San Juan de Girón, or Girón, is the white town of Santander. Also called peublito Monumento Nacional de Colombia, Girón is a true open-air museum. Although the town is easy to visit, few foreign tourists come here. Girón, however, is a true paradise for lovers of white towns, architecture and history. I visited Girón on a four-day trip in which I visited a Colombian friend and her family, who have lived there for many years. Read all about Girón here.
Girón: an architectural paradise in Colombia
The town of Girón is located about 9 kilometers from Bucaramanga, the capital of Santander, and is part of its metropolitan area.
Girón was founded in the year 1631 in the Spanish colonial style. The town is characterized by this distinctive architecture and white houses preserved in their original state. Therefore, this destination is very interesting if you like colonial villages and cities.
Girón has a population of about 171,000 and that’s noticeable: especially the area around the colonial center is large and at certain times it is quite crowded.
Wander the white streets of Girón
Wandering around the old streets of Girón is a real delight. I am amazed about how this place is built and how white everything is. Unlike really touristy white villages, such as Villa de Leyva, there is quite little focus on tourism here and the people just live in those beautiful white houses with the beautiful rustic front doors.
The town is also known for its many little bridges and green-grown “canals”. As one of the most religious destinations in Colombia, you will also find a number of churches that are well-known to Colombians. A special place…
Sightseeing in Girón
There is plenty to see in Girón. Here is a list of some of the main attractions.
Parque Peralta The most popular place in Girón to get married. Not surprisingly, because in this romantic place the beautiful church and lovely houses are preserved in their original state and with the original materials.
Parque las Nieves A small square in the style of the Spanish colonial era. As in Parque Peralta, this is also a place where many couples say ‘I do’, in the Capilla Nuestra Señora de las Nieves.
Parque Principal The central square is the heart of Girón. Here are the Romaestablished who predict the future by reading hand lines. This is also the place to try the delicacy raspados (pictured below): ice cream with fruit, cream and lots of sweetness. Really incredibly delicious! On the Parque Principal you will also find the beautiful Basílica Menor de San Juan Bautista. In colonial times, this square was the busiest place in Girón, and I think it still is….
Puentes (bridges) de Calicanto Girón is known for its many bridges. These bridges give access to several plazas, including the Parque Principal.
Casa de la Cultura At the cultural center, residents gather for various cultural activities and courses, such as music, dance and handicrafts. Sometimes there are also exhibitions of paintings or other works of art.
Museo de Arte Religioso y Casa Pastoral This museum focuses on crafts and paintings from the 18th century and you will also find religious elements from the colonial era.
Casa de Gobierno After several reconstructions since its construction in 1631, this house today functions as a town hall.
Casa Museo La Mansión del Frayle Contemporary a restaurant with dishes from the region and a museum with objects from the 18th century. In 1810, the Declaration of Independence of Colombia was signed here.
Girón in pictures: how beautiful it is here!
It’s not always so quiet there….
If you stroll through Girón during the week, the town is wonderfully quiet, but if you visit during festivities or on Sundays, you can expect big crowds. People everywhere, traffic jams and lots of noise. If you love that, of course, it’s no problem, but if you prefer things a little quieter avoid the vacations, holidays and weekends.
What to do around Girón?
There is plenty to do in the Girón area. You can visit Bucaramanga or drive to the second most earthquake-prone place on earth: La Mesa de Los Santos. There is also a viewpoint from where you have a view of Girón, Bucaramanga and the surrounding mountains, among others. It is called Cerro del Santísimo and is located in Floridablanca. Not everybody likes this, because this is another typical example of the Colombian love for Disneyland-like destinations. No second visit for me in any case, but if you are looking for a nice view and are willing to pay a lot of money for it, this might be your place.
Is Girón a must-see?
Girón is a perfect stopover if you are in transit from Bogotá to Santa Marta or vice versa. Also, if you are coming from Santa Marta and want to go to San Gil or Barichara, Girón is a perfect destination to visit. Also, if you are going to fly to or from Bucaramanga, Girón is a good option for a day trip. And are you staying somewhere nearby? Even then it is a fun day trip. It is a very beautiful, interesting and historic city, but to make a whole detour for it when you have little time… that might not be necessary. However, if you are in the area Girón is definitely worth a visit!
How to get to Girón?
From Bogotá, the bus to Bucaramanga stops in Girón. This drive took about 10.5 hours for me, but if there are no traffic jams, it can also be done in 9 hours. On the way back to Bogotá, we went by car and took “only” 8 hours. You can also easily get to Girón from Bucaramanga in half an hour. From San Gil it is about 2.5 to 3 hours by bus. Close to Girón is the Bucaramanga airport, from where you can easily get to the town by bus or cab.
How much time do you need?
Girón is a somewhat larger town, but you can see the interesting white center fairly quickly. If you are passing through, an afternoon or day is enough to get a good idea. If you want to see more of the area, stick an extra day.
Lodging in Girón: Hotel Las Nieves
Girón is not a big tourist hotspot, so there are only five hotels. I myself stayed at Hotel Las Nieves. Located directly on the central square, this hotel is situated in a white historic building. It is also a restaurant and once you step inside you enter an authentically decorated space where the colonial atmosphere comes out nicely.
On the second floor you will find the rooms and several areas where you can sit and relax. Some of them with a nice view of the Parque Principal and the church. The service is good, the food delicious and the bed sleeps wonderfully. I chose a cheaper room without hot water and air conditioning. There was a fan and that was more than enough, but the cold water was quite cold despite the heat outside. Also, the wifi did not always work well, but I was still able to work there quite good.
The room was completely clean and I had a wonderful stay there. By the way, the location is perfect: right in the middle of town within walking distance of everything. Also the breakfast was delicious and the people friendly. Book your stay at Hotel Las Nieves here.
Do you love white towns and villages? Then you’ve come to the right place in Colombia. Popayan is probably the most famous white city, but you also have Villa de Leyva, Guatavita, Santa Fe de Antioquia, Guane and of course the most beautiful village in Colombia: Barichara. And so Girón. Enjoy!
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