The thoroughly laidback little town of SAN AGUSTÍN, 140km southeast of Popayán, has everything a budget traveller could want: awesome landscape, cryptic remains of a forgotten civilization, bargain-basement prices and a plethora of outdoor activities – from white-water rafting to horseriding. There’s plenty to discover here, in particular the archeological park. Some 3300 years ago the jagged landscape around the town was inhabited by masons, whose singular legacy is the hundreds of monumental fanged stone statues comparable in detail to the more famous Moai statues found on Chile’s Easter Island.
Much mystery still surrounds the civilization that built the monoliths, though the surreal imagery of sex-crazed monkeys, serpent-headed humans and other disturbing zoomorphic glyphs suggests that the hallucinogenic San Isidro mushroom may have been working its magic when the statues were first created. What is known is that the priestly culture disappeared before the Spanish arrived, probably at the hands of the Inca, whose empire stretched into southern Colombia. The statues weren’t discovered until the middle of the eighteenth century.
To see San Agustín and its surroundings properly, you ideally need three days: one for the archeological park, one for a day-long jeep tour of the outlying sights, such as the Alto de los Idolos, and one for a horseback tour of El Tablón, La Chaquira, El Purutal and La Pelota.