Visit San Agustin Travel Guide: The best things to do in San Agustin

Taylor made trip to Colombia

Would you like to travel to Colombia with a travel agency?
Compare the offers of our local partners

When you think of San Agustin, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the image of the pre-Columbian statues in the archaeological park.

But San Agustin offers a wealth of possibilities for lovers of history, pre-Columbian cultures, nature and adventure. We spent 10 days in San Agustin in “slow travel” mode, and we loved it!

In this post, we’ll tell you what we did and what you can do in San Agustin to make the most of this magnificent destination.

Disclaimer: we apologize in advance for any grammatical or syntactic errors, as our native language is not English (we're a Colombian-French couple), so we hope you'll forgive us and still enjoy the information we share with you! Please note that all the information on our blog is based on our own experience, and is checked and updated regularly.

General information San Agustin

  • Foundation: 1790
  • Population: 35,000
  • People: Agustinenses
  • When to go: year-round (although it often rains)
  • Dry season: slight (December to February)
  • Average temperature: 18°C
  • Climate: Semi-humid temperate
  • Altitude: 1730 m
  • Region: Andes
  • Department: Huila

The village of San Agustin

The best things to do in San Agustín

Visit San Agustin Travel Guide: The best things to do in San Agustin

San Agustín is located in the department of Huila in south-east Colombia, in the middle of the magnificent Colombian Massif, where the Andes divide in two.

Although San Agustín isn’t necessarily the prettiest village, it does have its charm. There are some pretty little streets with colonial architecture. We enjoyed wandering around and looking for these little streets and the street art to be found here and there.

Tourism in San Agustín is well developed, so you’ll find all the services you need and a wide range of restaurants (vegetarian too) and small cafés where you can enjoy a good local coffee, which is considered one of the best in the country.

We also recommend a trip to the market (La galeria), where there’s street art all around, and it’s always nice to feel the soul of the village in the local markets, don’t you think?

the umbrella street

It’s a trend in many cities around the world, and San Agustín is no exception: for the past few years, La Loceria, one of the city’s oldest streets, has been transformed to attract tourists, and it’s working. The umbrellas all along the street give a special charm to this historic little street in San Agustín.

El Purutal, El Tablon y La Chaquira

BEst places to see in San Agustin

Visit San Agustin Travel Guide: The best things to do in San Agustin

The traces of the mysterious pre-Columbian civilization don’t stop at the three emblematic parks of San Agustin and Isnos. There are other archaeologically interesting places to discover in the middle of nature.

These are three archaeological sites that are also emblematic of San Agustin. Each has its own particularity, and we enjoyed all three, with a slight preference for La Chaquira! We’ll tell you why below.

You can take a walking tour of all 3 sites: La Chaquira, el Tablon y la Pelota-Purutal. But you can also do it on horseback. Either way, you’ll enjoy the region’s magnificent scenery. It really is beautiful!

We did the tour in 2 days. One day we did the La Pelota-Purutal/El Tablón walk, and the other day the walk to La Chaquira, which was really close to our hotel (which, by the way, we recommend).

La Pelota y el Purutal

This is a hill with beautiful scenery and a special energy. We set off on foot from ola Finca El Cielo, where we were staying, and about 2 hours later we arrived at the site of La Pelota y el Purutal.

Entrance is not free, but not expensive, and a few hundred metres further on, we come across the first three statues with the famous eagle holding a snake in its mouth, surrounded by two guardians.

A little further on, we discover a funerary complex with two tombs protected by two impressive guardians. This is one of the few archaeological sites in San Agustin to feature colorful sculptures!

El Tablón

We continue our stroll towards El Tablon. We’re not in a hurry and we realize that the distances are relatively long for our pace. On the way, we’re lucky enough to see a car with some Colombians we’d met who, seeing us walking along the side of the road, stop to give us a lift… a blessing! They drop us off at the El Tablon crossroads and we drive down to the site.

The El Tablon site features four statues associated with three funerary pavilions. The main sculpture represents Diosa Luna (the lunar goddess).

El Tablon is located on private property, and you descend a hill to reach the series of sculptures. We arrived at the end of the day, and the light was beautiful!

LA DIOSA LUNAR/Moon goddess

It is said that for the pre-Columbian peoples of the region, the moon and female figures were very important. The lunar goddess, which can be seen at the Tablon site, represents one of these sacred figures. This divinity would allow inner transformations..

We have fond memories of this place, as we were lucky enough to meet the family who live there, in the colorful house, and who have created a small ethnographic museum . We were lucky enough to be the first to visit it after the pandemic at the hands of its founder, Don Pedro.

For the past 40 years, Don Pedro has been collecting objects that recall the 3 cultures that made up the current population of San Agustin. Indeed, this region was populated by people from the departments of Huila, of course, but also Cauca and Nariño.

With this museum and its century-old objects, Don Pedro wishes to maintain the historical memory and pay tribute to the traditional trades of these 3 regions, which have left their mark on the San Agustin we know today.

As the afternoon draws to a close, we hurry back to the hotel, as the night will catch us as soon as we arrive, after a rich and beautiful day of hiking! We haven’t said too much about the scenery, but the region is truly sublime, and we’ve had our fill of it.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION EL TABLON

Access by road from Estrecho del Magdalena. At the El Tablon vereda, follow the signs down to the archaeological site.

  • Admission to statues: free
  • Museum entrance fee: $10.000 COP with guided tour

La Chaquira

The next day, we set off for La Chaquir, the last of San Agustín’s three emblematic sites and well worth a visit.

This is Angélica’s favorite spot, not so much for the archaeological aspect, but rather for the splendid view over the Magdalena canyon! It’s really impressive, and worth the walk for that alone.

The sculpture of La Chaquira is surprising in terms of its location and the way the rock has been sculpted. It makes you wonder, why here? Why like this?

It is said that this place was an astronomical observatory and that ancient peoples used it as a solar calendar to govern their agricultural activity.

Are the figures carved on volcanic stones on the mountainside above the Magdalena River canyon guardians? Why is the stone carved on three sides? Is there a connection with the cardinal points?

But as with all the San Agustin statues, the mystery remains!

View of the Magdalena Canyon

As we’ve already said, the main reason for coming to La Chaquira is the exceptional view over the Magdalena river canyon.

The steep-sided valley is impressive, the Magdalena River is still in its infancy, and the imagination runs riot when you know that it will flow into the Caribbean Sea at Barranquilla after crossing the entire country. The Magdalena is Colombia’s longest river.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION LA CHAQUIRA

The site has been landscaped with steps for easy access. The descent (and therefore the ascent) is quite steep.

  • Free entry

There are two ways to reach the Chaquira site:

Waterfalls in San Agustín

BEst places to visit in San Agustín

Visit San Agustin Travel Guide: The best things to do in San Agustin

Cascada el cinco

Just a 20-minute drive from the village, you’ll find an easy-to-reach and fun place to cool off: Cascada el Cinco! It’s a popular spot that gets quite crowded at weekends.

We went there by cab and didn’t expect it to be so far, but in the end we thought we’d done the right thing (plan the return journey with the cab!) It left us at the entrance to the path leading to the waterfall. After a gentle stroll through the forest, we arrived at the waterfall. Full of people! It must be said that it’s a bank holiday weekend in Colombia.

It’s a really easy plan to organize, even at the last minute, and it’s quite pleasant. If you can, we’d advise you to go during the week to enjoy the place more quietly.

El Cinco waterfall info

  • Admission fee: $3.000 COP
  • Bring snacks and water, as there’s nothing on site. All you’ll find is a small tienda at the entrance.
  • If you go by cab or mototaxi, arrange for him to pick you up too. No public transport there.

Los 3 Chorros

We didn’t manage to get there, but we’ve heard a lot about this waterfall, so we’re sharing the info with you.

The 3 Chorros waterfall is 23 km from San Agustín. To get there, you have to go to the La Pradera vereda and then hike for about an hour to get there.

It’s said to be well worth the effort! As its name suggests, the Cascade des 3 Chorros divides into three 30-metre-high waterfalls. It’s a place to connect with nature, and we’re told it’s really beautiful.

The water is icy, but if you’re brave you can swim without worry.

Cab service in San Agustin

Sometimes it can be difficult to find cabs in San Agustin. For example, when we came back from the cascade el Cinco we decided to stay in the village for a while and it was almost impossible to find a cab back to the hotel. It took us 2 hours to find one!

If, like us, you decide to stay far from the city center, and you think you’ll need cabs, here are a few tips:

  • Always ask for the telephone numbers of the cabs you trust at your hotel, or ask the cab driver directly for the number and keep it safe.
  • Arrange for the cab to pick you up as well.

Route of Flavors (Ruta Nagacu)

The best things to do in San Agustín

Visit San Agustin Travel Guide: The best things to do in San Agustin

This tour has been available in San Agustin for a very short time, and from our point of view it’s a great initiative. It’s a tour that lets you meet local producers, find out more about their lives and know-how, and taste their products! It’s a truly unique experience, combining nature walks, gastronomy and cultural exchange.

It’s a full-day tour, including lunch, where we discover four different fincas. We love it!

Don Luis Alejandro – Finca la Cabaña

The visit to this exceptional coffee finca is brilliant. Don Luis Alejandro is a passionate coffee producer who is a well of knowledge and produces some of the best coffee we’ve ever tasted. The tour of the finca is superbly comprehensive, as we’ll discover the coffee production process from week seed to final product.

Don Alejandro grows exclusively high-quality specialty coffees, organically. He also recovers old seeds.

The visit begins and ends with a coffee tasting, during which we discover the differences between two varieties of coffee. It’s probably the best visit to a coffee finca we’ve had so far.

Don Gumer – Proyecto Kutanga

Don Gumer also grows coffee, but his work is totally different. The word Kutanga means “knowledge” in the Quechua language, and sums up Don Gumer’s philosophy: a lifelong project dedicated to recovering ancestral knowledge.

Don Gumer has decided to use ancestral coffee production methods and sees the product more as a food than a beverage. His roasting method is totally artisanal and entirely homemade: a wood-fired oven and a bicycle!

Don Gumer is a real character, and a visit to his finca allows us to discover a wide variety of ancient plants, including aromatic herbs that he also uses to “aramotize” the coffee during drying. Quite an experiment!

One of the surprises of the visit was tasting an infusion of coffee shells. We’d never tasted anything like it before, and it’s astonishingly close to the taste of tea.

Doña Aminta – Finca San Juan Bosco

Doña Aminta welcomed us to her finca, which also produces coffee, with a big smile. But here we didn’t come for the coffee, but for the fruit tasting!

The finca is gigantic and boasts a veritable trail of flavors where you can discover different varieties of fruit trees and a rather unique view of the Magdalena canyon. At each stop, you can learn more about fruits such as oranges, pitaya, pineapples, bananas, mangoes, limes and more.

This is where we ate lunch, a truly delicious fiambre that is included in the tour. Colombian fiambre is a combination of several foods, wrapped in a banana leaf. It usually contains rice, chicken, meat, eggs, potatoes, plantains and chorizo.

James y Jose Ignacio – Casa Waina

James and his father make an original product for Colombia: fruit wines! Their specialty is orange wine, but we’ll discover that they’re currently testing the process with other fruits.

The idea was born out of a desire to get rid of an overproduction of oranges in a year when they couldn’t sell them all. The finca is very pretty and pleasant, and the tour naturally ends with a tasting of three different fruit wines.

The perfect finishing touch to a truly great experience that we 100% recommend!

Book the Taste Route (ruta nagaCu)

To enjoy this unique experience in San Agustin, we’ll leave you with James’ contacts, who organizes the tours. As well as enjoying a truly different day out, you’ll be supporting a community tourism project and the activities of four local farming families!

Contact

  • James – WhatsApp : ( 57)305 723 6076
  • Mail : tournagacu@gmail.com

San Agustin Archaeological Park

Best places to visit in San Agustin

Visit San Agustin Travel Guide: The best things to do in San Agustin

Obviously, one of San Agustin’s must-do plans is to visit the archaeological parks!

This is Colombia’s best-known archaeological zone. The park contains some 150 statues sculpted by a civilization of which we know virtually nothing. In any case, there’s no certainty. There’s so much to say about San Agustin’s various archaeological sites that we’ve devoted an entire post to them.

The three sectors of San Agustin Park

San Agustin’s main park is located very close to the village, and can be reached in 10 minutes by cab. It is divided into three distinct sectors:

  • El bosque de las esculturas
  • Las mesitas
  • El alto de lavapatas.

It takes a minimum of 3 to 4 hours to cover the entire park. We really advise you to do so accompanied by a local guide to learn about the significance of the statues and funerary complexes. Without this information, it’s like watching a film without the dialogue.

Entrance to the park also gives access to the two other archaeological parks located in Isnos: Alto de los idolos and Alto de las piedras.

Practical info San Agustin Archaeological Park

  • Where: 3 km from the village of San Agustin
  • Admission: $35.000 COP (Colombians)/$50.000 COP (foreigners) also gives access to Alto de los idolos and Alto de las piedras (Isnos)
  • Length of visit: minimum 3h (up to 5h)

The best guide to San Agustin archaeological park

We recommend that you contact Don Oscar Ceron for your visit to the park. He’s a guide who knows a lot about pre-Columbian cultures and indigenous cultures in general. We spent 5 hours with him, chatting away, and it was all very interesting.

  • Oscar Cerón ( 57 ) 310 759 4409
  • Price: $100.000 COP (for 2 people)

Make your own chiva” workshop in Pitalito

The best things to do in San Agustín

Visit San Agustin Travel Guide: The best things to do in San Agustin

One of our favorite things to do when traveling in Colombia is to visit artisan workshops. These are privileged and unique moments where we learn a lot not only about their know-how, but also appreciate the work behind each piece at its true value.

During our stay in San Agustin, we headed for the nearby town of Pitalito, just a 45-minute drive away. We had an appointment with Doña Rubiela, a master craftswoman who makes one of Colombia’s most representative pieces: La Chiva! These colorful buses still travel the country’s rural areas.

We wanted to do a workshop with her to learn more about this piece we see everywhere, and make our own!

Did you know that this handicraft originated in Pitalito, and that it’s a product protected by a designation of origin? We had no idea, and that’s one of the things we learned from Doña Rubiela…

During this 3-hour workshop, Doña Rubiela told us many interesting things about the history of Chiva, the characteristics that make it a product with a designation of origin. We also learned how these unique pieces are made, and between laughs and empanadas, we were able to paint and assemble our own Chiva, guided by Doña Rubiela’s expert hand.

We really enjoyed the experience, and it was one of our favorite moments of our stay in this region. It’s very easy to get there and back in a day to enjoy this fantastic experience, which we recommend 100%.

do the “fabrica tu chiva” workshop with doña rubiela

To do this workshop you can contact Doña Ruebiela directly by whatsaap or through her artisan association Coarpi.

Workshop price per person: 50,000 pesos

Tel /Whatsapp : 313 8706534
Mail: coarpiartesanos@gmail.com

To get to Pitalito, you can take public transport from San Agustin. For the return journey, just watch the timetable – the last one leaves at 7pm.

Anillo turístico

Best places to see in San Agustin

Visit San Agustin Travel Guide: The best things to do in San Agustin

The anillo turístico (tourist loop) is another classic plan to do when visiting San Agustin, especially if you’re not staying too long. It’s a one-day tour that allows you to get to know the emblematic sites around San Agustin: the famous Estrecho del Magdalena, the Alto de los ídolos, the Alto de las piedras, the salto de Bordones and the salto de Mortiño.

You’ll find that everyone in San Agustin offers them, official and unofficial guides alike… note that unofficial guides are not allowed to enter the Isnos archaeological parks..

Estrecho del Magdalena

Located half an hour from San Agustin, the Estrecho del Magdalena is a surprising geological feature, the “narrowing” of the Rio Magdalena, Colombia’s longest river.

Here, this immense river, which flows over 1500 km through Colombia to the Caribbean Sea, is squeezed between two rock formations, forming a bottleneck barely two metres wide and one kilometer long. It’s a must-see for Colombians, and the first stop on the tourist Anillo.

Don’t hesitate to take a seat at the entrance for a stone-grilled arepa, the local specialty.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION ESTRECHO DEL MAGDALENA

If you want to get there outside the organized day tour that includes it, “just” take the road of the same name from San Agustin. It’s a 10 km walk to get there, but with a bit of luck you’ll be able to find a bus to drop you off on the way (be careful on the way back, it’s harder to find a bus) or take a cab (check with him for the way back). Entrance is free.

Alto de los ídolos and Alto de las Piedras

These are the other two archaeological parks in the region, located in Isnos, 30 km from San Agustin. Both parks are smaller, but make an interesting addition to the San Agustin park. These sites are thought to be more recent, and you can see the evolution in the technique used to carve the statues.

El Alto de los ídolos is one of the best-preserved funerary complexes in its original environment. At this site, the richness and detail of the human and animal representations, and the size of the statues, are impressive.

At the other site, El Alto de las piedras, you can admire one of the most representative stations of San Agustin’s pre-Columbian culture: the “doble yo” (double I). This well-preserved three-dimensional sculpture represents the spiritual dimension of these pre-Columbian peoples.

Admission to these two parks is included in the price of admission to San Agustin Park.

BONUS: visit a Trapiche

On the anillo turistico road between Isnons and Obando, you’ll see that sugar cane is the main crop. All along the road you’ll see what are known as “trapiches” or “moliendas”: this is where panela, the raw cane sugar widely used in Colombia, is made.

We really recommend that you ask your driver to stop and see how panela is made. You’ll need a bit of luck, as panela is only open a few days a week, mostly just before the weekend, on Thursdays and Fridays.

Don’t hesitate to buy a panela to thank the workers for giving up their time, or to leave a tip.

Salto de Bordones

15 km from Isnos lies the Bordones waterfall, which at 400 m is one of the highest in Colombia. From the viewpoint, you can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the waterfall in the distance. There’s a path leading down into the canyon to get closer to the waterfall, but this will take longer than the day allows. It’s a full-day plan to make the most of it (or even sleep there, as there’s a hotel).

Salto de Mortiño

At 200 m high, this is the second-highest waterfall in the area. This waterfall is actually located inside an amusement park for families and children.

There’s a glass overhang where you can admire the waterfall and scare yourself a bit, as well as various games and so on. We’re not big fans of this kind of place, but if you’ve got kids they’ll definitely enjoy it!

Where to stay in San Agustin

Finca El Cielo

Visit San Agustin Travel Guide: The best things to do in San Agustin

Finca El Cielo is where we stayed in San Agustin, and we recommend it 100%! The hotel is beautiful, the garden magnificent, the welcome is perfect, and even if it’s a bit far from the village, you can get to various archaeological sites on foot.

Other hotels to stay in San Agustin

San Agustin, the best hotels

Casa de François

Hostal

Casa de François

Dormitory : $25.000 to $50.000/Double room : $150.000 to $200.000 COP

As the name suggests, this is a hotel run by a Frenchman, and I hear it’s very nice. The hotel is located at the top of a hill from where you can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view. It’s a property surrounded by gardens, with every comfort and a range of accommodation to suit all budgets. From dormitories to small cabins.

San Agustin, the best hotels

El Maco Finca Ecologica

Eco Lodge

El Maco Finca Ecologica

Double room : $100.000 to $150.000 COP

El Maco is an ecological finca set in the middle of nature, offering excellent value for money. The finca also has a sauna and a restaurant.

How to get to San Agustin

Getting to San Agustin from Bogotá

BUS | Bogotá – San Agustin

  • Companies: Coomotor, Taxis Verdes, Cootranshuila..
  • Journey time: approx. 10h
  • Departures throughout the day

FLIGHT | Bogotá – Pitalito

  • Companies: Satena
  • Duration: approx. 1h20
  • Fare: approximately $300.000

Once in Pitalito, take a buseta to San Agustin (45 min)

Getting to San Agustin from Neiva

BUS | Direct Neiva – San Agustin
Head for the blue module of Terminal Neiva to take the bus directly to San Agustin. Please note that departures are less frequent than those to Pitalito.

  • Companies: Coomotor, Cootranshuila..
  • Journey time: approx. 5 hours

Buses from Neiva to Pitalito are more frequent, then take a buseta to San Agustin.

BUS | Neiva – Pitalito

  • Companies: Coomotor, Cootranshuila, Cootrans Laboyana, Flota Huila..
  • Journey time: approx. 4h

BUS | Pitalito – San Agustín

  • Companies: Coomotor, Cootrans Laboyana..
  • Journey time: approx. 45 min
  • Last departure at 7pm

NIGHT BUS
If you decide to take a night bus, choose a company with large, comfortable buses. Beware of the air-conditioning, which can be very cold, so bring something to cover up with.

FLIGHT | Bogota – Neiva

You can reach Neiva by plane from Bogotá. This option requires a higher budget, saves time, but drastically increases your carbon footprint.

  • Airlines : Avianca, Easyfly, Satena
  • Journey time: approx. 1 hour

Getting to San Agustín from Cali

From Cali, various airlines offer direct flights to San Agustin, but departures are infrequent.

BUS | Cali – San Agustín

  • Company: Coomotor, La Gaitana}}
  • Journey time: approx. 8 hours

The other, more common option is to reach Popayan, then take a bus to Pitalito, then San Agustin. In this case, we recommend staying a few days in Popayan!

Getting to San Agustin from Popayan

BUS | Popayan – Pitalito

  • Bus: From Popayan bus terminal to Pitalito
  • Duration: approx. 6 hours
  • Fare: approx. $50.000 COP
  • Companies: Cootranshuila
  • Departures: regular all day

BUS | Pitalito – San Agustín

Once in Pitalito, many buseta buses take you to San Agustin

  • Companies: Coomotor, Cootrans Laboyana..
  • Journey time: approx. 45 min
  • Last departure at 7 p.m

Fly to Pitalito

This last option brings you closer to San Agustin via the small airport of Pitalito, served by the regional airline Satena. Direct flights depart from Bogotá. You’ll need a bigger budget for this option. From Pitalito, take a bus to San Agustin, as explained above.

PLANE | Bogota – Pitalito

  • Companies: Satena
  • Ticket price : Around $300.000 COP
  • Duration : 1h20

PLANE | Medellin – Pitalito

  • Airline : EasyFly
  • Ticket price : Around $300.000 COP
  • Duration: 1h30

You may also be interested in

Authors

Angélica & Samuel

We are Angélica and Samuel, a French-Colombian couple, professional photographers and web editors specializing in travel to Colombia. We created this blog to change the image of the country, help you prepare your trip and inspire you to discover Colombia in a different way!

Comment soutenir notre blog

Our site contains forms and links that allow you to use services or get in touch with service providers we've tested and recommend. By using our links and forms, you're assured of a quality service AND you're supporting our blog. It makes no difference to you, but it does to us! Thank you for your support!

Leave a Comment

6 thoughts on “Visit San Agustin Travel Guide: The best things to do in San Agustin”

  1. Thank you so much for this valuable information ❤️🙏

    I’m preparing my trip, which will start in February, I think I’ll plan a little more time in San Augustin 😃

    Reply
  2. Thank you very much for your information. Thanks to it, my wife and I (80 years old) had an excellent stay last August in San Agustin

    Reply
  3. Hello! We’ve been traveling in Colombia with our van for two months now, and I just wanted to thank you for your block and your articles, which really served as a guide for us! It was always a pleasure to read and discover your photos! Thanks for all the effort you put into it 😊

    Reply