Top things to do in San Agustin: a natural and archeological paradise
Updated: Jan 2, 2022
San Agustin is a truly authentic paradise in the Huila department, about 8 hours far from Bogotà. It's the perfect spot if you like cozy familiar villages, doing activities in direct contact with nature and archaeology.
In fact, the area is known for its incredible statues made of volcanic stones dating back to 4 000 years ago. These archeological heritage is protected in the main Archeological park, but also in other mountainous areas surrounding the village. The true meaning of these statues is still uncertain, which makes San Augustin a fascinating mystic place.
We stayed in Hostal Bambu (about 25 000 COP/night in a dormitory), a very familiar accommodation spreading positivity and energy. The hostel is located in a perfect position to reach the center of the village and, right behind it, there are various paths for treks in the area.
How to reach San Augustin?
By bus from Bogotà (around 8 hours) or Neiva (around 4 hours)
By plane in the nearest airports of Pitalito (1h20 from Bogotà)
By car from Bogotà, Neiva, Medellin or Cali
Best treks in San Augustin
Trek to El Tablon, la Chaquira, la Pelota (10km, 5 hours)
This trek is the perfect option if you want to mix a nice walk into nature with the discovery of the archeological heritage of the village. In fact, in this 10km walk you'll cross countryside colourful fincas, cows and horses, as well as various archeological sites where to admire the famous statues. The walk is about 5 hours depending on how long you'll stay in each stop and it's about 540m elevation gain. You can follow the exact GPS road here.
In El Tablon you'll go down on a hill to discover the statues and there's also a museum, El Museo ethnografico. La Chaquira is a truly magic place representing fertility, darkness and light. The statue is still carved in the rocks and it's quite impressive to see it totally surrounded by green hills, amazing waterfall and the valley of Magdalena river, the most important river in the country. La Pelota, instead, is the only site where it's possible to admire the statue with the original colours made of natural pigments, it's truly impressive! The entrance to the site is about 5 000 COP and it must be paid at the main gate. Right before the colourful statues, there's a lovely woman explaining a bit the history of the place while sharing her artisanal savoir-faire with the Telar Egypto, a local technique to create jewels with colourful spins. She was teaching her son the technique in order to pass it from generation to generation and I find it so amazing, because to me it's so important to support local artisans and traditions!
Trek to el Cinco waterfall (8 km - 2-3 hours)
El Cinco is the closest waterfall to San Agustin and the trek is about 8km in total (around 2-3hours). You can easily find the road on Google Maps or Mapsme, otherwise check the itinerary here. After walking in the forest for about 1h30, you'll meet this unspoiled natural paradise where you can bath. Usually, there's a local farmer that will take you 5 000 COP, to help the maintenance of the area, in fact when we arrived he was cutting bushes.
Just a few steps up to the waterfall there are other natural pools that you can't miss.
Continue on the way up to find another way back to San Agustin in the middle of lulo plantations.
Trek to Tres Chorros waterfall (25km - 8 hours)
Tres Chorros is a wonderful waterfall, but the trek to reach it is very intense. In fact, this natural beauty is located about 25km from San Agustin and it will take you the entire day to explore it on foot, plus the pathways is not really well indicated (click here to check the road). You can always ask locals to help you (''Preguntando se va a Roma'' as they say here''), otherwise a taxi will be able to bring you to a closer village where to start the walk.
Our adventure was a bit crazy, in fact it started raining so much and we totally lost the track to reach the waterfall. We ended by coming back by Chiva, the colourful buses that connect the various mountainous villages, definitely a funny experience!
Trek to Laguna Magdalena
The trek to Laguna Magdalena can be done in 3 or 4 days and it's a combination of car, walks and horse riding. While the other treks can be done by yourself, for this one you'll have to be with an agency that will take care of the entire organisation (accommodation, transport, meals...) for a cost of about 600 000 COP/person. We didn't do the trek but we had this recommendation: Expedition Colombia. Otherwise ask your hotel/hostel to recommend the best local service provider.
Best tours in San Augustin
Archeological park of San Augustin
The archeological park of San Agustin is definitely one of the main attractions of the city as well as an important UNESCO heritage site. It has the largest collection of religious sculptures in South America with about 4 000 years of history, really impressive! For the entrance they will give you a kind of passport valid for three days for a cost of 60 000 COP. Once there, you can decide to do the tour with a local guide or simply by yourself.
Tours by jeep or by horse
Many hotels and hostels will propose you to do tours by jeep of by horse to explore the area of El Tablon, la Chaquira and la Pelota as well as to access various view points to the main waterfalls of the area. The horse riding tour seems a great option especially early in the morning or at the end of the day to enjoy the colours of the sunset!
If you're looking for a bit of adrenaline, you won't be upset in San Agustin. There are many agencies proposing ziplines, canyoning and mountain bike tours. Check this agency to know more: Adrenalina Extrema.
Other highlights in San Augustin
Stroll in the main streets full of colours, amazing graffitis and decorations as the typical dream catchers
The artisanal market in the main square and the street food
Check with your hostel/hotel the events taking place in San Agustin. For example when we were there, we went to an indigenous music concert and this was fantastic!
Try some delicious vegetarian restaurants as Massala and Tomate
Admire the various artisanal shops from the area
If you're looking for an experience of volunteering, we met the owner of a finca de café called La Cometa. He's a French guy married to a Colombian girl, they bought a piece of land here to establish a coffee plantation. So interesting to do an experience here!
Go to the Zona Roja to feel the night vibe of San Agustin during the weekend. You'll find many bars and discos as Corona Club!
San Augustin was really a special place to me that made my most authentic part to stand out thanks to the magic atmosphere of this place and the beautiful souls that I met. Compartir is definitely the key word: sharing our generosity, our background, our abilities and visions. Different nationalities, different stories, but energy, positivity and love for life are what unites us all.