Las Lajas Sanctuary, Ipiales

The south of Colombia hides one beautiful treasure. According with The Telegraph the Sanctuary of Las Lajas is the most beautiful church in the world. It is located in the department of Nariño, just two ours away from Pasto, its capital.

If you are traveling through Colombia, one of the recommended destinations to make your trip unforgettable is to visit the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of Las Lajas. In spanish “El Santuario de Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Las Lajas”. Most known as the sanctuary of las Lajas or just “Las Lajas”. This place take this name thanks to the slabs (smooth, flat and thin stones) that abound in the area.

¿How to get to Las Lajas?

Foto: Flickr @Javier Ernesto Burbano

From Bogotá:

There are two different options for your trip, you can arrive by air or by land. The air tickets from Bogota to Pasto have a range between 150 and 250 USD. Only two companies cover this route: Avianca and Satena. Both companies have similar prices. The flight lasts 1.5 hours, once at the Antonio Nariño airport you must take a taxi to the city center. The price of this trip is about 12USD and leaves it in the part of the city that you need. For this case, in the bus terminal. From there, you must follow the route by bus to Ipiales, it is a two-hour trip and costs 5 USD.

From Ipiales:

Foto: Flickr @Sasha Popovic

Once in Ipiales you have some options, the first is to go to the sanctuary using the cable car. To arrive you must take an intermunicipal bus that will drop you off at the entrance of the cablecar station. The price per person to get on is 7 USD for adults and 5 USD for children (under 12 years).

The other option is that you arrive directly at the entrance area of ​​the sanctuary. To get there you must take a taxi from Ipiales to Potosí where the entrance to the sanctuary is located. Is approximately 35 minutes and is worth approximately 5 USD. Once there you should walk down to the sanctuary, but do not worry, the downhill road is constantly full of merchants and many other tourists attracted by the miracle of La Virgen de Las Lajas.

The Sanctuary:

Foto: Flickr @Juan José De La Torre León Seguir

Annually thousands of tourists from all over the world visit Las Lajas to witness its architectural beauty in contrast to the beauty of the natural landscape that surrounds it. The church is built in an abyss in the middle of the Guaitara canyon. The neo-Gothic construction of the church harmonizes with the slabs, smooth, flat and fragile stones that abound in the area. This construction took more than 50 years to become the wonder what it is today,

Historically the sanctuary of Our Lady of the Slates attracts thousands of Catholics who annually make pilgrimages to render penance or pray for miracles of all kinds. The pilgrimage that has generated the Virgin of Las Lajas has been so much that the entire area around the church is covered with plaques of gratitude for the favors and miracles that the virgin has done to the faithful who pray for their help.

What to do:

Las Lajas
Foto: Flickr @mathissee

The entrance to Las Lajas has no cost. Every Sunday there is mass every hour, where faithful believers make their requests and pray for the blessing of a miraculous virgin who for centuries has helped them. Remember that Colombia is a mainly catholic country with many believers. This means that in general, this place will be full of people during Sundays and to get a place for the mass requires patience.

The sanctuary also has a museum on its ground floor where visitors can find a historical account of what has been the process of construction of this temple. In addition to this, the place have beautiful stained glass windows that illuminate the place and an enviable natural view of the Guaitará canyon.

On the other hand, if you are a nature lover, a few meters from the entrance of the church and halfway between the cable car, you will find a natural waterfall that makes the magic of the place not only for the art created by humans, also by the treasures that only nature provides us.

Finally, around the church you will find spaces to eat and buy handicrafts, the prices vary according to your tastes, but usually they are affordable and are not very high.

Follow this recommendations to enjoy a better experience:

The first and most important recommendation is to wear an appropriate outfit. We suggest you to wear comfortable and warm clothing. Remember that you are in one of the coldest areas of the country and in a highly crowded place.

In addition to this you should pack water bottles and an umbrella in your backpack. Sometimes the weather can shift from a slight dew to a big storm. It is better to be prepared for the worst scenario to avoid ruining your experience.

If you are going to buy handicrafts and souvenirs, we suggest you do it when you are about to finish your visit. The typical crafts you will find are small retorts of the Virgin of Lajas. As the slab is a very delicate stone, a sudden movement or a blow with an object of your backpack will break it. Avoid these impasses and don’t carry excessive weight during your stay in the sanctuary.

Personal suggestions:

Remember that you are in a place that is sacred to the believers. Treat the offerings and the sacred rituals and customs with the respect they deserve. There are some practices that are picturesque and eye-catching, enjoy the cultural experience that seeing those practices represents in a respectful way. If you have any questions or want to know more about a symbol, you can always ask the guides present in the area. Even the salesman and saleswoman. The people of Nariño are very friendly and they are always willing to help tourists.

Finally, do not miss the opportunity to have a warm “Agua de panela” in the cafeterias near the waterfall. The calories that a agua de panela with cheese provide you are really useful. They helped you to attack the low temperatures and test one of the typical drinks of the country.

If you want to access more detailed guides of other tourist destinations in Colombia, we invite you to explore our travel blog.