San Agustín is a small town in southern Colombia, which is famous for it’s Pre-Columbian archeological sites. The sites are all around the town, once you get there, you just have to decide, which one to visit and how, as unless you are staying for a week or so, you will definitely not have a time to do everything.
Popayan to San Agustín
There are 3 companies having their bus service to San Agustín from Popayan, each of them departing at around the same time (at around 11 am) for about the same price. The journey itself would be very nice, going around the Purace National Park. Just bear in mind, that if all the sources say that “the road is being paved at the moment”, it in fact means, that you’ll drive for about one hour on the paved road and other 5 hours will be very bumpy and uncomfortable. The bus will drop you off about 5 km from San Agustín, on the road to Pitalito, where taxi will already be waiting for you. Taxi cost should already be included in the bus ticket cost, but better ask when buying the ticket. We did not know and of course the taxi driver ripped us and charged for the whole way from the road to our hostel.
Beware of self proclaimed guides
The little town itself and it’s surroundings are very beautiful. Of course it is very touristy, the advantage of it is, that there are many places to eat, supermarkets, ATMs… Huge disadvantage (at least for us) was, that there were many self proclaimed “guides”, who reached us almost everywhere and were offering us their services. After a while, we felt really uncomfortable, and I did not really want to just roam the streets of the town. First “guide” was already waiting for us in our taxi. He was offering us to stay in his hostel, to join his tours,… And he gave us a free map, where the main sites were highlighted and which became very handy the next day. He told us, that 20 years ago, there was a huge Pablo Escobar’s cocain factory nearby the town, where majority of it’s inhabitants worked. He himself was something like an engineer of a quality. I better not imagine what that means… Nevertheless, he still knows places, where they grow coca and produce cocain and also some marihuana fields, so he can give us a spectacular tour, all ended by tasting of the final products and a possibility to take a picture with a line of coke and send it to our moms… Ehm… No thank you! This really is not our cup of tea, but if you are interested, just ask around for a guy called Humbert Salcedo. If he’s not waiting for you in your taxi, already.
As the accommodation in San Agustín seemed to be more expensive, we chose to stay in Hotel Pachamama – out of the town, but closer to the Parque Arqueologico. The hotel is s nice base to visit the archeological sites close-by, but to go for a dinner, one must go to the town and take a taxi for the way back.
It obviously rains a lot in this area and the day we decided to visit the archeological park and few other sites was not an exception. We tried to hide from the first rain, but soon we realized, that we would have to stay in our shelter for the whole afternoon, if we did not want to get wet, so we just set off for a beautiful hike. Of course we got lost, but after asking a man working on his little field about our way, he just told us that he would walk with us for a while, so that we don’t get lost anymore.
What did we see? The park itself contains the largest collection of Pre-Columbian megalithic sculptures in Latin America. Mainly gods and mythical animals are represented there, the sculpture which attracted our attention was one, that looked like an elephant – 3000 years old elephant on a continent, where the elephants never lived. One more drop to Michal’s southamerican alien theory. To read more about the site, visit UNESCO website.
The park itself was very interesting, but you know…I’m not very much into these “museum style” things. I usually enjoy the journey more than the destination, so even here I loved the hike in the countryside much more.
We went to La Chaquira and did not really know what to expect from it. We walked in mud for 2 kilometers and were awaiting just another statue, but what we saw took our breath away:
- Bus Popayan – San Agustín: 32000 COP per person
- Taxi San Agustín – Hotel Pachamama: 7000 COP
- Archeological Park entrance fee: 20000 COP per person
- La Pelota entrance fee: 8000 COP per person