So far Latin America has been a pulsating mix of crowded colonial towns, beautiful beaches and amazing natural wonders. I can now add serene Colombian countryside to that list; the recent walk we did from Barichara to Guane, in the Santander region of Colombia, has been one of the highlights of this trip so far. The postcard worthy, almost deserted villages, the ancient (and very rocky) path and the farmland framed by mountains make this walk a must do if you’re travelling through Colombia.
There are lots of village to village walks in the area but we chose the path from Barichara to Guane, known as the Camino Real. Barichara is one of the best looking Spanish colonial towns you’ll ever see; make sure you visit this town, even if you aren’t planning on walking the Camino Real. Lines of whitewashed houses with the uniform red roofs fill the town. Walk up and down the hilly cobblestone streets for a while before hitting the trail – it really is beautiful (and so quiet). We stayed in Barichara for 3 nights (stay there instead of San Gil!); I’ll be writing a full post on it soon so keep an eye out for that.
The Camino Real: Barichara to Guane
Starting from town, we walked up Calle 4 until we reached Malecon del Mirador. The views over the valley and overlooking mountains are great. The stone path of the Camino Real is pretty hard to walk on but if you walk from Barichara to Guane (and not the reverse) it’s mostly downhill. The path winds down the hill from Barichara and flattens out to reveal farmland, hairy trees (known as old man’s beard) and lots of birds and butterflies. The countryside here is stunning – the red earth contrasts with the varying shades of green and the old stone path while mountains look on from above. It’s also quiet; we only saw 5-10 other walkers and a few farmers. At one point we nervously passed a couple of huge bulls who were hanging out on the trail. We eventually caught sight of Guane and also a couple of other villages in the distance. Before long we’d arrived at our destination, an even quieter and smaller version of Barichara.
This town is sleepy. The streets were dead but a little bit of life congregated around the main square, mainly tourists waiting for the bus back to Barichara. We strolled the streets taking photos and wandered up the dirt road at the back of town for a great view of the red roofs and looming mountains. Villages don’t get much more picturesque than this! We had lunch in a small restaurant at the edge of the square then caught a collectivo back to Barichara.
Barichara to Guane: The Details
The walk from Barichara to Guane takes around 2 hours and is mostly downhill. It’s a fairly easy walk but good shoes are advised due to the rocky nature of the track. The Camino Real was built by the local Guane people and restored by a German in 1864 – he did a good job (well, it looks good, it’s not the most comfortable path to walk on though). Buses leave Guane every hour to Barichara and San Gil and there are also a few other villages in the area that’d be worth checking out. It’s great to spend a couple of hours in the Colombian countryside and the villages are about as quaint and photogenic as Spanish colonial villages can get; definitely add this area to your Colombia itinerary!
Have you walked the Camino Real from Barichara to Guane? What is your favourite short walk? Let me know!