Thursday, 8 October 2015





After spending the night in a cheap local hotel right next to the bus stop, having a great night's sleep in our private room and even a little pamper session in the morning (hot shower, painted nails and shaved {we were beginning to look a little ruggered} etc.),  we were off to see the only attraction in this little border town - El Santuario de Las Lajas.

We took a colectivo (a five man shared taxi with a set route) and drove the 20min outside of the town to find this neo-Gothic church that is built between a steep gorge.

The legend goes that there was once a woman, who in 1754, was trekking through the treacherous boulders of this area when she heard her daughter, Rose, cry from a distance that the Virgin was calling her.  The women reported this incident to her superiors and the priests, that same year, made their first pilgrimage to this place.  Construction of the church began later that year and the entire sanctuary with all its buildings was only finally completed in 1893. In 1954, Pope Pio Xll, granted the church the status of minor basilica.  And finally in 2007 it was declared a National Heritage Site and the second Architectural Wonder of Colombia.

Pilgrims from all over the country flock here every year to pay homage to the Virgin to whom they attribute the miracles in their lives. We, as tourists, flock here to witness the magnificence of this great structure built between the harsh surrounding hills.
The pilgrims have to entertain their children somehow -  Llama rides to the rescue. 

And pilgrims also get hungry - raw cuy (guinea pig) anyone? Unfortunately we had a bus to catch in the next 2 hours so we didn't have time to stop and eat.  

Our first glimpse of the mighty church between the hills 

Rox standing next to the wall of miracles, where pilgrims have placed various plaques outlining the specific miracle performed.  

Statue in honour of the mother and child who first discovered this Holy place.  

One can really appreciate all the work that must have gone into this, especially with all these intricate details on the outside.  

Delicate stone statue 

Surrounding waterfall 

Massive wooden hand-carved doors depicting the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000 with only 2 fish and five loaves of bread.  

River flowing below the church 

In one of the outbuildings is this religious apparel shop with this beautiful mural carved out of the natural rock 

Rox giving scale to how massive the church really is 

Joy next to one of the prayer chapels 

Map detailing the many structures that make up the sanctuary 

Even at this early hour, the site was overrun by pilgrims and tourists alike -  it took us soooooo long to take these pictures without a random or two cluttering it up!  

View from the opposite side - from here one can truly see what an architectural feat the construction of this church was and how almost out of place it seems 

Rox admiring the natural waterfall 

The bridge just in itself is an impressive structure

'Sanctuary' selfie -  wondering if Quasimodo is staring down at us right now and having a chuckle to himself.  

As there is quite a power river that runs below the church,  the priests installed a small hydro electric station to power the church and make it self-sufficient. 
But this is as close as we could go to sneak a peak at the operations.  

A little park- another way to keep the little kiddies occupied.  They might be as thrilled to come to a big, old, boring church as much as their parents might be. 

Arum Lilly

Teenagers clearly also weren't impressed to have been hauled to this Holy Place and clearly showed their outrage by adding to the already graffiti'ed walls.  No respect for historical artifacts - we wanted to tell them off but could not find the words...literally. 


Pretty little water feature  in one of the ground level courtyards 

Filled in wishing well -  wonder if that means the previous wishes all came true? 

As the day wore on, the sea of visitors got even denser and marred our pure pictures of the church- it was time to make our way back and say goodbye to this Wonder of Colombia.  

The best picture we could manage to get without a random steeping in front of the shot 

The church was actually having a service when we passed by.  We had to have a quick look inside this gold adorned place of worship. 

Stunning stained glass windows 

Before we left we had to have a quick look inside the underground area.  The museum wanted to over charge us to enter and since we were running out of time anyway, we decided to check out this little chapel instead.


Quick few sneaky pictures 

More testimonials of miracles and one of them even came along with this miniature building attached 

Touristy stalls selling classic souvenirs and religious memorabilia 


Then we headed out, past the pretty dressed up lamas again and the now properly grilled cuy (ready to be eaten) and hopped back into a colectivo.

We went back to the Hotel to collect our stuff and went down to the bus station to catch the bus for 8 hours to Popayan.  We arrived there at 1 am in the morning and had to wait in the rather dodgy bus terminal until 5.30 am for the first available bus to our next stop - the archaeologically acclaimed San Agustin... 

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