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 entrance to the park currently costs 25,000 pesos per person, 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.
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 closed on Tuesdays.
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.
Location of San Agustín Archaeological Park
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.
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.
On the Medellin Guru website, we have started looking at some of the most beautiful places in Colombia in a series. This is due to many readers asking about several of these sites in Colombia.
We previously looked at Caño Cristales – the most beautiful river in Colombia, which has also been called the most beautiful river in the world by some people. In addition, we looked at Las Lajas Sanctuary – the most beautiful church in Colombia. And The Telegraph even named Las Lajas Sanctuary the most beautiful church in the world in 2015.
We plan to look at several more notable and beautiful places in Colombia.