Charalá: a hidden gem to add on your Colombia bucket list

Charalá in the region of Santander in the Northeastern part of Colombia is mostly passed unnoticed by travelers. However, there are plenty of reasons why you should add this little untouched spot to your Colombia travel list.

In Charalá you find an authentic village atmosphere. Here nobody does as they do for the sake of tourism. We arrived to Charalá early in the morning on a Sunday. Only a few shops were opened. Their owners looked puzzled at us; two blond girls speaking English together. “What are they doing here?”, they seemed to be asking themselves as we passed by.

The main city of the region, San Gil, is branding itself as Colombia’s adventure and extreme sports capital. However, Charalá can both offer extreme sport and Colombian independence war. 

So if your path goes towards San Gil, there are plenty of reasons to check out Charalá as well. Keep on reading to find out more!

Streets of Charalá Santander Colombia

Independence fighters and village legends

… Colombian independence war, hu? You might think. What is she talking about? Well, let’s start with a little history about Charalá to get things straight:

In 2013, Charalá was declared a historical and cultural heritage of Colombia for the role it played in Colombia’s fight for independence from Spain in the 19th century. Something I was not aware of before going…

However, it seems to be a big part of the village’s self-perception. From the old man at the town square who through a long monologue tried to explain to us all the details of the fight to the big billboards at the entrance at the villages declaring it an important national historical heritage.

Charalá's church pink flowers

So what was it that actually happened, you might think?

During the 19th century, different independence movements all around Latin America were fighting against the Spanish empire. In the summer of 1819 near the Colombian city of Boyacá, north from the capital Bogotá, one of the main figures of the independence movement, Simón Bolívar, was fighting against the Spanish forces.

On the 4th of August 1819, reinforcement was sent to help the Spanish forces in Boyacá. In Charalá the reinforcement was met by supports of the independence movement who wouldn’t let them pass on and opened fire against them. The fight is known as la Batalla del Pienta because it took place by the river Pienta in Charalá.

It is estimated that more than 300 persons were killed in the streets of Charalá during the fight. However, the effort played out. Only 3 days after the independence forces of Bolívar won the fight against the Spanish in Boyacá, and with that Colombia could declare itself independent from Spain

This almost 200 years old fight certainly still influences Charalá’s self-perception, and its declaration of national historical heritage was a great acceptance of the village’s efforts.

Charalá in the Northeastern part of Colombia is mostly passed unnoticed by travelers, thus it offers both extreme sports and an authentic village atmosphere

What to do in Charalá

The church of Charalá

You cannot miss it! The beautiful white painted church can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. Apart from the beautiful outside it is also worth a visit.

Attending a Sunday mass made me understand better just how important and powerful the Catholic Church is in Colombia and especially in small communities as Charalá.

House blue doors Colombia

El Museo del Algodon y el Lienzo de la Tierra (e.g. Cotton and Linen Museum)

The production of cotton is a proud tradition in Charalá. Even though, it played an important role in the economic development and survival of the village, the tradition was about to disappear due to changing industries.

Then some women got the idea to start a museum which goal is to protect this tradition. Apart from that they help the women still working with weaving the cotton. Unfortunately, I found out too late about the museum, and therefore did not visit it.

The museum is located in Calle 23 No. 15 esquina, Charalá.

Charala Colombia

Sit back and relax at the main square or in the park

The village is built up around two squares; a park in front of the church and the main square just a few blocks down where buses stop. At the main square there is a couple of cafés and supermarket, while the park is quieter.

The park in front of the Church is supposed to have free WIFI as many Colombian towns are beginning to have. However, we did not success in getting connected for more than a few seconds. So do not rely on that, just sit back.

Relax and enjoy the village life pass by in front of you.

Mountains of Charalá Santander Colombia

What to do outside Charalá

Pozo negro (the black pool)

Just outside Charalá you can find an amazing area with natural pools and small waterfalls. It is easy to enter to the pools for a refreshing swim. The pools are located just around 15 minutes’ walk from the center of the village or you can get a taxi to take you most of the way.

However, it is a nice and easy walk: Simply follow the road out of the village going north toward San Gil (the entrance of the Charalá if you come with the bus from San Gil). When you cross with bridge entering the city, you can see an unpaved road going upward. Follow that road until you can enter the fields surrounding the village by a small entrance.

Upon entering the fields keep on the path marked until you get to an exit of the fields. From there, go down a little slop towards a river. Cross the river, and follow it to the right for a few meters until you see the view as the picture below – or follow this trekking map.

Extreme sports tours in Charalá

It is not just in San Gil that has extreme sport tours to offer! In Charalá you can also come on tours. Just in front of the church on the other side of the park, you can find a small bar from where they also organize different extreme sport tours.

Girl swimming in pozos Charala

How to get to Charalá

From San Gil, you can take one of the small buses going between the different villages in the region. It leaves from the terminalito in the center of San Gil or from the main road just below the shopping center El Puente. If the bus doesn’t have a sign saying Charalá, ask one of the drivers which one is going there.

When I visited there was a lot of construction work along the main road between San Gil and Charalá, and the bus ride might, therefore, take longer than usual. However, expect around a hour ride if the traffic is decent.

Looking for more stuff about Colombia? Find it here!
girl blue door in Colombia

12 comments

  1. Alvaro Augusto Fabre Rivera

    This is a excellent article for us town, first because it paint the reallity of its streets and natural places and second it describe our war with the spanish people. My admiration to who write this article and hope that soon return a our town, here we are with the open arms and to the waiting adventures. Is for me a satisfaction to know that my village is famous in other countries and for other persons; who have the beautiful rason of travel around the world knowing places as Charalá.

    Reply

    1. Rebecca

      Hi Alvaro,
      Your comment made me SO happy! I’m so proud for here from somebody from Charalá that they feel like I presented their village in a proper manner! 🙂 And even more it makes me happy that I can contribute to put Charalá on the big world map!
      It was just a great experience to visit Charalá, and you guys are just so sweet and welcoming! Thank you, and I really hope to be back someday soon!
      Thank you again, Alvaro, for your nice comment!!
      Big hugs
      Rebecca

      Reply

  2. FREDDY ARIZA

    HI REBECCA, It is very beautiful to see your interest in our people. For us it is a pride to belong to a people that we are knowing even more. We are fortunate to have roots of a thriving town, ati thanks for everything, makes us feel more important and exalts the love of people towards their people, charala is your home.

    Reply

    1. Rebecca

      Hi Freddy! Thank you so much for your very nice comment! It was a great experience visiting Charalá, you guys are just so sweet and welcoming! For sure, you have something to be proud of! I will be happy to visit sometimes soon! Thank you!
      Big hugs
      Rebecca

      Reply

  3. Leidy Fandiño

    excelente Articulo muchas gracia Rebecca , Dios te bendiga por montrar nuestro pequeño pueblo ante el mundo Abrazos

    Reply

    1. Rebecca

      Muchas gracias Leidy! Me alegro que te haya gustado! Tienen un pueblo hermoso! Dios te bendiga a ti tambien! Un abrazo grande!

      Reply

  4. Therie

    What a charming and vibrant town!

    Reply

    1. Rebecca

      So completely agree with you Therie! A little unique spot 🙂

      Reply

  5. Dianne

    Wow, the waterfalls and black pools look absolutely amazing! I’ve never heard of Charala before but now it’s definitely on the list 🙂

    Reply

    1. Rebecca

      Hi Dianne!
      It was a very nice area! And the walk to get to the waterfalls and pools are so easy! Charalá is pretty unknown but a very nice experience. When you get around San Gil you should for sure check it out!

      Reply

  6. RICHARD STOLLER

    I’m glad you visited Charalá. I used to go there 30 years ago when I lived in San Gil and Bucaramanga (back and forth), and back then it didn;’t have the museum, just the Casa de la Cultura. It hardly had any restaurants, same as Zapatoca and Barichara at that time…Socorro and San Gil were the only places that had anything touristy. Allegedly they will soon pave the road past Charalá all the way to Duitama making an alternative route from Bogotá to Santander but this has been promised for 70 years.

    Reply

    1. Rebecca

      Thank you so much for dropping by, Richard, and sharing your story about Charalá! It is so interesting to hear how places change and improve over time. Hopefully, they will soon fullfill the promise about the paved road from Bogotá to Santander. Once again thank you for sharing your insights!

      Reply

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