Parque El Gallineral is surely San Gil's top attraction and for good reason. The moss-strewn four hectare park is lush beyond imagination and it's easy to spend a few hours strolling amongst its nearly 2000 trees covered in “old man's beard or barbas de viejo” as the locals call the silver strands dangling from what seems every branch. It makes for great atmospheric light and is a paradise for photography. There is a pool very popular with locals and some small restaurants surrounding it if you are hungry or in need of a drink after your exploration.
Admission is 4000 COP ($2) per person.
Though not quite as lush as Parque El Gallineral, the towns “other” park, Parque El Libertad offers perhaps an even better glimpse into local life and is of course free. Lined with trees, it is the center of the town's social life, especially come later afternoon and evening. After being relegated to blaring sun in the squares of El Cocuy, Villa de Leyva and Tunja, the ample flora of San Gil's counterpart was especially appreciated. There are many vendors selling snacks and beverages and the stores along the square sell beer and even shots for those looking for a bit of social lubrication! I guess in many ways, it was our favorite part of our short stop here.
The Catedral Santa Cruz was a very pleasant surprise in San Gil. The 18th century stone church was stunning as viewed from its Parque El Libertad setting and its interior was equally impressive. It was eerily similar to the one in neighboring Barichara.
Parque El Gallineral was founded already in 1919 and it is situated on an island, surrounded by rivers. The lush park has got an area of 4 hectare and has got more than 1800 trees, and many of them are covered with the long silver-grey tillandia, giving the park a mystical feel.
After a day of activities it is nice to come here for a walk. There are several paths to follow and near the entrance there are a few souvenir stands, a restaurant and café and a pool for swimming (didn’t look that clean though).
The park is open daily between 8.00 – 18.00.
Admission was 4000 pesos (July 2008).
On one side of Parque La Libertad stands the Catedral Santa Cruz. It is a stone church built in classical style, with two octagonal towers. The cathedral was constructed between 1769 – 1791. The interior has got the same colour of the stone walls as outside and there is an altarpiece by Jacinto García.
The main square, Parque La Libertad is a lively place with street vendors and people waking around or just relaxing on a bench. There is a fountain in the middle and there are several huge ceiba trees giving shade. Besides the cathedral you can find several cafés, a supermarket and a travel agent around the square.
If you walk Calle 12 downhill from the main square you will come to Casa de Cultura, which is situated in a nice old mansion from the 18th century. At Casa de Cultura there are temporary art exhibitions and there is no admission. There is also a café.
Casa de Cultura is open between 9 -12 and 14 – 17 on Mondays - Saturdays.
It's the best natural parks in Santander. It is also the place where you find the tourism enterprises for the practice of paraglidin, speleology or any xtreme sport. There is also a good restaurant in the park where you can taste a good dish of goat and pepitoria.
Just take a look on next page to see some pictures.