Imagine a waterfall in the middle of a colorful neighborhood, a stunning view of a cathedral among green mountains and a nice warm temperature. When you think of the Colombian town of Pasto, you immediately think of the famous cathedral of Las Lajas and the border crossing with Ecuador. But the department of Nariño has much more to offer than just that. The village of Sandoná, for example. Somewhere in the middle of Nariño, you’ll discover more of Colombia than just the highlights. Why is a visit to Sandoná worthwhile? And how do you get there? You’ll find this and more information in this blog.
Sandoná | A hot day trip from Pasto
Nearly 50 kilometers from Pasto Colombia you will find the village of Sandoná. It takes you 1.5 hours to get there through the many hairpin turns. The outward journey, however, is mostly downhill. Indeed, Pasto is at an altitude of 2,600 meters; Sandoná at 1,848 meters. A substantial descent that simultaneously brings a temperature rise of about 10 to 15 degrees Celsius. So if you are tired of the cold in Pasto, Sandoná is a good option.
Sandoná was founded in the year 1867 and is characterized by its impressive cathedral that towers over everything. The village is home to some 26,000 people whose occupations include hat making, sugar and religion.
Visit Sandoná | What to do?
Early one morning in Pasto, I board a minivan (in the very literal sense of the word) that takes me and a few others to Sandoná. Along the way, I enjoy beautiful views and my brought sandwich. When I get out of the “van” 1.5 hours later, the sweat breaks me out. I don’t know how quickly to get rid of my scarf and warm coat. In Pasto, these clothes were still needed, here they were definitely not. Once dressed a little more comfortably, I take my camera out of my bag and start walking. Sandoná turns out to have quite a lot to offer for such a small village.
Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Rosario in Sandoná
In Sandoná’s central square you will find the beautiful Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Rosario. Not to be missed, as this impressive structure towers over everything and is also quite prominent. Also be sure to take a look inside.
The colorful staircase to water and views
After the church, it’s time for views. In the village you will find colorful stairs leading up to the top, which of course, as a view-lover, I immediately climb. And I am not disappointed. At the top, I have a wonderful view of the village and especially the cathedral, which stands out beautifully against the impressive green mountains in the background. To my surprise, I find a particularly beautiful surprise here at the top of the steps….
Waterfall (Cascada) of Belén
At the top of the colorful steps, I enter a street with many colorful houses. But far more interesting is the high waterfall at the end of that alley. Out of nowhere a true gem in nature that immediately caught my attention. Just more or less in the middle of the village. The Cascada de Belén is 125 meters high and at the foot of the waterfall you will find the white religious monument Nuestra Señora de Lourdes. Are you in Sandoná? This is the absolute highlight and not to be missed!
Views of Sandoná
The same spot at the top of the steps also offers a wonderful view of the village. A nice place to take a moment to enjoy all the beauty the village has to offer.
How to get to Sandoná from Pasto?
From Pasto, colectivos (minivans that leave when full) go to Sandoná. These colectivos do not go from the terminal in Pasto, but from another place on the outskirts of the city. Ask at your hotel to call a cab to take you to this terminal. Once at the terminal ask for the colectivo to Sandoná. After about 1.5 hours you will arrive in Sandoná.
Sandoná has a wonderfully warm climate where you don’t need a coat or scarf. So bring a bag to put your warm clothes in when you come from Pasto, because you will need it there. Above all, enjoy the warmth in this beautiful village.
How much time do you need?
A morning and lunch in Sandoná will suffice. There is more to see in the area if you have the time. I myself stayed until about 2PM and upon returning to Pasto I went to a museum. Perfectly compatible.
Where to stay
I myself did everything in Nariño from Hospedaje La Bohemia in Pasto. Here they give good information on how to get where and also arrange cab for you, for example. Very helpful and a nice stay.
Although the city of Pasto is safe to visit, most parts of Nariño are colored red or orange. That doesn’t mean you can’t go there, but inquire in advance about the current security situation at your hotel. Highlights such as Las Lajas and Laguna de la Cocha are always good to visit, but if you want to go to lesser-known places ask for information first. It is not always unsafe everywhere, it depends on what is going on in the country and in the region at the time and thus varies from day to day/week/month.
The route between Pasto and Popayán and Popayán and Cali (especially the latter) is almost always unsafe. Only take this route during the day and go by plane if you come at an unsettled time (ask at your hotel or to the local police).
Your itinerary through Colombia
The department of Nariño is located in quite a remote corner of Colombia and is therefore skipped by many travelers. If you have the time, however, you can combine it perfectly well with other destinations in the south. For example, from San Agustín to Pasto, from Pasto to Popayán and from there continue your journey through Colombia. If you only have 3 weeks, this detour may not be a good idea, but at 4 to 5 weeks or more it is perfectly doable.
Another option is to spend a few days in Pasto when going from Colombia to Ecuador or coming into Colombia from Ecuador. You will pass through the department of Nariño and it is a shame to skip this beautiful region.
Discover more of Colombia than the highlights and enjoy what else this beautiful country has to offer.
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