The Funky Statues of San Augustín — Huila, Colombia

San Agustín Archaeological Park

Located in the south of Colombia, Huila is a hidden gem that is off of the Gringo Trail. This department is full of protected national parks, but San Agustín stands out due to the curious statues that were left behind from the mysterious indigenous tribes of the area.

Long before Colombia was colonized (think BC), they carved these pudgy statues and buried their dead closely nearby. Scientists estimate that the site was abandoned in the 14th century A.D., but they are still unsure of the reasons why. There must have been a good reason though as the surrounding area is gorgeous and would be hard to abandon, but this one may go down in history as a mystery. Take a hike through the park with us.

Pitalito

A good base camp to go and see the statues from. This small town is full of nice cafes and different watering holes. One of my favorites was the appropriately named “El Bar” right near the main square. There was also a nice cafe located below it for day-time beverages, but I am forgetting the name, perhaps it is just called “El Cafe.”

FOOD

It is easy to eat well in Pitalito. Tamales, lechona, sancocho de gallina, almojábanas and biscochos de achira should all be on your Huila delicacy list. The tamales here are HUGE, lots of corn surrounding chicken, peas and other veggies — all wrapped up in a giant banana tree leaf and steamed to perfection. They make a great breakfast with spicy Ají to keep you fueled all day. You can find some great ones right next door to El Zafiro Panaderia, near the town’s center.

Lechona is a roast pig that is stuffed full of rice and other veggies and slow cooked, culminating in a tender, tasty treat. Although, perhaps not the healthiest option, it is incredibly rich and worth a try! Sancocho de Gallina is a luxury version of the typical soup you have probably tried in the standard almuerzos. Again, a dish slow cooked all morning and a popular Sunday special that sends you straight into a food coma when you finish.

a bald man eats sancocho de gallina, a soup made with hen, corn, potatoes and rice.
Sancocho de Gallina

Now for the small snacks that you will find around each corner and at random street cafes! Almojábanas are deep fried, cheesy dough balls – similar to the popular Buñuelo but with added cheese (and calories!). Lastly, the bischochos de achira are very popular to dip into some of the world’s best coffee — harvested right in Huila! Now, if only we could get them to quit putting sugar in it and serving it in disposable plastic cups…

Art

This town hosts many artists and studios, and you will find sculptures and murals decorating the streets as you mosey around any district. This will likely be the first one you see as you arrive to Pitalito, it’s right outside the bus station!

A steel sculpture pictured at night. It appears to be a spiral of beams that fade in color from blue, to orange, to black.
Gemelas Danzantes – By Maestro Milton Morales Grillo

There are billboards, murals, sculptures and expositions all around town! Art lovers will find many pretty things to see, whether on the street or as they stop by the many mini studios throughout Pitalito. If you take Avenida Pastrana west from the center (Carrera 3 in Google maps!), you will find a nice street full of bars and restaurants. This also includes an area called the Container Food Park, which is full of food trucks serving all kinds of different options! As you walk along this street you will notice another mural from Maestro Milton, you can’t miss it!

A colorful mural with animals, bamboo and coffee plants, pictured at night.
Get in touch with Milton to swing by the studio or see more of his work.

Get off the Gringo Trail!

This is a side of Colombia that few venture to, and well worth checking out! Nestled deep in the Andes, you won’t regret traveling off the beaten path to experience the mysterious statues, great food and art of Neiva!

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