San Agustín is a small town in the department of Huila in Colombia that is famous for its pre-Colombian statues. The area has many rock carvings depicting animals. In one waterfall a beautifully carved gorilla faces out of the cascading water.
San Agustín is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It's a great place to go with friends and family where you can see beautiful things such as sculpture objects.
- from Pitalito: COP$10,000
- from Bogota: COP$54,000, 10 hours (twice a day with beautiful Tatacoa Desert or the Magdalena River)
- from Popayan: COP$40,000, 5 hours
- from Neiva: COP$30,000, 5 hours
- from Tierradentro: Take the jeep leaving San Andres at 6:30AM or 8AM to La Plata (1½ hr, COP$14,000). From there you can take a minivan to Pitalito at 9AM or noon (3 hr, COP$28,000). From the bus terminal in Pitalito are regularly leaving shared taxis to San Agustin (45 min, COP$8,000).
It is a rough road from Popayan or Cali to San Agustin. The drive has beautiful views but is not paved at times.
The different archaeological sites are scattered over a large area. If you have the time walking is the best option, the scenery on the way is amazing and some of the local transportation can help you on your way. It is also possible to rent horses. Several agents run jeep tours to some of the more remote sites.
- 1 Parque Arqueologico. 8AM-4PM everyday. Parque Arqueologico is San Agustin's main attraction. It features several ancient burial sites, a lot of statues and a small museum. It's 3 km west of San Agustin and can be reached by frequent minibusses. COP$35,000 (COP$50,000 foreigners).
- 2 Alto de los Idoles. 8AM-4PM everyday. Far less visited, a bit smaller, but equally impressive as the archaeological park. The views from the park are amazing. There is no transportation to and from San Agustin, only to San Jose de Isnos. Same ticket as the Parque Arqueológico; ticket is good for three days.
- 3 El Tablon, La Chaquira, La Pelota and El Purutal. Within easy walking distance are the four small sites, El Tablon with several statues; La Chaquira, carved rocks dramatically set overlooking the valley of the Rio Magdalena; La Pelota, with some coloured statues in excellent state and El Purutal. These can easily be visited in one day walking. La Pelota/El Purutal COP$7,000.
- 4 Obando. Far north of San Agustin is Obando a small site with some underground tombs and a tiny museum with some of the excavated pottery. There are carros going to and from San Agustin to Obando.
- 5 Alto de Las Piedras. Other archaeological sites are Alto de Las Piedras, Alto de las Guacas, Alto del Mortiño o del Tigre, Granada, El Jabón, Lavaderos o Naranjos and La Parada
- El Estrecho. El Estrecho is the place where the Rio Magdalena is at its narrowest.
- Waterfalls. Salto de Bordones (400m) and Salto del Mortiño are two waterfalls, easily accessible by public transportation from Isnos.
- Hiking at El Estrecho. Take a carro to Obando and walk the beautiful way back to San Agustín and visit El Estrecho on the way. It's about five hours walking.
- Hiking to Alto de los Idolos. Walk to Alto de los Idolos and back. Leave early because it is a long walk. You can visit Granada on the way and if you have some energy left take the detour to Alto de las Guacas and Alto del Moriño o del Tigre.
- Horse riding. Many of the hostels can arrange riding trips to the archaeological sites and the surrounding countryside. Around COP$25,000 for 5-hour trip.
- Jeep tour. To visit the more remote sights in one day, you can take a jeep tour. Usual circuits allow you to see statues at Alto de los Idolos, waterfalls at Salto Bordones and Alto del Mortiño, Tombs and museum in Obando and the estrecho del Magdalena. Around COP$50,000 for 7-8 hour trip.
There are ATMs in San Agustín, buy they are not very reliable and are out of cash at the end of long week ends. To get money you may have to go to Pitalito. Bring your passport or you might end up in the DAS office in Pitalito.
The only ATM in town does give cash advance on Visa credit cards.
- Donde Richard / Mister Cuy (on the way to the park). BBQ places owned by brothers and located next to one another that serve big plates of the typical asado huilense.
- La Gata Parilla (edge of town on the way to the park). Great small grill, excellent grilled fruit and vegetables with meat of your choice, always good music (but not too loud)
This region is rich in coffee, drink very common in the rural community, as well as drinks and chicha guarapo alcoholic beverages that are used by the aboriginals ansestros and even today are consumed by local residents.
Jugo de Caña is also commonly found, it is freshly pressed sugar cane juice with a hint of lemon - a very sweet beverage.
- 1 Finca El Maco (on the way to the park, take the track going up the hill right after the restaurant Donde Richard; on your right after the steep climb), ☏ +57 311 271 4802, firstname.lastname@example.org. Run by an extremely friendly Swiss (Rene) and his wife (Paloma), Finca el Maco is a little piece of paradise about 1 km out of the town. Dorm beds and private rooms are available and there is also a restaurant and bar which serves incredible meals. dorm : COP$25,000.
- 2 La Casa de Francois (Beautifully set in the countryside, a short walk from downtown), ☏ +57 314 358 29 30, email@example.com. Beautiful views, exquisite breakfasts and dinners prepared by request. Both dorm and private rooms available. Excellent backpacker hangout with all of the amenities. Dorm COP$30,000, double COP$80,000.
- Finca El Cielo, Vía Estrecho km 3, ☏ +57 313 49 37 446. Check-in: 24 hours. Very beautiful farm hotel 3 km of San Agustin near to fascinating archeological sites. Owned by a Swiss (Dominique) and run by a friendly Colombian (Alirio). Beautiful view over the Magdalena canyon. Ample and very comfortable rooms with modern bathrooms. Swimming pond. Camping. Tours. Restaurant. Bar. Shop. COP$50,000.
- Hostal Alto de los Andaquíes. Rustic coffee farm, with the best viewpoint of the village and its surroundings, comfortable rooms with private bathroom, hot water, television, restaurant, surrounded by beautiful gardens and nature.
- Hotel Cambi, Cra 13 No. 3-36 (5 min walk from center of town), ☏ +57 8373357, firstname.lastname@example.org. None of the hotels in town even approach mid-range quality, but this is a friendly, basic, clean place that is also very inexpensive.
- 3 Hostals and Camping Gamcelat, Vía al Parque Arqueológico San Agustín, Huila (5 minutes from centre towards Archeological Park), ☏ +57 837-36-49, +57 313-245-83-73, email@example.com. Gamcelat is a family run hostal/organic farm. It is a natural place where you can relax in hammocks, be part of the daily work of the field, use one of the prepared tours and explore the incredible archeological sites that the surrounding area has to offer.
- Hotel Estorake, calle 5 # 23-88, San Agustín, Huila (on the way to the park just a little out of town, left side). Spacious clean rooms, some with balcony, hot shower, good breakfast, very helpful owner who will also organize transportation out of town if required
Most guidebooks may tell you this area is guerrilla territory, but this is no longer the case. If you are going to Popayan, Tierradentro or Mocoa, it is still best to avoid travellin by night.
Some of the agents organizing jeep tours are more interested in your personal belongings. Set up tours at your hostel.
- Bogotá: Coomotor has three daily buses (12 hr, COP$65,000 to 75000), one in the morning (5:00) and two (18:30, 19:45) in the evening, to the capital of Colombia.
- Popayán: You can get to Popayán in a small bus for COP$40,000. Several buses a day leave from downtown, or you can flag a bus at the crossroads to San Agustín. If buses are full at the crossroads, you can catch a colectivo to Isnos and buy a bus ticket there. The ride takes about 4.5 hours and is very bumpy (unpaved road through Puracé National Park).