We’d heard San Agustin was worth visiting just as much for the scenery as for the unique archaeological sculptures that had been found in the area. This is well warranted. The town itself is quite charming, but the most exceptional places to stay are the sprawling cabin communities, a handful of which are located a few kilometres from town. We stayed at Casa del Nelly, which was an excellent choice.
To get to San Agustin from Cali, there are two options. The one with the most routes is to take a bus from Cali to Popayan and then connect to San Agustin. It is also possible to catch a couple of the daily buses that go direct to San Agustin. And by direct, I mean directly to almost San Agustin, where you are deposited and taken the remainder of the way by a taxi, which the bus company pays for. Casa del Nelly is a further 5000 peso cab ride from town.
We arrived at night, and so it wasn’t until the morning that we got to appreciate the beauty of the area. The lush valley was a welcome reprieve to the senses after the bustle and exciting grunge of Cali. The tranquillity of the casa was incredibly – it was a place that immediately put a yoga mat, a glass of red wine, and a good book to the top of my wish list. The sort of place that inspires creativity, relaxation, and inspiration all at once. Despite our dwindling stock of time in Colombia, we jumped at the opportunity to do very little with our first full day in the area. We enjoyed the village and were pleasantly surprised with the number and quality of restaurants, shops, and bakeries. We lounged, wrote, dusted off the yoga mat, and enjoyed the company of our newly adopted friend, Fi, a Scot. The next day, we took full advantage of where we were, and walked to the archaeological park, the main attraction in the area. There are, in fact, a number of parks in the area that are home to archaeological findings, but the largest and most impressive artefacts are in the main one. You will find no shortage of jeep and horseback tours offering to take you around for the day, if you so desire to explore further.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site features large stone sculptures much different from anything we’d seen on the trip thus far. Almost comical in nature, the sculptures had been excavated from several burial sites. The area had been inhabited by pre-Hispanic civilizations that had disappeared from the area sometime between 1300 and 1400 AD. The beauty of the area, including beautiful valleys and small waterfalls, adds to the appeal of San Agustin.
It wasn’t somewhere I would rate as highly on my Colombia list as places like Salento or the majority of the cities — with only a couple of weeks in the country you could easily give it a pass and not feel as though you’ve missed out on too much. But the air of the high hills, the ease at which it is possible to unwind, and the ability to eat, sleep, and live well on a tight budget are all appealing factors.