Hiking through the Chicamocha Canyon- from Los Santos to Villanueva

Michelle Jiménez | Live the World

November 23, 2022

There are a few hiking trails in the department of Santander that connect towns and municipalities. These trails were probably the ones used by our natives to go from one place to the other. Back then, they must have been only rustic tracks. But in the XIX century, they were adequately marked and built with horseshoes and big stones by the German Engineer Geo Von Lengerke- hence their name “Los Caminos de Lengerke.” These roads were used for trading and transporting goods. Nowadays, they're secondary roads primarily used for tourism. 

One of these roads is the one that goes through the Chicamocha Canyon and connects the towns of Los Santos and Villanueva. Los Santos is a small town of only 242 km², located on top of a flat mountain about an hour away from Bucaramanga, and Villanueva is also a small town, known for all the delicious pineapple that is grown in there. It is located right next to Barichara. 

© OSTILL / iStock

It is equally possible to start this hike in Villanueva or Los Santos, although most people recommend the second option. It is safer given that the road down from Villanueva is a very stiff one, and walking down can be risky. 

This is with no doubt an experience that you will enjoy from the very beginning. Start in Los Santos, a gorgeous town with lots of beauty and nature to admire and multiple activities to do. To get there, you can go by bus or car from the city; there are two bus companies that do this route: La Culona and Cachira. 

From Los Santos, you start descending to the town of Jordán, a place hidden in between the mountains. The road to Jordán is fully paved with cobblestones, and most of it is in good shape and easy to follow. Going down, you can appreciate the beautiful landscape, including a hillside of the Chicamocha Canyon, surrounding vegetation, and typical birds of the region. This a walk of approximately 90 minutes, starting at 1,300 meters above sea level. In the lower part, the road crosses the Chicamocha River at 425 meters above sea level.

The weather around the area is hot, and the sun is intense, so it is advisable to start your walk early in the morning. Be prepared; bring enough water for the trail, some snacks or food that provides you with energy, sun protection, hat, and comfortable clothes.

© Raul Gonzales / weekendsantander.com

The town of Jordán is called by some locals, "the ghost town." It has 1.047 inhabitants, but more than 90 percent live in the rural area, leaving its urban center with only a few people. There is no cemetery in the town,  and its economy survives with the plantations of tobacco, coffee, beans, and some fruits such as custard apples and papaya. During your hiking trip, you can spend the night in town or around as some hikers do, and then go uphill towards Villanueva and Barichara on the next day. You can find a spot to place your tent and camp, or there are also a few options for accommodation; two of them are Shangrila and Tamarindo Ecolodge. Both of them, with a rustic-ecological style and situated in-between nature, offer a pool on-site to refresh as well as other services and amenities. 

The second part of the route from Jordán to Villanueva and Barichara is uphill and starts at the bottom of the Canyon. Walking down the river, about two and a half kilometers along a reel, you reach the Montegrande creek. After there, the ascent of 7.5 km along a cobbled horseshoe path begins. The highest part at 1656 meters above sea level is reached after passing through a chapel. The road continues until Villanueva (1472 m.a.s.l.)

© Daniel Rondon / weekendsantander.com

This hike is not an easy one, but it is definitely worthy and truly rewarding. The route has it all: Great scenery, plenty of nature, charming towns, history, and happy people along the road. 

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