right on the right upper corner. You will pass a bar and then we are on the left hand.
Routonomy sells clothing made of natural fibers, like hemp and recycled cotton. Our clothing is ethically produced in Bucaramanga and we keep in mind a timeless design so you can wear your clothing often. Our size range is international XS - XL and we sell clothing for women, men and have quite a few unisex options! If you want to check our collection beforehand, just go to our online store!
We are open from Wednesday till Monday from 10-1 and 3-7. On Tuesdays we usually close, but check out our social media to be sure, because during high season we might open every day. Also, ask for Mati and she will be very happy to assist you.
We really hope to see you around so you get to enjoy this very magical town. You’ll see people at Barichara, or as we commonly call ourselves, patiamarillos (yellow feet for walking barefoot in the yellow sand) are so nice. And everyone has a great life story that you’ll love.
If you don’t get the chance to visit Barichara, you can always reach out and visit us at Bucaramanga as well. Our founders, Floor and Virginia will take you somewhere cool and will serve as tour guides for the afternoon. And, if you want some organic hemp clothing but won’t be around Santander, you can always order online and we’ll ship your essentials anywhere in Colombia.
- Floor Veer, Routonomy Co-Founder