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 the San Agustin archaeological park in Colombia.
San Agustin archaeological park in Colombia
Near 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 burial mounds, tombs and statues, from the San Agustin civilization. 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 will tell you more about these sculptures and theories surrounding them. These are the 5 main places to discover during a visit.
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.
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.
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.
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 best thing is the 360 degree view of the surrounding valley.
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.
Surroundings of the San Agustin archaeological park
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 the San Agustin archaeological park?
From the town of San Agustín, you can reach the San Agustin archaeological park in Colombia 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
- solid shoes, the trails can be slippery
- mosquito protection
- money for the entrance fee
Learn more about the San Agustin sculptures
More about Colombia
Intererested in reading more about Colombia? This is an article with the most beautiful places to visit in Colombia, including the best time to visit. Or check out the Colombia blog page with city guides and things to do in Bogotá, Medellín and Santa Marta. Tips for lovely towns such as Salento, Mompox and Villa de Leyva but also the Tatacoa desert and Valle de Cocora, where you’ll find the highest palms in the world.