In a small town on the border of Colombia and Ecuador is a beautiful enormous church called Las Lajas Sanctuary. It was built from January 1, 1916 to August 20, 1949 and looks more like a church out of Europe than South America with it’s massive neo-gothic look. Before 1916, it was a much smaller church and went through several phases before it became what it is today.
The church was built after a family in the 1700’s saw the Virgin Mary in the sky right where the church is during a heavy lighting storm. The Virgin of Las Lajas has presumedly performed miracles for the families thereafter.
It’s often skipped by travelers unless you’re crossing to or from Ecuador. It’s out of the way from most destinations if you’re only traveling within Colombia. For this reason, you’ll mostly see Ecuadorians and Colombians visiting the church. It’s obviously busy on Sundays so if you can, try to visit during the weekdays although the services are interesting to listen and watch as well.
There’s a small museum right outside the church that’s worth a visit. Not much to see besides a brief history lesson but it’s a nice stroll.
How to get there:
Real easy. There are colectivo’s (they look like taxi’s) and fit about 4 people. They go to and from the church. Take it from the corner of Carrera 6 and Calle 4. It costs less than 2,000 pesos each way. You could also take a regular taxi but it costs more. You’ll have to hike down the hill from the entrance. If you’re hungry, they have great local foods along the path on your way towards the church. The whole trip to and from Las Lajas can be done in two hours with a nice easy stroll and taking pictures.
The town of Ipiales doesn’t have much. The only reason to be staying here is to cross the border and see the church. Hotel Belmonte is popular among backpackers and cost us $14USD for a private room with bathroom.
Be sure to arrive to and from Ipiales during the daytime as it’s notorious for hi-jacking buses. You’ll also want to cross into Ecuador during the day time.