In total, over 500 millennia-plus year-old statues have been rediscovered in the area around San Agustin, many of which are now refurbished and have been returned to the official park site a mile or more outside the town. What’s really cool, though, is that there are still statues throughout the countryside, some untouched, in situ, and available for free. You just have to be willing to walk or ride a horse.
My wife Emma and I had visited the park the day before, most pleasantly surprised by the lovely stone paths winding the jungle. Reviews from fellow travelers at the hostel had been sketchy, but having never seen the statues on Easter Island—the nearest comparison—we were duly impressed. The site was sculpted and landscaped, the statues protected under tin roofs, but for us, it made for an agreeable morning of tourist-ing. That said, our hike to the neighboring villages, the free sites, was something altogether more awe-inspiring.
In Your Bucket Because…
- The statues at San Agustin are a UNESCO World Heritage site and the biggest collection of religious monuments in South America.
- The area is aces, with an abundance of waterfalls (including Colombia’s two tallest), vistas of rolling mountains, and a pleasant rural town to wonder through.
- It’s a great spot for those interested in history and outdoor activities (horses, rafting, hiking). Great for camping, families, budgeters, the lazy and active alike.
Getting Away from the Park
While the park lived up to our expectations, the surrounding collection of statues turned out to be the highlight of the area. On our second morning in San Agustin, Emma and I set off hiking in a general direction, with some sense of signage to keep an eye out for and a vague knowledge of what we might find: more ancient statues. At some point, we needed to take a right. We knew that. The thing is that walking through the mountains around San Agustin, lost or not, ancient statues or not, is worthwhile in its own right. The tiny town quickly gives way to rural slopes of greenery, dotted with a nice mix of coffee as well as tropical fruit trees—just the ideal climate of getting equatorial but not roasting. So, we ambled, in no hurry, wondering what a piece of land might cost.
In only took an hour (and that one right turn) to get us to the first in situ statues on the loose agenda. They sat at the far edge of a huge expanse—three or four football fields worth—of bright green grass landscaped out of the thickness of the forest around it. Impressive enough, they were much the same as the others we’d seen in the park: Protected with little tin roofs that sort of took away the Indiana Jones-iness of it all.
Finding the Best Statues in All the Land
But, the weather was so nice, the sun out and grinning, birds chirping, breeze blowing, brooks babbling—all the good stuff. There was even a stream bisecting the road such that what little traffic that might have occurred simply washed away. There was no stopping us. Every statue could be covered with a tin roof for all we cared. They were just a good excuse for a long walk. Then, the road led through an oddly vacant hotel-like place (never saw anyone to explain it) and we started going downhill. Really downhill. Like, I was wondering if I was going to be willing to walk back up that sucker. We were trekking through a coffee plantation, on a rocky path to what looked like Nowhere, Colombia (not an actual place), for nearly half an hour. Finally, we reached an amazing lookiout point, a platform from which we could see seven streaming waterfalls disappearing into the valley below. I love finding waterfalls. This was awesome.
Clambering around the area to get different views, we started stumbling upon statues. These didn’t have any tin roofs, but rather they were carved into large stones on the mountainside. And, the more we looked the more we found. There were these amazing faces everywhere, their eyes kind of following us along as we looked. It was a little spooky, wholly satisfying, and perfectly motivating to fuel that climb back to modern civilization feeling our mission had been accomplished.
Cue the theme music!
- I highly recommend our hostel, La Casa de Francios, which was up the mountain, a short walk out of town, on the right route to the find these in situ statues.
- For those with foot injuries, there are guided horse and jeep tours to the in situ statues as well as the two specially designated waterfalls.
- While I highlighted the in situ statues here, the park itself is a Bucket List item, for sure. Don’t miss it while you are there.