Yesterday we posted a photo gallery of the beautiful Santander towns of Barichara and Guane, along with the lovely hike that connects them, so today we thought we’d give you some more info on the hike itself. Enjoy!
The Camino Real between Barichara and Guane is a 10km hike (mostly downhill, don’t panic) along a small section of the old ‘Royal Road’. It winds along the edge of a beautiful canyon, through Santander’s lush, green countryside. I swear, if it wasn’t for the cacti and the sun, I could have been in Wales! The only sounds I could hear were the gentle trilling of birds, and the occasional cow (or goat) bell, ringing somewhere off in the canyon. For a few hours of peace and quiet, this trail is just about perfect.
It starts at the top end of Barichara, just along the road from the mirador, and can be identified clearly by the two marker stones that signal the start of the road. From then on it’s simple: just follow the old cobbled Camino Real until you reach Guane. There isn’t really much more to say than that: if you manage to get lost it would a fairly heroic effort!
The hike itself is not too strenuous, although I would recommend starting earlier in the morning to avoid hiking in the heat of midday, which is intense in this part of Colombia. Even so, wear a hat and bring plenty of water; there’s nobody selling it along the trail itself. It’s mostly downhill, but the old cobbles can be a bit uneven and slippery when wet, so wear some sensible shoes for hiking; a fall would certainly smart on this path.
Bird-lovers (of which I am most certainly one) will be in heaven for the 2-odd hours it takes to walk this trail; birdsong fills the air, and the trail is brightened by the regular sight of yellow finces, blue tanangers, and iridescent motmots. It’s a wonderful little slice of untouched nature, and it’s pretty much yours for the duration of the hike. My hiking buddies and I only saw one other ‘tourist’ along the trail; other than that it was just goatherds and local kids who crossed our path.
When you arrive in Guane you’re in for a treat as well. For anyone who thought Barichara was just way too busy and commercialized (this is a joke, it’s not really at all), Guane is the place for you. A few delightful little cobbled roads, a nice (2.000 peso) archaeological museum, and some shops selling goat’s milk; Guane is the perfect place to end the hike.
For those of you with more energy, the hike back would take an extra half-hour or so, because of the added uphills, and if you’re full-up from all the milk then the bus to Barichara costs less than the museum, leaves regularly and takes just 20 minutes or so.
All-in-all, the Camino Real hike is a fantastic way to enjoy a few hours of beautiful Colombian scenery and nature, in a peaceful, calm setting. I would recommend it to anyone exploring Santander; it really reminded me of the reasons I fell in love with this country in the first place.