Fifteen centuries ago a group of mysterious tribesman honoured their dead by carving magnificent statues from volcanic rock. Today you can see South America’s largest collection of religious statues with over 513 unearthed in sleepy, hillside San Agustin.
Travelling to San Agustin requires a hair-raising journey along a mostly unpaved road that winds and weaves its way up through the mountains. While it’s nowhere near as terrifying as the road to Mocoa, don’t expect a smooth ride. Once you’ve reached town, you will be rewarded with quaint cobblestone streets and breathtaking views of the valley below.
The town’s main attraction is the Archaeological Park, which houses several of the area’s ancient statues, ruins, tombs and burial mounds. It also encompasses a small archaeological museum and the “Bosque de las Estatuas” or Forest of the Statues where sculptures of different origins that were found scattered across the area are displayed. Getting to the park is easy, simply walk down to the main street and look for the bus stop with the statue photo and wait for the direct bus to the park entrance. The entry fee is $10 US a person and allows you a two day pass into the park and several of the other surrounding sites in the region.
The Archaeological Park is laid out over 78 hectors and offers great view points, pleasant walking paths and includes a river with ancient carvings on the rocks. Don’t go to the park expecting to be wowed in the same way as Machu Picchu, the place is more charming than awe-inspiring. There are several other main sites in the San Agustin area, but these are best reached on a guided tour on horseback or with a jeep. A few other guests from the hostel and I attempted to walk and found ourselves lost and sun baked after stumbling around for two hours with misguided directions.
If the park fails to inspire you with wonder, then perhaps a stay at Casa de Francois will do the trick. This French run hostel is set on the side of a hill up a dirt path and offers spectacular views and ample patio space and hammocks from which to enjoy it. The hostel has an onsite restaurant, basic supplies for self-caterers and a well equipped kitchen ensuring that you can maximize your time in the lush surroundings without having to return to town for meals. Bread is baked onsite daily and served with homemade jams and coffee that is brewed fresh from the beans in the gardens. Rooms are affordably priced with doubles starting from $20 US at the time of writing.
Overall Gallivanting Review: Whether you spend a few days pondering the carvings of an ancient civilization, or simply find yourself drinking freshly brewed coffee in a hammock overlooking the jungle, San Agustin offers a few days of rest and relaxation on your journey through Colombia.