Santander is a mountainous department located in north-central Colombia, a great waypoint for travelers that’s roughly in the middle of Bogotá and Cartagena. This area is celebrated for its rich gastronomy, particularly in the Barichara area—just one of the towns we cover in this section. Barichara is a tiny, perfect colonial village of whitewashed houses, red roofs, wooden balconies, and sun-baked cobbled streets. It is so picturesque, in fact, that it was declared “prettiest village” and a national monument in the 1970s by the Colombian government. Then there’s San Gil, 30 minutes southeast of Barichara, a popular destination for backpackers seeking an adrenaline rush; its steep riverside location makes for ideal rafting, paragliding, waterfall-rappelling, caving, mountain biking, and more (it’s also home to the gorgeous, moss-hung sanctuary Parque El Gallineral). Bucaramanga is the department’s capital, a large, fast-growing city known for its prevalence of pretty parks. It has great paragliding (parapente) plus an airport if you wish to skip the eight- to-10-hour bus ride to/from Cartagena or Bogotá.