El Santuario Las Lajas (Las Lajas Sanctuary) is a beautiful basilica located in a canyon in Ipiales, Colombia. Built with a gothic style between 1916 and 1949, Las Lajas is a popular tourist destination near the Ecuador border not only for its architecture, but for its religious and cultural significance in the region and its family-friendly walking trails, picnic and playground areas, and local foods and souvenirs.
The construction of the church has a significance behind it. According to Colombia.travel, legend says that an indigenous woman named María Mueses and her daughter Rosa saw the image of the Virgin Mary appear in 1754 where the church stands today. As one of the most important churches in Colombia, it was declared one of the wonders of the country in 2007.
We were a little rushed at the Sanctuary since it was our border crossing day, but we had a relaxing walk in and around the church, and then enjoyed a picnic lunch at a table down by the waterfall. In total, we spent just under two hours visiting the church. If you’re looking to buy souvenirs or eat a traditional snack/lunch, there are little restaurants and shops at the top of the hill where the taxi or colectivo will drop you off. And if your stomach is up for it, feel free to try the “cuy” (guinea pig)…
How to arrive:
1. From the Pasto bus station, take a bus to Ipiales (10,000 pesos / ~$1.30 USD, ~1.5 hours).
2. Once you’re at the Ipiales bus station, take a colectivo or taxi directly to the Sanctuary. Our taxi cost us $9,000 pesos / $3 USD for three people and took 10 minutes.
3. To go back to Ipiales from Las Lajas, you can again take a taxi or a colectivo. On the way back, we decided to take a colectivo at the cost of $2,300 pesos (80 cents) per person.