Colombia has the largest group of pre-Columbian monuments and megalithic statues in South America that are located in the San Agustín Archaeological Park (Parque Arqueologico). This site was even named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
The sizable park features the largest complex in South America of pre-Columbian megalithic funerary monuments and statuary, burial mounds, terraces, funerary structures and stone statuary.
Volcanic stones from now-extinct nearby volcanoes proved irresistible to the local sculptors, who worked the stones into grand monuments. The result is well over 500 statues, which are scattered over a wide area in the lush green hills. The statues vary in height with the tallest being 23 feet (7 meters) high.
Little is known about the people that inhabited this area and carved the statues. The dates of the statues are not known but are believed by some to have been carved sometime between 50 to 400 A.D. The statues include human figures, animals, deities and monsters.
Archeologists believe they have uncovered a mere 10 percent of the statues and ruins. And there are theories that huge mayan-like pyramids and other structures remain buried in the area.
The result is a mystical place that is located in a spectacular landscape that is worth visiting, particularly if you like impressive archaeological sites. I would say this site is comparable to Easter Island’s Moai statues, but not quite on the same scale.
More About San Agustín Archaeological Park
San Agustín Archaeological Park is located on land of the municipalities of San Agustín and Isnos, in the department of Huila in Colombia. This is located in southwest Colombia and the nearest larger city is Popayán.
Three separate properties totaling about 286 acres comprise the Archaeological Park: San Agustín, which includes Mesita A, Mesita B, Mesita C, La Estación, Alto de Lavapatas and Fuente de Lavapatas sites; Alto de los Ídolos (Heights of the Idols) and Alto de Las Piedras (Heights of the Stones).
The San Agustín archaeological sites are believed to have been abandoned around 1350 AD. And the sites were rediscovered during the 18th and 19th centuries. This led the looting and disturbance of many of the tombs while looking for grave goods, which proved to be very scant.
San Agustín Archaeological Park was created by Law 103 in Colombia in 1931. And it was declared a National Monument and Archaeological Park in 1993.
San Agustín Archaeological Park Fees
When you arrive at San Agustín Archaeological Park there is a small but quite informative museum and visitors center. A map of the park is provided by the park staff.
Furthermore, the 2019 entrance fee to the park currently costs 35,000 pesos per person or 50,000 pesos for foreigners, which includes access to the main park and Alto de los Idolos and Alto de Las Piedras. Also, children under 12 and adults over 60 are free. And the entrance fee for Colombian students is 15,000 pesos.
In addition to self-directed walking in the park there are guided tours available. And some bilingual guides are available. Guides reportedly are now charging about 70,000 pesos at the entrance. The park is big enough that I recommend hiring a guide.
Also, warning, the park is sometimes closed. It was closed for the entire month of January in 2019. And closure dates for 2020 are not announced yet.
In addition, horses are available for hire and going by horseback you can see more of the sizable park. Some of the sites such as El Tablón, La Chaquira and La Pelotaare are better visited in a horse tour. Other sites like El Estrecho, Alto de los Ídolos and Alto de las Piedras are best visited by jeep.
How to Get to San Agustín Archaeological Park
San Agustín Archaeological Park is located about 2.5 kilometers from San Agustín. It’s a walkable distance (about 30 minutes) or inexpensive buses or taxis are also available.
San Agustín is a small town with a population of about 33,000. San Agustín can be reached via road with buses from several different cities in Colombia.
From Popayán, San Agustín is about 5-6 hours by bus but about half of this is an unpaved road and quite bumpy. Popayán is the nearest larger city that has flights from Bogotá on a regular basis. So, you could fly to Popayán and take a bus to San Agustín.
From Bogotá it’s about 10-12 hours by bus to nearby Pitalito. And from Medellín it’s about 14-16 hours by bus to nearby Pitalito. From Pitalito you can take a taxi to San Agustín for about 50,000 pesos.
Top Things to See and Do in Colombia
On the Medellin Guru website, we have been looking at some of the most beautiful places in Colombia in a series of top things to see and do in Colombia. This is due to many readers asking about several of these things to do in Colombia.
We have looked at 20 of the top things to see and do in Colombia, in alphabetical order:
- Caño Cristales – the most beautiful river in Colombia, which has also been called the most beautiful river in the world by some people.
- Carnival in Barranquilla – the second largest carnival in the world.
- Cartagena – Oozing history, romance and sun-drenched beaches, the allure of historical Cartagena is hard to resist.
- Ciudad Perdida – the site of an ancient city in Colombia that is older than Machu Picchu in Peru.
- Colombia’s Pacific coast – often overlooked by tourists visiting Colombia but offering untamed nature and undiscovered beauty that is off the beaten path for most foreign tourists.
- Desierto de la Tatacoa – the second largest arid zone in Colombia is Tatacoa Desert, which has surreal desert landscapes and some of the best stargazing in Colombia.
- Guatapé – a picturesque pueblo near Medellín known for its huge rock and lake. And it’s likely the most visited pueblo in Colombia by foreigners.
- La Guajira Peninsula – one of the most visually stunning places in South America, which is located on the northern tip of Colombia where the desert meets the sea.
- Las Lajas Sanctuary – the most beautiful church in Colombia, which has also been called the most beautiful church in the world.
- Medellín’s Christmas lights – Medellín’s annual world-class Christmas lights known as Alumbrados Navideños.
- Medellín’s Feria de Las Flores – Medellín’s world-famous flower festival each year.
- Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados – a popular national park in Colombia located in the heart of the Colombian coffee region.
- Parque Tayrona – known for its beautiful beaches and the world’s highest coastal mountain range.
- Popayán – a colonial gem in Colombia best known for its white buildings and churches, it’s a city off the beaten path for foreign tourists but is definitely worth visiting.
- Rio Claro Nature Reserve – located about three hours from Medellín, Rio Claro is the perfect place to unplug from hectic daily life and enjoy a picturesque crystal-clear river, canyon and tropical rainforest.
- Salento and the Cocora Valley – Salento is a picturesque pueblo in Colombia’s coffee region and the nearby Cocora Valley is one of the most striking landscapes found in Colombia.
- San Agustín Archaeological Park – the largest group of pre-Columbian monuments and megalithic statues in South America and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- San Andrés – Colombia’s Caribbean island which is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve featuring many beaches, islets and coral reefs that are filled with flora and fauna.
- San Gil – Colombia’s adventure capital that is full of things to do including white water rafting, paragliding, caving, rappelling, hiking and much more.
- San Jose del Guaviare – a hidden gem and eco-tourism location off the beaten path and offering wildlife watching, jungle trekking and delving into Colombia’s prehistoric past.
Also, we included San Agustín Archaeological Park in our list of the top 20 tourist attractions in Colombia.
The Bottom Line: San Agustín Archaeological Park
My impression when I visited San Agustín Archaeological Park a few years ago was that it’s a very impressive site. Furthermore, it has a seemingly endless count of fantastic stone statues located in green hills and surrounded by valleys and mountains.
Unfortunately, this archaeological park is located a long way from any of the major cities in Colombia. So, it doesn’t really receive that many foreign tourists. But it’s a unique place that is worth visiting.
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Editors note: updated on December 8, 2019 with the current entrance fees to San Agustín Archaeological Park.