Few sights in Colombia are as majestic as the first glimpse of the plunging Chicamocha Canyon and the river that races through this dizzying geographic gulf.
The canyon, known in Spanish as the Cañon del Chicamocha, reaches depths of more than two kilometers at its deepest points, meaning it is deeper than its geological sister – the Colorado Canyon.
Chicamocha Canyon is not far from the leafy city of Bucaramanga, in Santander Colombia, and despite being an area of outstanding natural beauty, it is also a hive of activities for visitors.
Here we consider the many things to do and enjoy in Chicamocha Canyon, including extreme sports, animal encounters and the chance to soar through its skies.
Photo by: Andrés
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The river that flows through the canyon takes its name from its stunning surroundings and is known as the Chicamocha River.
It is just under 230km long and runs straight through the valley to join the Fonce and Suarez Rivers and, further on, the copious Sogamoso River.
Chicamocha Canyon has a very pleasant climate, with temperatures ranging from 11°C to 32°C, day and night. It is also extremely dry, with a scant vegetable covering, and sits at an altitude of around 1,450 meters above sea level.
This beautiful place is so treasured among locals and tourists that, in December 2007, the Chicamocha National Park was opened here, to protect the area and share it with visitors.
The park, which is just 54 kilometers from the city of Bucaramanga by car, covers 264 hectares and offers visitors the chance to connect with nature and enjoy extreme sports.
Here are some of the best things to do and see in Chicamocha National Park.
The park is open from Wednesday to Friday, between 10am and 6pm, and from 9am to 7pm on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays.
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Photo by: Armando Calderón
The monument to Santander Pride is a work of art that commemorates the popular revolt known as the Revolución de los Comuneros. It is an enormous leaf with thirty-five different sculptures on top, the main one being of the independence heroine Manuela Beltrán, and was created by artist Guillermo Vallejo.
Several different plazas make up the Chicamocha National Park and each one represents an outstanding element of the daily lives of the people of Santander.
These spaces include the Plaza de las Banderas (Flags Plaza), Plaza de las Costumbres (Customs Plaza), and Plaza del Comercio (Trade Plaza). There’s also an exhibit hall where artists and artisans from the local area showcase their work. Finally, there’s the Plaza de las Hormigas, or Ants Plaza, named because the people there “look like ants” when observed from the distant Monument to Santander Pride.
Photo by: Hernan Duran
The national park is also home to two small animal parks, which are especially popular with children. The Goat Park has a canyon species of goat that are cared for in corrals where visitors can observe and feed them.
Ostrich Park is another main feature of the national park, and offers visitors the chance to spend time with these gigantic birds and learn about their way of life, including their enormous eggs.
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Ziplining is one of the park’s great attractions. There are three different lines. The first, at the back of the park, is 450 meters long and offers views over Chicamocha Canyon
in its entirety. The second is the ‘lookout zipline’, which is shorter but still offers plenty of thrills. The third is less challenging and is designed for children.
Paragliding is another standout attraction in the park. Lovers of extreme sports can tour the canyon’s incomparable landscapes at an altitude of 1,554 meters in the sky. Flights are available every day from 9am to midday, and must be scheduled in advance.
Another fabulous way for visitors to immerse themselves in these stunning surroundings is to canoe on the Chicamocha River, observing the local wildlife and braving rapids on every route, with the park as the final destination. The price of canoeing varies according to the number of people participating and the route selected.
The park is also home to a one-kilometer buggie track for those in need of high speed.
One way to marvel at the stunning beauty of the Chicamocha Canyon from an entirely different angle is to fly over it by helicopter, with local companies offering this service.
But perhaps the most beloved way to experience the canyon from the air is to travel it from one extreme to the other on the aerial tramway.
This 6.3 km-long line has thirty-eight small cars and three different stations, and stretches the entire length of the canyon. It was inaugurated in January 2009.
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