The day before yesterday, we finally managed to reach Colombia and cross the border. We had some doubts about hitchhiking in this country, but within a few minutes, a young guy named Luis picked us up. He’s a taxi driver but offered to take us for free to the city of Ipiales. On the way to the city, he asked us where we were heading.
– To that famous church… – we couldn’t finish our sentence, forgetting the name of the church for a moment.
– Las Lajas? – he asked.
– Yes, exactly Las Lajas, – we confirmed.
– I can take you; I’m actually going there… – Luis offered. – For free! – he added a moment later.
So, within half an hour of crossing the border, we found ourselves at our first and one of the most famous attractions in Colombia.
Along the way, Luis also suggested that we stop at a viewpoint to take a picture of the church. It was a very kind gesture on his part!
Las Lajas Church in Colombia
Las Lajas is a neo-Gothic cathedral standing on a bridge over the Guáitara River. It was built on the site of a cave where the Virgin Mary appeared to an indigenous woman and healed her deaf-mute daughter, and later, resurrected her when she died. After this, an unmade image of a woman with a child in her arms appeared in the cave. This icon is still considered miraculous. Pilgrims from all over the world come to it and pray for the healing of their ailments.
On the way to the church, thousands of stone and metal plaques expressing gratitude and testifying to successful healing are attached to the rock.
The first chapel was built at the end of the eighteenth century. After that, it was enlarged and rebuilt three more times. The church we see today is the fourth in line. Construction began in 1916, and it was completed in 1948, during which a thirty-meter bridge was erected over the river gorge.
Las Lajas Church is located seven kilometers from the border town of Ipiales, which is on the border with Ecuador. Entry to the church is free.
Las Lajas Church is very famous and beautiful, but honestly, we didn’t go there just for the church. We simply wanted to spend the night there. Why there, you may ask? Let us explain!
First, let us clarify that we didn’t want to sleep inside the church; we wanted to camp nearby. We had an app on our phone called Overlander, which we’ve had for a while, but we’d never used it before.
However, our friends Lena and Oleg (who are also traveling around the world like us) use it all the time and told us how useful it can be. The app provides a lot of great information for travelers. So, on Overlander, we found a camping spot right next to this famous landmark.
There were recent reviews that said it was easy to pitch a tent there, and it’s a very peaceful place with a beautiful view. We didn’t have any other options for accommodation in Ipiales, so we decided to go there. And that’s exactly what we did, and we completely agree with all the reviews – it was a peaceful place to spend the night right next to the Archangel Gabriel monument!
On our way back, we took photos of the place where we pitched our tent.
It’s Better to Go on Weekdays
We were both lucky and unlucky when it came to visiting this church. We arrived on a Saturday, and not only was there an enormous number of tourists and pilgrims, but there was also a high-ranking military officer’s wedding taking place on that day. Consequently, we couldn’t enter the church that day. It’s not that they didn’t allow visitors; it was just physically impossible to get inside. However, in the evening, when they lit up the church’s fasade…
and just as we were about to take a couple of photos from the viewpoint and had almost set up the camera, a fireworks display began in honor of the newlyweds. Let’s just say it was magical! It felt like we were in Disneyland all over again.
The next day (Sunday morning), of course, we entered the church, but there were even more people. We didn’t see the icon; we just looked around inside a bit…
then, we immediately left and set out on the road once again towards the city of Popayán.
Read also: Popayán – the White City of Colombia.
Therefore, we thought that if you want to explore the church not only from the outside but also inside, it might be better to go on a weekday. Nevertheless, we are glad that we managed to visit this famous attraction, admire the beautiful architecture, walk around the viewpoints, enjoy the fireworks, and appreciate the natural beauty. Besides all of that, there is also a very beautiful waterfall here, which we forgot to mention to you.
And finally, here are a few more photos:
With love from Colombia, Vasya and Nastya