In one of Colombia’s southern departments, Huila, lies the country’s most important archaeological site: San Agustín. Quite a journey from Bogotá, but it’s absolutely worth it. For history and archaeology lovers the place to be, but even if that’s not your main goal, San Agustín is a great destination. After all, here you will find a wide variety of activities, sights and nature. In the series “San Agustín,” I take you to a place that surprised me on several fronts. From the famous archaeological park to impressive waterfalls and from long horseback rides to the nicest coffee finca I have visited so far. We also took a day trip by car to several beautiful places. San Agustín: a surprising piece of Colombia!
Day trip from San Agustín to Isnos
One of the activities not to be missed when traveling to San Agustín is a day trip to Isnos. Most travelers do this trip with a jeep, but since we were with our own car, we went out on our own. Check out our itinerary here, what to see and how you can also do this round trip.
Stop 1: From Eco-Hotel Restaurante La Antigua to Estrecho del Río Magdalena
At 9:00 AM we depart from our fabulous eco-hotel towards the first stop: Estrecho del Río Magdalena. In other words, the place where Colombia’s most famous and largest river reaches its narrowest point. Once there, it is enormously crowded with Colombian tourists (because high season) wanting to see their river up close. The Magdalena is only 2.2 meters wide here, which is not very interesting if you do not know the river. But if you do know it, then you know that this very narrow stretch is quite special for this immense river.
Stop 2: Obando Museum
From the Río Magdalena we continue to the village of Obando. Here you will find tombs and a museum with information about the history and finds in the tombs and the surrounding area. Thirty graves were found, eight of which are now on display. You won’t need much time here, but it’s certainly an interesting stop. | Cost: 2,000 pesos per person.
Stop 3: Parque Arqueológico Alto De Los Ídolos
After driving quite a bit on a not very good road, we arrive south of the village of Isnos. Here you will find the second most important archaeological park in San Agustín: Alto De Los Ídolos. This park possesses the largest statue of San Agustín (7 meters high) and consists of seven burial mounds. The large stone tombs resemble dolmens and are very interesting to see.
Stop 3: Isnos
We drive back a bit and take the exit to the busy village of Isnos, where we have lunch at a bakery. From here we continued on a very bad road, eventually arriving at a waterfall.
Stop 4: Parque Arqueológico Alto De Las Piedras
The last acheological stop on our day trip is Alto De Las Piedras. Not a big site, but an interesting one. Among the things we see there are the famous statue El Doble Yo and the statue of a pregnant woman. El Doble Yo consists of a human character with large fangs who carries on his head another human character and animals. This particular image is the subject of many theories, with the most popular being the theory of psychoanalysis. This place is also characterized by deep graves on which the original colors can still be seen.
Stop 5: Salto de Bordones (the Bordones waterfall).
From Alto De Las Piedras, we continued on the bad road to the first waterfall: Salto de Bordones. We are extremely happy with our 4×4 vehicle and, after much humping, arrive in the mini-village of Bordones. From here it is a short walk to the waterfall viewpoint. There is a narrow and bumpy trail further down to another viewpoint. No one is there and we walk down the mountain through nature. A pleasant change after the many statues we saw earlier in the day. The waterfall is located in the Parque nacional natural Puracé and you can therefore visit it from the other side. In fact, from the park you can walk to the base of the 400-meter-high waterfall and there are other opportunities to get very close.
Stop 6: Salto el Mortiño (the Mortiño waterfall).
Our last stop is about 9 kilometers south of Isnos and is a spectacular 200-meter-high waterfall that thunders deep into the ravine. The waterfall is easily accessible along the road between Pitalito and San Agustín and very worthwhile. There is a deadly viewpoint, but you can also walk a short distance along the ravine toward the waterfall. Beautiful coffee plantations and banana trees surround the gorge and provide additional beautiful pictures. Aloe vera also grows here. | Cost: 2,000 pesos per person.
How to arrange this day trip
The most common way to take this day trip if you don’t have your own car, is with an organized jeep tour. You can arrange these at your hotel, at the archaeological park or at the very helpful information center in San Agustín. If you have your own car, you can also easily do this tour on your own. However, it is helpful to take a few things into account.
Driving in San Agustín and Isnos
Traveling to and in San Agustín is fine by car. This gives you complete control over when you go where, and you can stop anywhere you want. However, driving in and around San Agustín is not always easy, as many roads are bad. If you decide to do this day trip with your own car, keep in mind that almost no road is paved. Many roads are ok to drive, but the section between Isnos and Salto de Bordones is very bad. So a 4×4 vehicle is recommended. We have seen many normal cars driving the route, but this obviously took a lot of effort and more time, plus there is a bigger chance of damage. So renting a 4×4 is definitely recommended for this trip. Learn more about driving in Colombia here.
How much time do you need?
The tour lasts all day. We started at 9:00 AM and were back in San Agustín after 6:00 PM. We traveled pretty fast and did not eat lunch extensively, but because of the bad roads it takes a long time to get anywhere.
What else is there to see?
If you have time to spare or do not want to see the falls, you can also choose to visit the archaeological sites Alto De Los Ídolos and Granada after the Alto De Las Guacas archaeological park. Between the village of San Agustín and the Magdalena River, you will also pass the small museum El Tablón.
There is much more to see and do in beautiful San Agustín, such as this cool horseback ride. For more information read the mini guide San Agustín Colombia.
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