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Mona in the Southern part of Colombia

From San Agustin I take a bus to Pitalito (1hr, 6.000 cop/pp); from here I take a direct bus to Laguna de la Cocha (9hrs, 50.000 cop/pp, get out at Azul (you will not see a sign with Azul but get off where you see the mototaxis with blue jackets), from here I take a mototaxi azul to the hostel (3.000 cop/pp, 15min), where I will stay in the hostel Nido de Buhos. They have a mainhouse and more down the hill the have their 2nd cute little house.

                                                                                                                    I am impressed by the unique style of the hostel and the size of the lake. After Lago Tota in Sogamoso, Laguna de la Cocha it is the 2nd biggest lake in Colombia.

In the department of Nariño I am already very aware that they do not see many foreigners in here and certainly not blonde ones. People call me Mona a thousand times. Some cannot help to stare at me with an open mouth the whole time. I talk to some locals who are playing cards! The game is called Pinta. They have been playing cards here for 20 years, every day after 4pm. The time stood still here.

I explore the beautiful Nariño department! 

I enjoy the tranquility and the view of the Cañon del Rio Pasto. Wow!

In Pasto I look for a bus to Ipiales (7.000 cop/pp). It's 2 hours away. Once in the terminal, there are already people calling Las Lajas. Yes! I want to go there! I have to wait until the car is full and 10 minutes later I get out to the Sanctuary of Las Lajas. First I pass all kinds of sales stalls and restaurants selling guinea pig meat. Yes, you read that right: they eat guinea pig! This is the influence of Ecuador.

I do not walk alone to the basilica. Many pilgrims follow my example! There are even people on foot from Ipiales who come here as a kind of pilgrimage. The basilica was built in Gothic style. It's really beautiful. The neo-Gothic structure was built between 1916 and 1949 to replace a small chapel that stood here first.

Next to the cathedral there flows a large waterfall which gives it a mysterious touch! The legend tells that the deaf-mute daughter of an Indian woman suddenly started talking when she was looking for shelter for in this cliff. In 1951 and in 1954 it was declared a basilica.

People believe that there are still miracles and fill bottles with holy water to take home. The name Las Lajas is derived from the Spanish word Laga. This is the rock that occurs in the surroundings of the basilica.

Back up at the restaurants I decide to try out the guinea pig meat. I ask for a piece without head on my plate.  It tastes salty and very special. I have nothing to compare it to, but it is certainly not bad. It is a little rare to see these animals with head and all on a spit. But for them it is just as normal as a chicken on a spit for us.

Back in Ipiales I take a collectivo (small local van) (1.600 cop/pp) to the border of Ecuador, where I take another collectivo (2.000 cop/pp) to Tulcan. For this you will not need a passport because you are within 10km (6mi) in the border area.

Once in Tulcan it is only 5min walk to the cemetery.  This cemetery contains many bushes which are cut like pre-Inca and Inca figures.

I even have the chance to talk to one of the architects. He says that with the first trees were cut like this in 1936. The second part (where the designer was coming from) was cut in 1987. Wow! What a beautiful cemetery! If it wasn´t raining, I definitely could walk around here for a few hours. Definitely worth a visit!

An Ecuadorian writer once wrote: 'In the cemetery of Tulcán you would love to die."


  1. cop/tr = Colombian pesos per transport (per taxi).
  2. Bus from Mocoa to Pasto = 5hrs, 55.000 cop/pp.
  3. How to get to Pasto or how to get from Pasto to Popayan?
  4. How to cross the border Ecuador - Colombia?


Written by Colombia Fácil Researcher Magali