Photo Essay: The Beauty and Quirks of San Gil, Colombia

by Ekua on September 24, 2013 in captured on memory card,Colombia

“This town is much more charming than I thought it would be!” my Austrian travel buddy proclaimed as we reunited in the San Gil town square. She’d arrived in San Gil after a couple nights in Barichara and we were meeting up for dinner before she caught a night bus to Santa Marta.

I nodded my head in agreement. The way San Gil was described in our guidebooks had left us thinking it would be an unattractive place. While it doesn’t have the prettiest exterior compared to some of the celebrated pueblos and colonial settlements of Colombia, ample beauty can be found when you immerse yourself in the soul of the city. Here are some of the simple joys that endeared me to San Gil:

San Gil, Colombia

San Gil, Colombia

The Hilly, Crooked Streets

As a San Franciscan, I found a lovely familiarity in the hills and the buildings with slanted bottoms that were stacked side by side up the streets. I spent a lot of time on foot negotiating the narrow sidewalks and streets and eventually settled into the rhythm of the city’s daily movements and its haphazard grid of Calles and Carreras.

Parque El Gallineral in San Gil, Colombia

Parque El Gallineral

Urban parks create a relaxing escape within a city and the best ones don’t completely shut out the city; they capture the character of city. The Spanish moss-covered Parque El Gallineral proved to be a fitting park for San Gil: it’s verdant, enchanting, and slightly unruly.

Man walking a sheep in San Gil, Colombia

Pastoral Meets City

Technically San Gil is a city, but often felt like the country spilled into it. I loved seeing this man parade his large sheep through the center of town like it was no big deal.

The market in San Gil, Colombia

The Market in San Gil, Colombia

The market in San Gil, Colombia

The Colorful Market and Fresh Fruit

In San Gil, I was introduced to the infinite world of Colombian fruits. In addition to enjoying ripe fruits I already knew, I’d pick up unknown fruits and bring them back to the hostel and ask the staff how to eat them. It was fascinating to crack open a fruit I’d never seen before and discover flavors I didn’t know existed.

The town square in San Gil, Colombia

The Town Square

I’m a sucker for a good plaza in Latin America, and San Gil has one of the best — the kind that feels like a large family room for the whole city. Whether there was a futbol game being aired, a mini festival, or it was just another Saturday night, the main square was always abuzz with warmth and community. It quickly became my favorite meeting spot where I hung out with fellow travelers and met locals and expats.

The countryside near San Gil, Colombia

Tobacco farm near San Gil, Colombia

The Lush Surroundings

San Gil is already a laid back city and you don’t need to go far to find even more tranquility. Right outside the city you find miles of nature, tiny towns, coffee  and tobacco farms, and some of the most relaxed animals in the world.

Man bringing a motorcycle onto a bus in San Gil, Colombia

The Bus Rides In and Out

I arrived at the San Gil station with a wonderful group of people and left a week later with a different fantastic group of people. We had a lot of laughs the night we left which took the edge off of our chilly 14 hour bus ride. Here, as we loaded our bags onto the bus, we marveled at how this guy was allowed to bring motorcycle on board as luggage.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Quyen September 25, 2013 at 8:44 am

One thing I miss about being abroad is the markets! I love having access to fresh fruits and vegetables. In the states, you could go to farmer’s markets, but it is insanely expensive! 🙂


Andi of My Beautiful Adventures September 25, 2013 at 2:00 pm

That park is amaaaazing!


Kristen November 1, 2013 at 12:48 am

the photo of the man with the sheep is really funny …


Ekua November 1, 2013 at 11:42 am

Yeah, I thought it was hilarious. I have no idea where he was going, but he was just walking the sheep like it was a dog!


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: