The 'Wise Old Men' of El Gallineral Park – San Gil, Colombia - Atlas Obscura

The 'Wise Old Men' of El Gallineral Park

San Gil, Colombia

The centuries-old trees are draped with Spanish moss to make them look like wizened elders. 


A strange community of wise old men dwells along the fringe of San Gil, Colombia. These men aren’t even men at all—they’re trees draped in breathtaking curtains of moss.

El Gallineral Park, situated near the Fonce River, is home to a grove of nearly 2,000 beloved trees planted over 300 years ago. But the trees’ age isn’t what makes them so mesmerizing. Many of the towering plants were intentionally covered in Spanish moss, known locally as barbas de viejo (old man’s beard), to make them look like wise old men.

The “wise old men” are indeed a majestic sight. Spools of moss dangle from their branches, reaching toward the ground like a wizard’s silver beard. Sunlight filters through the tendrils, giving the plants an otherworldly glow.

Exploring the 10-acre park reveals a wealth of walkways that let you wander among the trees. The paths wind through the forest, connecting the various squares, allowing you to leave the bustle of the nearby city far behind. Two artificial, chlorinated pools within the park are the perfect place to cool off on a hot, sticky day.

Know Before You Go

Street level parking is available next to the park in front of the Fonce river malecón. The park is open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m (last entrance is at 5:00 p.m.). A small entrance fee is collected upon entering.

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