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San Gil

Introduction: San Gil is often billed as the extreme sports capital of Colombia. Located in the middle of Colombia's northern Santander department, San Gil is a charming little city of 50,000, nestled into a picturesque valley, and cut in half by the Rio Fonce. The climate is mild, the people are friendly, and the pace of life is relaxed.

It's no secret why San Gil has become one of the most talked about tourism and backpacking destinations in the country; it also is strategically located for those traveling between Bogota and the main Caribbean destinations of Cartagena and Santa Marta.

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Orientation and Location:  

How to Get There: Most tourists and backpackers will arrive by bus from Bucaramanga, Tunja, Villa de Leyva, or Bogota. San Gil is located just 2.5 hours south of Bucaramanga, 4 hours north of Tunja/Villa de Leyva, and 7 hours north of Bogota. The standard low season price between Bogota and San Gil is $40.000.

If you want to fly to San Gil, your only option is to fly into Bucaramanga's Palonegro Airport, and then take a 2.5 hour bus ride south ($15.000) to San Gil.

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What to See: In downtown San Gil, the action hovers around Parque la Libertad. This is where the locals hang out on any night of the week to drink beer and share good conversation. Here you'll find some good restaurants for sampling comida tipica santandereana, as well as the city's historic 18th century church. Walk a few blocks to the south and you'll see the towering Puente Brooklyn, a span bridge which crosses the Rio Fonce at great heights. On the other side, you'll find the city's large and attractive shopping mall, the 

On the eastern edge of the city, on the north side of the banks of Rio Fonce, you'll find Parque Gallineral, a great place for a pleasant afternoon stroll amidst towering trees covered with barbas de viejo, silver-colored hanging lichens.

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Ambience: It is impossible to be bored in Cartagena. Whether you're interested in low-budget backpacking or five star luxury, you'll find it all in Cartagena. Backpackers would be well advised to head to the budget hostels in Getsemani along Calle de la Media Luna, while San Diego and el Centro offer up some of the finest (and most expensive) hotels in the country.

If you're on a backpacker budget, stroll around Getsemani for some of the best Italian food you'll find anywhere. Even the pizzerias, which are not typically Colombia's finer point, are excellent. There are also a number of good places serving up almuerzos ejecutivos. For finer dining, the area around Torre del Reloj/Plaza de la Aduana, and further into the Centro offer up world-class cuisine. The area is particularly strong in seafood and Peruvian cuisine.

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