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Introducing San Agustín

Centuries before Columbus dreamed of the new world, the rolling and remarkably green hills around San Agustín were home to an enigmatic civilization that congregated here to bury their dead and honor their memory with monumental stone statues. It's easy to understand why they chose to consecrate this lush, mountainous land of dramatic canyons and ethereal mists.

Little is known about the peoples of San Agustín. They didn't have a written language and had disappeared or dispersed several centuries before the Europeans arrived on the scene. Yet they have left behind at least 500 statues that still enthrall the visitor. Many of them are anthropomorphic figures - some realistic, others resembling masked monsters. Still others depict sacred animals such as the eagle, jaguar and frog. The largest is 7m high. Archeologists have also uncovered pottery and gold objects in the tombs of what is believed to be the tribal leaders.

Give yourself three days for leisurely visits to the most interesting places, preferably by horseback - a great way to see the scattered statues as well as the humble farms of this remote land. Note that this is the one place in the Colombian Andes where you're likely to receive a hard sell from tourist operators. The weather is varied, with the driest period from December to February and the wettest from April to June.

Before setting out, check current conditions on roads in and out, especially the rough journey from Popayán.