San Agustin

Overview

Introduction

The small village of San Agustin, Colombia, lies in the center of an assemblage of ancient archaeological sites noted for their stone monoliths, in one of the most beautiful areas in the entire country.

The civilization existed there AD 500-1100 and remains a mystery to this day: All that's known about the San Agustinians is what can be deduced from the ruins of their statues, carvings, ritual baths and elaborate burial grounds. Most images are of jaguars or men with fanged teeth, which guard the many tombs.

The San Agustin area, 240 mi/385 km southwest of Bogota, is more or less one large park with various sites accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicle, on horseback or on foot. The main site—Parque Arqueologico San Agustin—has the largest collection of monumental monoliths and tombs, and the park headquarters there houses a small museum. The rough roads to San Agustin can be problematic, so check conditions before you head out.

Perhaps the most spectacular scenery in the area is the Magdalena River gorge, a steep-cliff canyon with side streams dropping off into magnificent waterfalls. To reach the second most interesting site, Alto de Los Idolos, you must cross the gorge on a covered bridge. (Warning: Robberies have occurred on this track.) The site rests atop a hill with commanding views of the lush surroundings.

The small colonial-era village of San Agustin has a wide variety of accommodations and food. Many places are run by Europeans, who are settling down there in increasing numbers. The nearest airport is 140 mi/225 km to the north in Neiva.

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