San Agustín Archaeological Park is one of Colombia’s most important archaeological sites and is located near the small town of San Agustín in the department of Huila. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains the largest collection of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in Latin America. If you have an interest in Latin American culture and history then it’s a must-visit site in Colombia, so here’s a complete guide to exploring the park.
Getting to the park is easy once you’ve arrived in San Agustín itself – to get to the small town you will need to get a bus from Bogotá (which has direct routes to San Agustín) or get to Pitalito in Huila, where you can easily find a bus for the one-hour trip to the town. Alternatively, you can fly to Pitalito with Satena Airline, or to Huila’s capital, Neiva.
Once you’re in San Agustín the quickest way to get to the park itself is by either local bus or taxi – both options are fairly cheap as the park is located less than 15 minutes by road from the town. It’s less than five kilometres, so walking is also an option if you have time and it’s a nice day.
Visiting the San Agustín Archaeological Park is good value for money, considering the number of stunning sites to which your ticket buys access. The standard cost for a ticket is 25.000 COP (roughly US$8); this ticket comes in the form of a small ‘passport’ which gives you access to any of the major archaeological sites of the San Agustín region over a two-day period (see below for more information on these sites). With a group of 10 people or more, the price goes down to 15.000 COP per person, while children under 12 and adults over 60 are free. The park is open between 8AM and 5PM.
The main park itself easily has enough to see and do to fill a full day. Once you have paid your entry fee there is a small but interesting museum located alongside the ticket office; this is recommended, as it gives some added context and history to the park which will really enhance your appreciation of it. The nearest trail to the entry point is through the ‘Forest of Statues’, a pretty trail through a cloud forest where a number of the iconic San Agustín statues have been placed along the route.
From the forest you can then head off to the main park: the sites are all clustered within a reasonable walking distance of each other and include the sites known as Mesita A, Mesita B, Mesita C, La Estación, Alto de Lavapatas, and Fuente de Lavapatas. All of these different sites consist of a variety of ancient statues, tombs, and stunning carvings into riverbeds (the unique and magical Fuente de Lavapatas site). It is highly recommended to join a guided tour for at least some of the walk, as the guides truly do shine a light on the ancient history and mysteries of these relics.
These sites make up the main park, but your ticket also gives you access to several other sites such as Alto de los Ídolos and Alto de Las Piedras, two excellent sites from distinct eras, both located farther out of town closer to the small town of Isnos. Most people visit one or both of these sites as part of a tour that also includes a visit to the Estrecho de La Magdalena – the narrowest point of the Magdalena River – and Salto de Bordones, Colombia’s tallest waterfall.