Discover the mysterious statues and tombs of San Agustín, Colombia!

by Deborah Durrfeld

Thousands of years ago, the southern part of Colombia was home to a mysterious civilization. This civilization built several burial mounds in which they placed beautiful statues. I’ve been here a few times and I still can’t believe it’s so quiet here. Why is this place not visited more often? And how is it that we know so little about this culture and archaeological site? In this article I’m taking you on a journey to the mysterious statues and tombs of San Agustín, Colombia.

The archaeological site of San Agustín in Colombia

On a 10-minute drive from the town of San Augustín in Colombia you will find the archaeological zone of San Agustín, located in the Magdalena valley. Here you can visit the most important burial mounds, tombs and statues. For a long time, it was a risky area because of the guerrilla battle. Nowadays, it’s perfectly safe to visit. But make sure to be informed about the latest situations in advance. The complex, consists of 4 meseta’s (or terraces), a sculpture forest, ceremonial baths, a viewpoint and a museum.

Most of the sculptures have been examined for years, and there are theories and stories behind all of them. But no information has been confirmed. Something what will make your visit even more interesting. It will make you think and wonder a lot! It can be nice to go on a guided tour, as guides are often archaeologists and can tell you more about these sculptures and theories surrounding them.

1. Terraces

Terraces A, B, C and D consist of clusters of tombs and statues. The statues refer to former situations of daily life, the culture and religious rituals, symbolizing life, death, fertility and forces of nature. These statues provide information about people in these tombs. For example, a burial mound with statues of a shaman or warrior indicates that an important leader was buried here, because he needed the best possible protection.

2. Sculpture forest

This is my favorite place! A winding jungle path runs along 35 beautiful sculptures, each having its own characteristics and stories. The shaman for example must have been the leader at the time. He could communicate with the gods and create a connection between people and the world of gods. Since animals, according to Pre-Columbian peoples, have divine qualities, the shaman was therefore depicted partly as a human, and partly as an animal. These kinds of anthropomorphic images can be found everywhere on the site.

3. Fuente de Lavapatas

According to many studies, this bath area must have been a ceremonial site. With the help of the labels and pictures on the wall, you can identify different figures such as snakes, lizards, a shaman and a child’s face.  As snakes symbolized fertility, it is thought that this is the place where the elite women gave birth and where ritual baths took place.

4. Uitzichtpunt – Alto de Lavapatas

If you have some energy left, you can hike the Alto de Lavapatas, a 20 minutes walk up the hill. You will find different sculptures and tombs. But the most beautiful thing is the 360 view on the surroundings.

5. Museum

At the entrance, you will find a museum presenting, more information about this mysterious civilization. A number of original artifacts can be found here as well. The actual site offers little information, which is why I would recommend visiting the museum if you plan to visit the site without a guide. 

Do you want to discover more statues in the surrounding?

In the surroundings of San Agustín you can also visit sites such as la Chaquira, El Tablon and La Pelota on horseback. Here you will also find a number of sculptures, and the coffee and fruit plantations you’ll discover on the way there makes the trip even more worthwhile. If you really want to immerse yourself in this culture, you should take a car up to Isnos to visit Alto de Los Idolos and Alto de Los Piedras.

How to reach San Agustín?

From the town of San Agustín, you can reach the archaeological site within 10 minutes. The best is to take a taxi or botorbike. San Agustín has 40,000 inhabitants, several restaurants and hotels and is located at 1700 m altitude in the province of Huila.

What to bring?

  • sunscreen
  • solid shoes, the trails can be slippery
  • mosquito protection
  • water
  • money for the entrance fee

Do you want to learn more about this culture and sculptures?

If you would like to know more about this fascinating civilization and its artifacts, I recommend reading this book.


Are you planning to also visit Bogotá? Read all about it in this article.


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This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)

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