Rafting in San Gil

Country: Colombia
Region: Santander
Outdoor activities: Rafting Rio Suarez
Duration: 3 hours
Price: 125000 COP (approximately 40 euros)
You must be a good swimmer
Sustainable tourism rating:écotourisme-5-SOL

You are invited to experience San Gil , Colombia’s adrenalin capital. Located in the region of Santander, 320 km from Bogota and 90 km from Bucaramanga, this city has it all to be a spot for the Sportrotters: mountains, rivers with impressive canyons, waterfalls, natural pools and a multitude of sports and outdoor activities.

To get there, several options are available: the cheapest is a 7-hour bus journey that leads directly from Bogota to San Gil (40,000 pesos / person). If you want to split the trip in two and discover one of the most beautiful villages of Colombia, we recommend you stop for two nights in Villa de Leyva. (Bogota-Villa de Leyva 3:30 then Villa Leyva- Tujna 45 minutes and finaly Tujna to San Gil 4 hours at a cost of about 25000 + 6500 + 30000 = 61500 pesos)

Otherwise you can fly from Bogota to Bucaramanga and then the bus to San Gil (2h30 bus ride). The price of the flights varies considerably but it remains one of the fastest and most comfortable options.

Once in San Gil prepare to experience the best of the outdoors : rafting, paragliding, kayaking, abseiling, canyoning, caving, mountain biking and hiking.

We tested the rafting and we will give you our impressions:


There are three rivers for rafting in San Gil: The Fonce river (II and III grade), the Suarez river ( IV and V grade) and Chicamocha river that runs through the eponym canyon.


After a long hesitation we opted for a rafting trip on the powerful Suarez river (although Greg had already done several descents, I was a beginner 🙂


There are several companies that offer different packages so you can pick whatever as the prices are similar. As for us, we chose a family business, Exploradores Colombia and they were beyond our expectations.We warmly recommend them.


The morning of the raid, Ariel, our guide, sent us a confirmation at 8 am after ensuring that the river was navigable. Then the team came to pick us up at our hotel around 11 am and we went together at the river. Once arrived and equipped to face the river, Ariel took the time to explain all the safety rules. If you are not covered by your travel insurance for this activity ,the compagny will include the insurance for you in the price.


Before starting the descent, we warm up with the safety exercise. We have learned about all the situations that might occur in the river as well as how to rescue someone.

The descent begins with grade III and IV rapids and we quickly understand how important it is to work as a team and to have a guide who knows the river by heart.


During the first 40 minutes we haven’t stop padling and advancing in this impressive scenery while feeling the adrenaline rush and euphoria within us. It feels so good to be carried away by these powerful waves. After passing the first grade V rapids we stopped on a small beach to enjoy delicious fruit prepared with care by Ariel.


Back on the boat we left for the second part of the Suarez river, including a second grade V descent less technical than the first but even more impressive.


We were in the heart of the action throughout the descent and we felt in perfect union with the river and the nature around.

What we liked the most is that we were alone to navigate while in most other tourist countries there are at least a dozen other rafts that leave at the same time as you.


On arrival Ariel’s dad was waiting for us with a delicious meal that gives us strength. I can assure you that you need lot of energy to paddle in these white waters!!! We loved every minute on the river and I hope to find other places as good as here. The river runs through beautiful landscapes of equatorial jungle and mountains and even if we did not have much time to look around you can feel the presence of this impressive nature that accompanies us and those rocks shaped by powerful waves.


Kayak lessons :  If you are already a pro, the rivers around will be your playground, if not Exploradores Colombia also offers classes for beginners on the Fonce River.

For both activities, send an inquiry before going because the river levels can vary widely and you might not be able to enjoy this activity.

Also plan several days on site to take advantage of all the activities in this area ideal for Sportrotters.

The afternoon you can stroll through the parks of the city or just laze by the pool in one of the best hotels in town, Wassiki Campestre located only 3km away from the buzzing city.


This hotel offers luxurious rooms with views on the mountains and even a jacuzzi in the room for very reasonable prices compared to the European prices. wassiki-hotel

We stayed for two nights and enjoyed the friendly staff and the serenity of the place.


If you prefer a night out and rather stay in San Gil we tested the hostel Le Papillon which offers excellent value for money.


The owner, Sylvain, a swiss guy is very helpful with information about what to do in the area and he can also book the activities for you.


The pros:

One of the best rivers for rafting in Colombia

San Gil is really the ideal place to enjoy countless outdoor activities

For the rafting trip, the transportation from the hotel to the activity is included, the guide is bilingual, there is a free insurance and delicious snack and lunch included

A kayaker always accompanies the raft for security reasons

The cons:

Bear in mind that a grade V river can be dangerous and accidents can be severe. Always follow the instructions of your guide and everything should be fine. It is ok for beginners but we recommend trying first an grade III or IV river before going on a grade V

2 thoughts on “Rafting in San Gil”

  1. Pingback: Hike at Monserrate

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