Bucaramanga’s Palonegro Airport (BGA) is approximately 7kms (4mi) away from the city center and the easiest way to get into town is by taxi/ride share apps. If you choose to take Uber, Didi or InDriver, you will need to walk to the parking lot as currently (2023) only taxis are allowed to pick up passengers right by the arrivals area. The fare for ride sharing apps is approximately 7-8 USD and there are also shared taxis available (taxi colectivo). Currently, there is no public transportation to the city center, but there is a public bus stop close to the toll station which is about a 45min walk away from the airport. Given that uber fares are fairly reasonable, this is not the recommended option, especially when you have a lot of luggage.
I recommend staying in the Prado or Cabecera areas. Those are trendy, upscale neighborhoods with many restaurants, bars and shopping centers close by. Out of the two, Prado is slightly calmer and more residential and both neighborhoods are safe to be explored on foot (of course, always take the common safety precautions, especially after dark when taxis/uber are recommended).
Park in residential area in Cabecera
On your first day, you can start off exploring Bucaramanga’s Cabecera district. Don’t miss hanging around the the many green parks the city has to offer, especially Parque San Pio. For a little coffee break, I liked Cafetopia, which has pleasant outdoor areas and is located right next to the park.
For good specialty coffee, try Entre Platos y Piñones Coffee Shop located on calle 34.
Street in Cabecera
For the second part of the day, I recommend you check out the beautiful town of Girón, which is also known as the white city due to its unique colonial architecture. It is only 20 minutes away from Bucaramanga (~3 USD by Uber/DiDi).
The city was declared a Colombian Pueblo Patrimonio (Colombian Heritage town) and attracts with many historical buildings, beautiful cobblestone streets and also many beautiful little squares. You can also find plenty of restaurants, handicraft shops and cozy little bars.
Definitely don’t miss:
Street in Girón
During your second day you can check out the nearby town of Floridablanca which is still part of Bucaramanga’s metropolitan area. While the city is not as picturesque as Girón, it still has many colonial buildings. I recommend you focus on the area of Parque Principal de Floridablanca which has a beautiful church right next to it as well as many local food options. Don’t miss trying out the famous obleas which is a typical wafer made with different sweets and cheese. One of the best places to try one is at Obleas Floridablanca which is just one block away from the main square.
You also don’t want to miss trying Hormigas Culonas (literally translated as “big butt ants”) which have been eaten as a crunchy snack for hundreds of years and are considered a popular yet unusual delicacy. You can find them either fried or roasted and some people believe they may have an aphrodisiac effect once consumed.
Just a short taxi or uber ride from Floridablanca, you can find one of Bucaramanga’s most popular sights: the Cerro del Santisimo, a scenic viewpoint up in the mountains with its iconic Christ statue overlooking the whole city.
The easiest way to go up is by cable car. You will pass over lush green forests and possibly through some clouds before you reach the top. Needless to say: going up in the late afternoon hours gives you the opportunity to enjoy the gorgeous views over the city both during the day and during night time.
After sunset you can enjoy a light show (illuminating the Christ statue in different colors). Personally, I found that part a little touristy, but there is enough space up there to just enjoy the beautiful views and atmosphere.
View from the cable car
Sunset over Bucaramanga
While visiting Bucaramanga, you cannot miss visiting the beautiful canyons at Parque Nacional de Chicamocha (also known as Panachi). There are several ways to get there and if you are looking to use public transportation, you can basically just hop on any Bogota-bound bus at the central bus terminal and ask to get dropped off by the National Park entrance.
Alternatively, there are many tour operators offering day trips to Panachi.
Another way to get to the national park is to head to Mesa de los Santos first, which is right across the impressive canyon and from where you can enjoy gorgeous views over the same. There are also many coffee plantations on the way as well as a famous crafts market with many traditional food options. Once you reach the plateau, you will immediately notice that temperatures are somewhat cooler and more refreshing – possibly one of the reasons why many (wealthy) people from both Bucaramanga and beyond decided to build fincas up here.
While there is public transportation available, I decided to hire an uber by the hour so I could make stops in the way. I paid approximately 20 USD for the two hour/60 kms ride.
Hills around Mesa de los Santos
From Mesa de los Santos you can then take the impressive cable car which crosses the Chicamocha canyon leaves you at the Panachi National Park on the other side. This way you will also pay only the one-way fare which is approximately 9 USD and already includes the National Park entrance fee. With a length of 6.3kms (3.9 mi) it is one of the world’s longest cable cars passing through altitudes ranging from 500 meters to 1684 meters above sea level.
Panachi cable car
Once you reach the park, you can enjoy the panoramic views over the canyon from many different angles. Definitely bring lots of sunscreen as there is hardly any shade.
Another thing to note is that Panachi is not really a national park in its traditional sense. There are no hiking trails neither is there abundant wild life. Instead, you can find many man-made viewpoints (very instagrammable) as well as a waterpark and zip lines. Nonetheless, visiting Panachi is definitely worth it due to its spectacular views over the Chicamocha canyon.
Plateau as seen from the Panachi cable car
To return to Bucaramanga you can just flag down any bus on the road right in from of the national park entrance. There are also shuttle services available though more expensive. If you have time to spend another day or two in the region, then I would recommend you visit Barichara, which is said to be one of Colombia’s most charming and beautiful towns. Panachi is roughly half-way between Bucaramanga and this picturesque colonial city which has also been declared a Colombian Pueblo Patrimonio (heritage town).
View from Chicamocha National Park
“Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
– gustave flaubert
Hi! I am Max and in 2022, after almost 12 years in the corporate world, I decided to fully focus on my passion for exploring new countries and cultures, hoping to inspire other fellow travelers and also to provide helpful tips and insights to those currently preparing for their next adventure.