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The Camino Real Colombia is an age-old stone-paved road that was originally built by The Guane, peoples indigenous to the area of Santander. Winding through six remote towns & villages, across relatively untouched landscape this enchanting path starts in Cabrera & winds up in Los Santos. The Camino Real or ‘el Camino Real’ translated means the ‘The Royal Road’ & was the name given to this route when Colombia found itself under Spanish rule.

Our planned two-day hike would take in five of the six towns & villages en-route, with an overnight stay in the quiet town of Villanueva. Covering 35 kilometres in total with each step bestowing upon us what life in the Colombian countryside entails made for a truly off-the-beaten-path adventure in Colombia. Read more about our experience on this ancient route from Barichara to Guane & onto Los Santos. You’ll learn the exact route that we took, how we mapped our trail, more about each section of the Camino (which we’ve broken down, into bite-sized chunks with maps & tips) as well as the essentials for your Camino Real trek.

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Our first steps on the Camino Real Colombia.

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Updated by The Wilder Route on 25th March 2021


Camino Real Colombia ∼ Our Route

Outlining our Camino Real hike on maps.me, an app that can be used online & offline, was ideal for what was to be some proper off-the-beaten-path exploring. You’ll see below that we added our starting point, Barichara & finishing point, Los Santos before adding in our midpoints of Guane, Villanueva & Jordán – giving us the trail we would follow over two days.

Knowing that we would be walking through 35 kilometres of incredible scenery, using maps.me we were able to pin on our map points of interest along the way, such as viewpoints (these can be identified as the red pins below & we’ll go further into each throughout this post). We also used maps.me to roughly plan out where to eat, drink & sleep along the way, zooming in on the towns & villages we would pass through to see what exactly we could expect to find in the places that we were to pass.

Check out our post on maps.me for more detail on how to use the app.

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Camino Real Colombia ∼ a map of our 35km route from Baricahara onto Guane then to Villanueva & finally to Jordan before finishing in Los Santos.

Day One

Our Gateway To The Camino Real ∼ Barichara

What’s been called “Colombia’s prettiest village” we were instantly blown away by Barichara & its relaxed yet bustling vibe. As soon as we stepped off our bus from San Gil we knew were in for a two-day treat on the Colombian Camino Real. After wandering around the town for an hour & taking in the sites we were excited to press on & pick up the Camino Real from Barichara to Guane. 

Although we stayed in Colombia’s adventure capital San Gil the night before starting our hike (more info on that at the end of this post), Barichara would also be an excellent option & a delightful place to stay for a night or two (in hindsight, we wish we had chosen to do this). There are quite a few places to stay & these can be found on booking.com or alternatively on Hostelworld as well as local shops & restaurants lining the lovely cobbled streets.

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Our Gateway to The Camino Real, Barichara.

Camino Real Barichara to Guane ∼ 6.4km

Our time to hike —> 2 hours with stops.

The Camino Real Baricahara Guane is the more well-trodden part of this route & can be done as a day trip with transport back from Guane if you wish or as part of a longer walk, as we opted for. 

On the map below you’ll find the 6.4 kilometres, we followed with point A marked – this is Mirador de la Piedra, a rocky outcrop at the top of a ridge overlooking a valley. To get up to this viewpoint we followed a path through the home of a local family, meaning we walked through the front gate of their farmhouse & followed the path to the white cross at the top of the hill for captivating views over the surrounding area. Afterward, we purchased a cold drink & some handmade crafts from the farmhouse making this a great place for a quick stop-off.

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Camino Real Barichara Guane ∼ map of our 6.4km route.

The path from Barichara to Guane includes easy uphill walking, downhill walking & some epic scenery. It meanders past traditional houses & farms & gives one an insight into life in rural Colombia. Out of the entire hike, this part is the most easy-going & if you’re really lucky like we were, you might spot a balancing goat or two along the way.

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Epic scenery & balancing goats en-route.

Guane

Arriving in Guane we were greeted by a small girl asking us in Spanish if we were lost & wanted to know where the Church was. Using our conversational Spanish we replied thanking her, we instantly felt welcome in Guane. For an hour or so we wandered around the beautiful cobbled streets, this place even more alluring than Barichara looks like something straight out of a storybook.

Guane is a good stop-off point for lunch on day one if you are continuing on The Camino Real Colombia & is also a good place to stock up on water (which you will need plenty of) & supplies for the next leg of your expedition. If you are opting to just follow the Camino Real Barichara to Guane then you can pick up return transport (if you don’t wish to walk back the same way) near the main plaza, by the town’s church.

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Guane, Colombia – such a gorgeous town.

Guane to Villanueva ∼ 8.2km

Our time to hike —> 4.5 to 5 hours with stops (& getting lost!)

After lunch we headed uphill out of Guane, towards Villanueva – you’ll find this 8.2 kilometre part of our journey, outlined on the map below. Point A (Mirador de la Virgen) & Point B (Mirador del Valle) are two awesome points to stop & soak up the views.

We’ve also marked Point C – Filo Tierranegra from which, when reaching the summit we found a few routes that split off in different directions making it hard to follow the trail. We found that once reaching the top the road splits left & right & as the earth has been moved, the trail goes a little cold.

How to stay on the trail —>   When reaching Filo Tierranegra, turn left at the top of the path, then after 10-20 yards or so the trail will pick back up directly on your right-hand side, headed down into the man-made black dunes & into a wooded area where you’ll notice the trail picks back up again.

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Guane to Villanueva – map of our 8.2km route.

We must admit our little ‘mistake’ threw us & upon spending a short while walking in the wrong direction & being charged at by a baby cow (from which we managed to escape injury by jumping over a barbed wire fence) we scrambled back to a nearby house to ask for directions, which is how we found the above-mentioned path. Our tip is to screenshot our ‘how to stay on the trail’ directions so that you have them to hand if needed.

Ok, now back to the path – overall the trek from Guane to Villanueva is a moderate uphill climb, for the most part, boasting open farmland & continuous stunning views of the gorgeous Colombian wilds. It pretty much just gets more ‘wow’ with every step offering captivating vistas at every turn. As mentioned, Guane is a good place to stock up & that’s really where you should be doing so as you’ll find nowhere to purchase water or anything else on this stretch of The Camino.

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Tackling the uphill climb from Guane to Villanueva.
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Sweeping vistas are plentiful along the Guane to Villanueva section of The Camino Real.

After spending most of the day walking uphill we descended down into Villanueva arriving at dusk. There is definitely something special about arriving in a town by foot, especially when it is into a town that rarely sees tourists or visitors. For us, this made Villanueva extra special, we were blown away by the untouched feel of the town & the locals although surprised to see us seemed to love having us there, walking through the Parque Principal we were met with smiles & one local gentleman even got a few beers in for us at the local bar.

Villanueva – Where to Stay

There are not many places at all to stay in town, we opted for a small, family run hotel which we found when we arrived. If looking directly at the church on Parque Principal, it is on the street to the left hand side of the plaza & cost us 25,000 COP for the night. We can’t remember the name of it, but it’s the only hotel there so you won’t miss it.

Villanueva – Stocking up on water & food

As we planned for a very early start on day two, we made sure that we stocked up on everything we needed (mainly water & food) in Villanueva the evening before we set off. We had planned to get lunch in Jordán when we arrived there but unfortunately (as we were hiking on a Sunday) we found that almost everything was shut. Just a heads up here to be aware of the days on which you are hiking (unlike us) buying what you’ll need in Villaneuva.

Day Two

Villanueva to Jordán ∼ 15km

Our time to hike —> 5.5 hours with stops.

Our second day brought us onto this, the first of the most challenging parts of our Camino Real escapade. The 15 kilometres from Villanueva to Jordán that we took, is marked on the map below. With Point A & Point B nice miradors to stop off at but Point C – Mirador del Canyon de Chicamocha offering the most stunning views of the huge canyon Chicamocha Canyon paired with miles & miles of untouched Colombian terrain.

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Villanueva to Jordan – map of our 15km route.

Setting off from our hotel in Villanueva at 5.30 am, we were excited for another day on the Camino Real. Heading through Villanueva we were surprised to see the whole church full for mass so early on a Sunday morning & exiting through the north of the village we set of for our final destination of Los Santos via Jordán.

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Setting off in the early morning from Villanueva to Jordan.

Around late morning the scenery opened up & we could see in the distance a huge canyon approaching. We stopped for some time at the top of Canyon de Chicamocha, spending almost an hour here taking in the gorgeous scenery before heading on.

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Taking in the stunning views at mirador del Canyon de Chicamocha.

We descended into the canyon approaching the midday heat taking regular rest breaks as there wasn’t much wind paired with very little shade from the sun. Plenty of layers, a hat, sunscreen & water are essential for the whole hike but especially this & the parts that follow it.

Looking for some new comfy hiking layers? Check out our organic clothing range Nature Threads inspired by nature & design by us.

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Descending down into the canyon towards Jordan.

Entering Jordán as above-mentioned we found all of the places to get a proper meal closed with the only place in town open being a small local shop where we did manage to get some (not very fulfilling) snacks, soft drinks & a small stock up of water.

We were surprised to not see much in Jordán, just a few locals, the main square, a church & place to stay called Shangila as you enter the village from Villanueva side. It didn’t seem to have the same buzzing feel like the other villages but it was a Sunday so maybe during the week there would be places open to eat &/or stay.

Important note —> As our schedule meant we needed to get back up to Los Santos to take the bus back to San Gil we found ourselves having to hike back up the canyon in the midday heat, if you can avoid this, we would recommend doing so. There is Shangila to stay at, as above-mentioned & if you have enough time to do this we are sure this would make the section of the route a lot more enjoyable.

Jordán to Los Santos ∼ 5.5km

Our time to hike —> 3.5 hours (due to the heat).

The final push for us, 5.5 kilometres uphill from Jordán to Los Santos was extremely challenging & we knew that it would be – so, after having a rest from the midday sun we ambled over the bridge at the end of the village & started our last slog to Los Santos, the path for which you’ll see marked out on the map below.

Another important note —> Reinforcing what we have said above, if you can stay in Jordán & not do this in the midday heat we’d recommend doing so. If not & you decide to do as we did we’ll just say… 5.5km does not sound that far but this part of the hike is uphill all the way & in Colombia’s high temperatures it can be very dangerous so, if you are committing to this please make sure, as we did, to have more than enough water (loads more then you think you’ll need) & be sure to take regular breaks in the shade, there is eventually tree coverage but not until the halfway point at least, before this we huddled under any bush or shrub that we could find.

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Jordán to Los Santos – map of our 5.5km route.
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Taking the bridge out of Jordan to hike up to Los Santos.

Needless to say, we didn’t stop & take too many pictures on this grueling part of our walk & when arriving in Los Santos we found the nearest shop to grab a refreshing drink, snacks & a well-earned sit down. Reflecting on an epic two days & the hike of a lifetime we had a wander around Los Santos for a while before looking to sort out our transport back to San Gil.

Transport from Los Santos

Buses run a few times a day from the main square back to San Gil & other areas around Santander. The bus transport office is right on the Parque Central square opposite the church & is marked on the map below. From Los Santos to San Gil the journey time is roughly 1 hour 45 mins with the cost per person being roughly 35,000 COP.

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Map showing the bus terminal in Los Santos, the blue dot is where the trail brings you out with Point A being the sports ground that you walk around to get to the bus transport office.

El Camino Real, Colombia ∼ The Essentials

As we’ve already said, hiking during the day in Colombia can be tough, especially with no cover the heat gets to the point that it is unbearable. Here’s a quick recap of what we’d recommend bringing with you on El Camino Real Colombia…

el Camino Real Colombia essentials - The Wilder Route. Image shows a shite stone gateway surrounded by grass & yellow flowers.
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Camino Real Essentials

  • 50+ sun protection.
  • Plenty of water & food.
  • Hat or cap & layers to protect you from the elements. Need new comfy hiking layers? Check out our organic clothing range Nature Threads.
  • Good hiking boots & hiking socks.
  • Phone with maps.me offline maps downloaded, paper map or both.
  • Enough cash to last a couple of days (for water, food, overnight stay, transport, handmade crafts – our costs are detailed through this post).
  • A serious sense of adventure.

 

Camino Real Essentials

  • 50+ sun protection.
  • Plenty of water & food.
  • Hat or cap & layers to protect you from the elements. Need new comfy hiking layers? Check out our organic clothing range Nature Threads.
  • Good hiking boots & hiking socks.
  • Phone with maps.me offline maps downloaded, paper map or both.
  • Enough cash to last a couple of days (for water, food, overnight stay, transport, handmade crafts – our costs are detailed through this post).
  • A serious sense of adventure.

 

Where We Started ∼ San Gil To Barichara

As aforementioned, we caught the bus from the central station in San Gil out to Barichara at around 9 am, on the first day of our hike. San Gil, known as Colombia’s adventure capital is a larger town with lots of amenities & is a great place for adrenaline junkies to base themselves. As we were there for a limited amount of time & prioritised doing the Camino Real hike we didn’t get to do half the stuff on offer – we would recommend reading this post from Goats on the Road to learn more about the adventures available, in & around San Gil.

Where to stay in San Gil…

We stayed in San Gil just before & after our hike at Sam’s VIP hostel, a great hostel with an awesome vibe (& a rooftop pool). It’s somewhere we’d highly recommend staying & is on the same road as the station for catching the bus to Barichara.

Storing our bags in San Gil…

We were also able to securely store our bigger bags at the hostel, meaning we only had our day packs to contend with on our two-day hike.

Camino Real Colombia ∼ History & The Guane Peoples

At the route’s starting point in Barichara, a sign pays homage to the el Camino Real being constructed almost 50 years after Colombia became a republic by Geo von Lengerke, a German engineer, merchant & landowner. However, von Lengerke built The Camino Real over an ancient path constructed by The Guane peoples, a path called Moncora.

The Guane, indigenous to this area were said to worship the Muisca god Ochica, who they believed founded their civilization & taught them agriculture & craftsmanship. Over many centuries The Guane, by the Spanish conquistadors were forced to work in Goldmines & eventually converted to Catholicism.

Master craftsmen & women, The Guane were highly skilled handmade ceramic makers & were experts in harvesting local cotton, for making woven goods. This craftsmanship is still evident in the area today & we’d recommend, whilst on The Camino Real Colombia, keeping an eye out for handcrafted goods not only in the towns & villages in which you stop but also at the farmhouse stops en-route.

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Artisan store Sua-ty in Barichara showcases craftmanship handed down through generations.

Our Adventured Summed Up

This was one of our highlights of Colombia, experiencing untouched villages & towns tucked away in the back & beyond of Santander. It was a breathtaking hike with stunning views & beautiful raw scenery. This is an experience that we will always hold dear; a true off-the-beaten-path adventure in the heart of Colombia.

If you are willing to make the effort & take on this multi-day hike, we can assure you that this adventure won’t disappoint.

Be sure to also check out our Colombia Destination Guide & our post on hiking in Colombia which details this hike & 4 more epic hiking experiences.

Happy adventuring,

Kelly & Adam x

P.s. be sure to take a look at the comments at the very bottom of this page as other people, who have taken on the Camino Real hike have left their tips & advice, & of course if you have any questions at all ask away!

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about the wilder route...

The Wilder Route - Author Bio. Image shows Kelly & Adam sat on a rock with a cloud encompassed mountain behind them, they are facing the camera & smiling. Kelly is wearing a bright yellow coat, a brown hat, jeans & yellow leg warmers. Adam is wearing a navy blue coast & jeans.

In 2017 Kelly & Adam Peck embarked on a journey that would change their lives forever... 

Equipped with a couple of second-hand bikes, they took a one-way flight to Havana, Cuba &, after a cycling escapade that took them over four hundred kilometres - through remote villages & untouched landscapes, the roots of The Wilder Route were firmly planted. 

From there the adventure was destined to continue... this intrepid couple spent the next 10 months soaking up the vibrance of Mexico, hiking up volcanoes in Guatemala, taking in the wild scenery of Canada & experiencing the beauty & diversity of Colombia, before eventually returning to the UK. 

With the feeling of exploration in their souls, Kelly & Adam knew that they wanted to build a life that brought them closer to nature, a life that made adventure part of their every day. Selling most of their belongings & packing the rest of what they owned into their tiny home on wheels, van life became the next step of their journey.

Since moving into their motorhome in 2018 (a Bessacar E560 named Barnaby) they have experienced many more magical moments, built their online business on the road & have even planned a wedding & said "I do" along the way.

Featured in publications such as Wanderlust Magazine & Housesitting Magazine & speaking at events such as Destinations ShowsBorderless Live & The Caravan & Motorhome Show about living a location-independent lifestyle - they are passionate about helping & inspiring others to explore, to connect with nature &, to live alternatively.

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8 thoughts on “Camino Real Colombia Hike ∼ An Ancient Route From Barichara to Los Santos

  1. Éric says:

    Love this post .
    I did sections of it last w eek & it blew me
    Away not only in scenery but the last ascent into Los Santos after 5 hours of hiking already In the heat.

    • Adam says:

      Ah wow that is amazing! Thanks Éric! Yes the scenery is awesome isn’t it so beautiful, glad you had such a great experience there. That definitely makes us happy! The heat also makes it that bit more challenging but so worth it.

  2. Lonni says:

    Thanks for this post. In the photos, you seem to be wearing day packs.. I’m wondering is how you handled your luggage/bags if this was a multi-day hike? Was there a way to have them sent ahead?

    • Adam says:

      Hi Lonni, We left our big bags in our hostel back in San Gil and took some day packs with us with everything we needed for the two-day hike. Then grabbed the bus back to San Gil from Los Santos. Hope this helps! Give us a shout if you have any more questions, we are glad you liked the post 🙂

      • Lonni says:

        Hi Adam,
        Thanks for the info. I don’t suppose you recorded a gpx track when you did this hike? Or can you confirm the route you hiked between Jordan & Los Santos?

        You wrote it was 5.5km, but all the routes that I’m finding from others are significantly longer, and mostly follow (paved) route 45A. I’ve checked several map sources (Google, Wikiloc, Maps.Me), and none of them show any trails that are much less than around 9km.

        thanks!

        • Adam says:

          Hi Lonni, Ive just checked on maps.me the Camino Real route is on there from Jordan to Los Santos. It’s 5.1km from the very centre of Jordan to Los Santos bus station with 853m incline. We didn’t record a gpx track unfortunately. I’ll email you a screenshot of the trail 🙂

  3. May says:

    Highly recommend the full thing! One of the highlights of my 3 months in Colombia! Thank you so much for your blog! I want to recommend people don’t make the same mistakes as me though…I went from Barichara to Jordan in one day because I set off so early but please don’t do this unless you have packed loads of food!! In Jordan I was the only one in the only hospedaje and there was nothing to eat just old Colombian bread…not ideal after the whole day hiking. Another disadvantage to this was the massive ascent to Los Santos the next day – you need to have enough fuel and water because the sun is shining on this mountain face in the morning – Lethal!! Anyway, don’t make the same mistake, stay in Villanueva instead, but please do the hike it is so so so so beautiful!
    Rough idea of my times and distances:
    Barichara to Guane – 6.2km 1hr
    Guane to Villanueva – 8.2km 2.5hrs
    Villanueva to Jordan – 15km 4.5hrs
    Jordan to Los Santos – 5.5km 2.25hrs

    • Adam says:

      Hi May! Ah wow, that’s awesome that you had such an amazing adventure! Just stunning isn’t it! We would definitely recommend opting for the stay in Villanueva between the days as you definitely need a good refuel and rest after the long days hike in the heat. That’s a massive first day of hiking all the way to Jordan wow! Agree the last ascent is tough, we tackled it at midday after hiking from Villanueva that morning and sounds like it was just as hard. So glad you found the post useful and has inspired you to hike the Camino Real, we would love to go back to Colombia and hike it again one day! Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

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