Tag Archives: Colombia

Colombia to Ecuador border crossing

After travelling to Ipiales from Pasto and stopping for the morning to visit the Las Lajas Sanctuary we undertook the border crossing to Ecuador.

The easiest way to get to the border is by taxi from the bus terminal for 7,000 pesos, an alternative is a collectivo for 2,000 pesos per person, from the same place. The actual border crossing is located only a 10 minutes drive away.

Ask the driver to drop you off at the Colombian border side for your stamp out as otherwise they will take you across the bridge to the Ecuadorian border. The process is very simple, there are no exit fees to pay and you are simply stamped out.

Once you have your stamp walk across the bridge to the Ecuadorian side, a 2 minute walk, and head into the building on the right. Again there are no fees to pay for entry but you do need to fill in an immigration form before you queue for your stamp.

To carry on with your travels, once stamped into the country, walk across the road and take a collectivo to Tulcan, the first town in Ecuador. The half an hour ride should cost you around a dollar each. Note that in Ecuador the local currency in US dollars.

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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Las Lajas Sanctuary

On our way to crossing the border from Colombia to Ecuador we decided to go and see the Las Lajas sanctuary, situated just 10 minutes away from Ipiales. To make our life easier we opted to leave our backpacks at the bus terminal for 2,000 pesos per backpack.

We then took a collectivo taxi for 2,000 pesos each to Las Lajas, and the same again for the return. We were lucky enough in both instances to not have to wait too long to go as the taxis wait until they are full before departing. 15 minutes later we were dropped off at the top of the sanctuary entrance.

Las Lajas Sanctuary overview

We spent about 2 hours looking around and climbing both sides of the viewing points but you could just as easily spent less time if you are in a hurry. They have plenty of little eateries, gift shops and toilets along the path down to the sanctuary and they seem to accept both pesos and dollars.

Las Lajas Sanctuary

The biggest appeal of the sanctuary has to be its architecture, described as a gothic build, the church hangs to the cliff as if carved out of the very rocks. No where can this be seen any better than at the altar, where you literally see it carved into the rock face.

Las Lajas Sanctuary rock altar

If you have a few hours to spare before going onto Ecuador, or have just come into Colombia, then it’s definitely worth a look. It is not the biggest sanctuary or the most ornate, but the views and the location are breath-taking.

Las Lajas Sanctuary bridge

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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Uncategorized


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San Agustin

The bus journey to San Agustin was bad enough, but the return was even worse as there were delays of over an hour and half to get out of the town, and the bus was fully packed out.

In the end it took us about 6 hours to reach San Agustin from the bus terminal in Popayan. The roads were for the most part unpaved, muddy gravel tracks due to the rain and the bus journey was not only bumpy to the point of flying off your seat but also winding as the bus climbs and descends various mountains.

The bus does not drive into San Agustin but stops at the crossing where you take a car or taxi according to the arrangement of the bus company. Make sure you check this is included in the price of the ticket when you are in Popayan, and also haggle for the price as we managed to drop the price to 25,000 pesos per person instead of the 30,000 that some others paid.

The town itself is very small but has some small restaurants and supermarkets; however places seem to close early so if heading out for dinner don’t leave it too late.

We hadn’t arranged any accommodation and were referred to the Diosa Luna hostel, which was very nice and the host was extremely helpful, but unfortunately had no kitchen facilities so we were forced to eat out which proved quite costly.

Our host explained there were several areas to see outside of the archaeological park and that the full route could be done in a day. Thinking it was only a few kilometres trail we decided to head out the following morning.

The route would start in the town and head towards El Tablon, then La Chaquira, followed by La Pelota and El Purutal, we would then head back down to the archaeological park and see the whole park before returning down to San Agustin.

San Agustin: El Tablon statues

We were told that at no point could we get lost as there were signposts everywhere, but I assure you that once you leave the main road for El Tablon you are on your own the whole way until you reach the park!

San Agustin: archaeological trail

The route takes you through numerous fields and tracks and it was extremely muddy and slippery, which slowed us down a fair bit. Also, the trail is not a few kilometres but closer to 20+, including the park, and its one hill after another so not for the faint hearted!

San Agustin: path to La Chaquira

The walk is very safe and everyone you meet is more than happy to point you in the right direction, which is handy as you will constantly wonder which road to take. There are also a number of rest points along way to help keep you hydrated and fed if you choose not to take your own food.

San Agustin: La Chaquira

The only fees you will have to pay are for the park entrance, and they are 10,000 pesos each, if you want to see the other nearby parks you can opt for a combo deal and pay 16,000 for all 3.

San Agustin: La Pelota

The park itself consists of 7 main attractions: the museum, the woods with statues, Mesita A, B and C, Fuenta ceremonial Lavapatas and the Alto de Lavapatas viewpoint.

San Agustin: El Purutal statue 1

San Agustin: El Purutal statue 2

We left San Agustin at 9am and returned just after 5pm as we took the collective from the park, otherwise it would have been another 3km walk. We only stopped twice, once for a drink and once for lunch, the rest of the time was spent walking! Strangely enough we did not see anyone else walking the route, only people on horses, but despite being shattered at the end of the day we were glad we did it!

View our dedicated page to see all photos from the San Agustin archaeological park.

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Posted by on August 5, 2012 in Uncategorized


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After our interesting bus journey from Cali we arrived in Popayan, a beautifully clean and white looking city towards the south of Colombia. Popayan has a very safe feel to it and there are a number of hostels located either near the main bus terminal or near the historic centre.

Popayan historic centre

The city itself can be easily seen in a day, but there are a number of nearby excursions to be had so you can easily spend a couple of days exploring the area.

Popayan main plaza

Our main reason for visiting Popayan was to use it as a base for seeing nearby places of interest, such as, the indigenous Silvia market located an hour and half away and San Agustin, a little town surrounded by large stone sculptures.

In Popayan we stayed at the Hosteltrail hostel for a couple of days, whilst deciding where to go next, as we wanted to see both San Agustin and Tierradentro, a small indigenous town surrounded by underground tombs with paintings.

The hostel offers an array of information on local transport and places to visit, and we soon worked out that San Agustin and Tierradentro were both around a 6 hour’s bus travel from Popayan but set 7 hours apart from each other, on supposedly very bad roads.

I myself do not travel very well on buses normally, so the thought of these extended rides on windy bumpy roads had me running for the nearest chemist for some travel tablets.

After weighing up the route we decided to head to San Agustin first and then see how we got on from there. If the route was doable we would head onwards to Tierradentro, if not we could head back to Popayan for a night before heading onwards to Pasto.

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Posted by on August 3, 2012 in Uncategorized



Silvia Indigenous Market

The indigenous market of Silvia occurs every Tuesday and is located about an hour and a half from Popayan by bus. To get there simply go to the terminal de transporte in Popayan and walk through to the end of the terminal where you will see a small booth advertising tickets. The cost is 6,000 pesos each way per person. Return buses leave from the main plaza and tickets can be bought in the office.

The market itself is not very big and mainly consists of an indoor marketplace selling fruit, vegetables, meat and modern clothes. What does make it appealing are the people selling at the market.

Silvia market

Arriving in colourful buses, known as chivas, with their local produce the indigenous people from the surrounding villages congregate on this small village in their beautiful traditional clothing.

Silvia market: indigenous people haggling

The women wear bright blue ponchos with black skirts and either black hats if married or straw hats if single. Whereas the men wear long blue skirts and colourful scarfs along with their own black or dark brown hats.

Silvia market: selling vegetables

The market runs from 6am to 2pm but from around lunchtime people start to pack up so if you want to see the place in full swing try to get there for around 10am.

Silvia market: organized stall

The whole place is not very big and an hour will be more than enough to see it even if you decide to sit down to eat something at many indoor eateries.

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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Cali to Popayan – a bus ride to remember!

We flew into Cali from Cartagena and after 2 nights we decided to head onwards to Popayán. We took a taxi for 4,000 pesos to the bus terminal and went upstairs to the Palmira bus desk to enquire about tickets to Popayán. As luck would have it they had a shuttle leaving in the next few minutes, so we bought our tickets for 15,000 each and followed the driver up another level to the shuttle.

What should have been an uneventful 3 hour ride to Popayán turned into quite an interesting journey when we passed the town of Santander. A female passenger and her teenage son asked to be dropped off at a particular point of the highway but the driver refused on the grounds that he could not stop on that part of the road.

This triggered off an argument to unprecedented proportions when the mother started to argue with the conductor and driver, as they claimed that they had been told they could get off at that point and were now being refused.

Instead of just getting off a little further along the road, the teenage son took out a knife and leaned over to the driver threatening him and arguing that he should be dropping them off where they had requested.

This sparked the driver to pull over, get out of his cab and try to enter the main area with a machete! The conductor blocked his path by standing in the doorway but it didn’t stop the driver trying to get at the son with his knife, all the while the mother carried on arguing with the conductor.

We were unsure as to what to do as we were sat on the second row and the passengers from the first row fled to the back. The argument escalated further and the driver shouted that the teenager should learn to respect authority while trying to jab at him through the door.

The conductor eventually seemed to manage to calm things down enough to let the mother and son off. However, rather than staying quiet they started to argue again with the conductor, but this time he got angry at what was being said and seemed to want to get into a punch up with the teenager. At this point the driver came running back waving his machete which prompted the teenager to run off with both the conductor and the armed driver after him.

This prompted screams from some of the female passengers whilst others talked about calling the police. Yet as quickly as it had started, it seemed to end. All of a sudden the conductor was back on board and the driver behind the wheel, with no sign of the teenager.

We later arrived at a police check-point, where I assume the driver explained what had happened as he had a long chat with the officer.

Luckily the rest of the journey continued without any problems and we arrived safely in Popayán for early afternoon, but we wont be forgetting the bus ride in a hurry!

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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Uncategorized


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We took a door-to-door shuttle service from our hostel Dreamers in Santa Marta directly to our booked hostel in Cartagena for 42,000 pesos each. The shuttle itself was very comfortable and extremely safe as the side door could only be opened remotely by the driver.

We arrived at the Marlin Hostel where we had pre-booked but were extremely disappointed with what we found. They had no air-con rooms available for us and the only rooms they could offer us were either a 4 bed dorm with a strong smell of mould and no windows or a bunk bed room, which we took but later turned out to be an oven despite the fans and was so small we barely had space for our backpacks. As it was late we stayed for the night but spent the evening searching for an alternative. We found the Casona Hostel, with thankfully air conditioned rooms, located just around the corner and liked it so much we moved across the next day and stayed for nearly a week!

Cartagena: historic centre

Cartagena itself is a bustling city filled with pretty little roads and buildings in the historic centre and narrow streets with beautiful old colonial buildings that have definitely seen better days, but are still impressive in their standing and make you wonder how stunning the city must have been.

Cartagena: old city walls

During our time in Cartagena we explored the historic centre with the clock tower entrance, the port area, the beautiful old walls that almost completely surround the city, the Getsemani borough and the old fortress situated across the river. We got very lucky with the fortress as we happened to visit it on the afternoon of Cartagena’s Independence Day and entry was free!

Cartagena: clock tower entrace

Cartagena: Castillo San Felipe de Barajas fortress

Overall the city felt pretty safe and there is plenty of choice for accommodation, eating and supermarkets. In fact if you stay in Getsemani you will find everything you need on your doorstep and you are still only a 5 minute walk from the historic centre and a 15 minute walk from the beach.

Cartagena: view of new city from walls at dusk

The only downside with the city is the heat, especially in July and August, after about 10.30am you have to get back into an air conditioned room just to stop melting. The heat in the city is stifling and even going out for a meal in the evening can leave you in need for a shower afterwards!

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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Uncategorized


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