San Juan de Pasto serves as the vibrant capital of Nariño, nestled in southwest Colombia. It offers an array of extraordinary experiences. Expect to be captivated by its rich cultural tapestry, blending indigenous heritage, Spanish legacies, theological influences, and Andean folk traditions.
Their culture is very similar to the Equatorial, Peruvian, and Bolivian ones because they share an old original heritage from the Andean Mountain Rage.
Sharing a deep-rooted heritage from the Andean Mountain Range, Pasto offers majestic volcanoes, a renowned carnival, unique gastronomy, and very impressive religious architecture.
For your arrival, consider these tips from Medellin Guru:
Guidelines for Arriving in Pasto by Plane
You will arrive at Antonio Nariño Airport, situated in Chachagüí, a small town near Surprise City (approximately 30 km away). This is akin to other major Colombian cities, such as José María Córdova International Airport in Rionegro for those heading to Medellín or Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport in Palmira for connections to Cali.
Don’t be alarmed if you observe numerous mountains during your descent to the runway. The airport was built atop a plateau, offering an impressive yet safe landing experience. Occasionally, flights may struggle to descend due to crosswinds. Rest assured, pilots will attempt multiple landings (at least twice or three times) until successful.
While cancellations are infrequent, in the event of severe winds, you may be diverted back to Cali or Bogotá to refuel before attempting another landing later the same day.
Connecting to Pasto from Chachagüí
Take a private taxi
These are available in the airport parking lot. Descend the stairs and select one. The taxi driver will inquire if you prefer a private service. This option gets you directly to your chosen place in Pasto. The fare is 50,000 COP (15 USD).
Opt for a shared service
This alternative also involves private taxi cabs. However, you’ll pay less in this case as the driver may pick up additional passengers. The cost is 21,000 COP (5 USD) per person, and drop-offs are typically made at Carnival Square.
In the second option or if you decide to use an app as Didi, Cabify or Uber, each passenger shares the cost of the service. Up to four people can share the taxi. Occasionally, drivers may depart with fewer passengers. Regardless of the number of passengers, the fare remains the same.
Exploring the Surprise City: Pasto
Pasto has cultural variety, impressive biodiversity, and interesting architecture. The principal natural attraction is the Galeras Volcano. A huge ash ejector eminence that you can see from many parts of Pasto. It’s nine kilometers away from the city and measures 4,200 meters above sea level. The Galeras represent the Pastusos people’s identity.
Spiritual & Arquitectural Tourism: A Journey of Faith and Design
In addition to its natural, cultural, and gastronomical wonders, Pasto is well-known for its rich arquitecture and religious legacy, making it a popular destination for Catholic and historic tourism. The city boasts numerous museums, old houses, churches, cathedrals, and religious sites renowned for their history, design, and vibrant colors.
One of the most iconic landmarks is Pasto’s Cathedral, better known as the Temple of the Sacred Heart. This magnificent colonial-era church stands as a testament to the city’s religious devotion.
Another highly popular church is the Cristo Rey Temple, celebrated for its Gothic architecture, making it a marvelous and photogenic stop. Visitors will be impressed by its interior, reminiscent of old European styles.
For those seeking spiritual enlightenment, Pasto offers opportunities for reflection and contemplation at its many convents, monasteries, and religious retreat centers. Visitors can also explore other churches, such as San Ignacio, San Felipe Neri, San Andrés, and Santiago Temple.
Laguna de la Cocha
Just a short distance from Pasto (+/- 30 km), if you’re traveling by rental or private car, you’ll need to take the road to Mocoa, Putumayo, and reach the town of El Encano. There are signs that will guide you to divert towards the lagoon.
This stunning heritage site offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. At Laguna de la Cocha, you’ll be transported into a Swiss-like atmosphere. The typical houses in this area are constructed with wood and boast beautiful gable roofs.
All of the houses are constructed with wood and built on fern trunks because the terrain in the area is soft and cannot support heavy concrete constructions. This architectural design was first introduced in the middle of the last century by Walter Sulzer, a Swiss chef who came to Colombia to work at the Sindamanoy Hotel after fleeing World War II.
Visitors can enjoy boat rides, birdwatching and explore La Corota Island, a natural sanctuary teeming with biodiversity. The cost of the journey varies depending on the chosen plan. To explore the sanctuary, head to the El Puerto district and purchase a complete package in an official booth (+/- 70,000 COP / 20 USD). The boat driver will then accompany you and wait for your return.
Black and White Carnival
Celebrated from January 2nd to 7th, this carnival stands as one of Colombia’s largest and most vibrant. With parades, live music, dances, and elaborate floats, the Black and White Carnival is an unforgettable celebration of Pasto’s cultural diversity. This festival was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. There are two special events that will impress you:
Canto a la Tierra Parade (January 3rd):
This parade showcases artistic groups performing about Andean culture. They dance through the downtown streets and play typical instruments of popular music from the Andean Mountain Range.
The Great Parade (January 6th):
This parade has the potential to be recognized worldwide. It is an eight-hour spectacle featuring performances, traditional music, and enormous conceptual floats inspired by myths, legends, and Catholic histories and traditions.
Cuy and Other Delicacies: Sharing Pasto’s Cuisine
The gastronomy of this part of Colombia has been influenced by indigenous, Spanish, and African flavors, resulting in a diverse array of dishes that tantalize the taste buds and reflect their history.
Corn holds a special place in many dishes, commonly used as a complement such as popcorn, in soups, and as a beverage called “champus,” a drink made from fermented corn infused with pineapple chunks and spices, resulting in a thickened juice popular in the Pacific area.
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The Importance of Guinea Pig (Cuy)
Guinea pig, locally known as “cuy,” is the principal dish in the culinary traditions of Pasto and is considered a delicacy. Roasted to crispy perfection, it is often served at important celebrations, symbolizing abundance and prosperity. Its price could range from 20 to 25 USD. This meal is also consumed in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
Frito Pastuso and Hornado
Frito Pastuso and Hornado are two popular pork dishes in the local cuisine. Frito Pastuso is a medley of fried pork, potatoes, and popcorn. Hornado features tender meat with crispy skin, served with ¨lapingachos¨ (potato cakes) and a side of “ají,” a spicy salsa that adds a burst of flavor to dishes across the region, and sometimes boiled corn.
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The Botton Line: Pasto: Discover the wonders of this captivating destination
Pasto combines numerous activities to indulge in, ranging from natural adventures to theological and popular festivities. The Surprise City emerges as a destination you’ll never forget, offering a vibrant tapestry of traditions, resilience, and creativity. Pasto isn’t just a place to visit; it’s an experience that will stay with you long after you’ve departed, leaving an indelible mark on your memories and igniting a desire to return again and again or probably stay there forever.