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El Dorado Hostel

El Dorado Hostel
Calle 12 #8-55, San Gil, Santander
(037) 723.7588, 312.471.7096
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eldoradohostel.com

Overview: San Gil's El Dorado Hostel is a great place for backpackers and tourists to stay, located just steps from the Parque la Libertad, San Gil's main plaza. It's in the heart of downtown San Gil, extremely easy to get to, and it's right where you want to be, to experience all that this city, the tourism capital of Santander, has to offer. Plus, it also offers a wide variety of extreme sports, tours, and adventure activities, such as rappeling, spelunking, canyoning, rafting, and nature walks.

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Neighborhood: El Dorado Hostel is located in downtown San Gil; it's just half a block north of Parque la Libertad's northeastern corner. Here you'll find a wide variety of restaurants, bars, stores, interesting shops, and tourist attractions. San Gil is an arquitectural gem, lined with quaint historic buildings and churches.

Right around the corner from El Dorado you'll also find the Drogueria Alemana, which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! And just three doors up the hill, be sure to swing by the spectacular Elementales vegetarian restaurant.

How to Get There: If you're arriving to San Gil by bus, you'll arrive at the inter-departamental bus terminal, located 3km west of the city, on the highway to Bogota. Here, just ask any taxi to take you to El Dorado. All the taxi drivers know where the hostels are, and it will cost you just $3.400.

If you're arriving by plane, your best bet is to fly into Bucaramanga's Palonegro Airport. From there it's just an inexpensive and quick two and a half hour bus ride to San Gil.

Management/Staff: El Dorado Hostel is the brainchild of Fabio, a bilingual Colombian with a passion for showing backpackers and tourists the best that Santander has to offer. The staff is helpful and knowledgeable about the wide variety of activities that you'll be interested in trying during your stay. 

Rooms: El Dorado offers a variety of private rooms and dormitories. As with everywhere else in San Gil, prices typically are higher during high season (December, January, Semana Santa, July, August).

Shared Rooms: There is a variety of three and four bed dormitories, which cost between $22.000 and $25.000, prices that are comparable to other hostels in San Gil.

Private Rooms: There are three double rooms, each equipped with delightful bamboo-framed canopy beds, and comfortable mattresses. Private rooms cost $50.000.

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Amenities: El Dorado Hostel offers some great amenities to its guests.

There is a spacious and well-equipped kitchen for guest use, as well as a large dining area, located in between the 

Out back, you'll find the wonderful patio area, with lounge-style furniture. It's a great place to hang out after a day of adventure, and meet your fellow guests.

There is a large TV lounge with DVD player, and several couches, for watching television and movies.

For entertainment, enjoy the dartboard located in the entrance way, or head to the back patio to play a classic Colombian sport: rana, where the objective is to throw small metal brass rings into the mouth of metallic frogs. You have to try it to see why it's a blast!

At El Dorado you'll find a great bicycle rental service.

However, the real draw of El Dorado is the amazing tours.

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Tours: El Dorado offers a wide range of tours, but your best bet is the full day, 4 extreme sports package, for just $90.000. You'll get a taste of spelunking (cave exploration), rappelling (climbing down cliffsides), canyoning, and free diving.

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Your day begins at 10am, when a shuttle van will pick you up at the hostel. You'll head with a bilingual guide out to the canyon, to begin the day's activities. Equipped with a helmet and miner's lamp, you'll make your way into la Cueva Antigua, where you'll get a taste for spelunking, and get a sense for the ecology and history of caves. Then, you'll make your way to the delightful mud baths.

Upon emerging from the caves, you'll continue down the canyon floor, until you come to the two rappelling sites. Here you will have the opportunity to do 2 cliff descents: one of 30m and one or 14m. You've got a harness and you're attached to your own rope and another safety rope. You control the speed of your descent by letting out your own line. Rappelling into a 30m ravine is a rush like none other.

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This tour has one large variable: the level of rainfall: during the dry season, the canyon floor is almost completely dry, while during the wet season, it turns into a river with a strong current. Either way, you're likely to get a little wet and muddy during the tour, so plan accordingly.

After caving and rappelling, you'll continue on until you come to the free dive site. Here you'll have the opportunity to make a 10m jump into a deep pool of water. It's quite a rush! Here in the pool you can enjoy a swim, and wash off all that mud from your body. Then it's just another half hour walk through the canyon to the road where the van will pick you up! The day typically wraps up at around 3pm or 4pm in the afternoon.

You don't need to bring any food or water, as the tours serve light refreshment, including water, fruit, chocolate, and a Colombian specialty: the bocadillo sandwich (a mixture of Colombian cheese and guava jelly). But high SPF sunscreen is a must, as well as loose comfortable clothing.

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Conclusion: El Dorado Hostel is a great asset for backpackers looking for quality and affordable accommodations, right in the heart of San Gil. It's centrally located, with a great staff, and a good value. However, it's not a party hostel...and after 11pm it's lights out. All in all, though, if you want to get a taste for San Gil, Santander, and extreme sports, this is the place!

El Dorado Hostel comes highly recommended by Colombia Backpacking!

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