Traveling Barichara’s Camino Real

A must-do activity in Barichara is to take the 5.3-kilometer (3.3-mile) Camino Real path to the pueblo of Guane. It’s a lovely path that zigzags down from the plateau of Barichara through farmland, affording nice views of the countryside and an excellent opportunity to burn off a few vacation calories. Parts of the path are lined with stone walls that have been there for centuries.

Before the conquest, indigenous tribes throughout what is now Colombia traded crops and goods with each other utilizing an extensive network of footpaths. These trails meandered through the countryside of present-day Santander, Boyacá, Norte de Santander, Cundinamarca, and beyond. During Spanish rule, the paths continued to be a major means of communication between colonial towns, and the networks became known as Caminos Reales.

The Camino Real between Barichara and Guane. Photo © Andrew Dier.
The Camino Real between Barichara and Guane. Photo © Andrew Dier.

In the late 19th century, a German, Geo von Legerke, restored the Barichara-Guane Camino Real and built a stone bridge across the Río Suárez in order to improve transportation to the mighty Río Magdalena.

The hike down takes two hours, and you don’t need a guide: It’s well marked, well trodden, and safe. To get to the trailhead, walk east along Carrera 10 to the Piedra de Bolívar, where you’ll see the stone path leading down towards the valley.

In Guane you can check out the small Museo Isaias Ardila Díaz (Parque Principal, hours vary), which has three rooms, one on paleontology (fossils), the next on archaeology (mummy), and a third on colonial life in rural Santander. Sabajón, which is the Colombian version of eggnog, is the sweet specialty in Guane, and it is sold in various shops around the park.

If you are not up for the hike a (cute) bus departs the Parque Principal in Barichara at 6am, 9:30am, 11:30am, 2:30pm, and 5:30pm (it returns 30 minutes later from Guane).

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