Barichara, Colombia – sleepy colonial town where they eat fat-bottomed ants


Barichara is hot! That’s what I was warned of prior to my arrival. Hot and sleepy!

There’s nothing to do there man, and it’s just so hot you don’t want to move; you just lie there in a hammock and think to yourself, man it is hot – is the way one Bogotá resident described it to me.

Barichara, Colombia

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

I can confirm that Barichara is indeed hot. And it is certainly sleepy. And it’s true there isn’t a great deal to do there. But Barichara is so charming you don’t need any activities to keep you entertained while you are in town. It’s enough just to be in Barichara.

Just lie in a hammock. Gaze out over the terracotta tiled roofs. Read a book. Relax.

Catedral Inmaculada Concepción, Barichara

Catedral Inmaculada Concepción, Barichara, Colombia

Catedral Inmaculada Concepción. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Catedral Inmaculada Concepción, like much of Barichara, is made of a distinctive brown sandstone sourced from local quarries. You wouldn’t ordinarily think of brown rock as an attractive building material, but the brown sandstone of Barichara manages to pull it off.

Barichara, Colombia

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Saying there is nothing to do in Barichara isn’t strictly true either. There is a sculpture park – el Parque de las Artes – and there are a number of pretty churches and public parks.

Barichara, Colombia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

But really you come to Barichara just to soak up the atmosphere, to admire the colonial architecture, and to wander the narrow streets.

El Camino Real, Barichara

The view from the start of el Camino Real, Barichara, Colombia

The view from the start of el Camino Real. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Walk a few blocks to the edge of town (just follow Carrera 7 till you pass Barichara Cemetery) and suddenly the ground drops away, offering spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

Continue along the cliffline to the beginning of el Camino Real, a ten kilometre long trail that leads to the town of Guane in the valley below. The path follows a historic trail used by indigenous groups – known as the Guane – in pre-Columbian times.

Tackling el Camino Real in the middle of the day is thirsty work. Make sure you carry plenty of water.

Guane

Guane, Colombia

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Thought Barichara was sleepy? Well Guane takes sleepy to a whole new level. Times slows as soon as you set foot in town. The air becomes thick and soupy. Sit in the main square for awhile and realise your perception of time is that of a big-city-dweller. The most common pastime in the main square – at least in the middle of the day – is sleeping.

There’s a semi-regular bus that runs back to Barichara, saving you a gruelling uphill slog.

Fat-bottomed ants

Eating ants, Barichara, Colombia

Eating fat-bottomed ants. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Fat-bottomed ants, sold as hormigas, are a local delicacy. The ants are fried and salted. You buy them in packs of twenty or so. They make a good beer snack, although the fibrous exoskeleton might not be to everyone’s liking.


Practical Information and how to reach Barichara:

Barichara isn’t the easiest place to access. Basically you need to make your way to San Gil – which might mean a combination of buses on its own. Once you are in San Gil, you’ll have to catch a taxi from the intercity bus terminal to a local terminal, from where you can board a minibus that’ll transport you the remaining 22 kilometres to town. More transport info here.


More on Colombia:

Southern Colombia:

Popayán – the illustrious White City that delivered 17 Colombian presidents

San Agustín – cartoonish statues that protect the dead? 


Central Colombia:

The salt mines of Zipaquirá – ever seen a salt cathedral?

Bogotá – gold, graffiti. and Botero

La Candelaria Street Art – world famous graffiti in downtown Bogotá

Villa de Leyva, Colombia – Casa de Antonio Ricaurte, El Fósil, and a colossal public square


Northern Colombia:

La Ciudad Perdida – four day hike to the Lost City of the Tayrona priests

Santa Marta – oldest continually inhabited colonial city in Colombia


More on South America:

Argentina:

Perito Moreno Glacier – colossal ice wall

El Chaltén – meringue-like glaciers and jagged peaks

Bolivia:

Salar de Uyuni – largest salt flats in the world

La Paz – highest capital city in the world

Chile:

The Moai Quarry archaeological site, Easter Island

Mount Villarrica – trek to the top of an active volcano

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