As one of the most interesting border crossing areas in the world, the cathedral of Las Lajas Sanctuary Colombia is a mesmerizing pilgrimage site. Located less than 9 miles (15 kilometers) from the Colombia-Ecuador border, this sacred destination offers fascinating architecture and is popular with travelers and pilgrims worldwide. You’ll be surprised by the bright […]
As one of the most interesting border crossing areas in the world, the cathedral of Las Lajas Sanctuary Colombia is a mesmerizing pilgrimage site. Located less than 9 miles (15 kilometers) from the Colombia-Ecuador border, this sacred destination offers fascinating architecture and is popular with travelers and pilgrims worldwide.
You’ll be surprised by the bright European style of the cathedral as well as its seemingly impossible location. To add to the place’s majesty, the church is perched above a valley and is surrounded by steep rock walls, making it look like a castle from a fantasy novel. If you are in luck, you may also spot lamas dressed in colorful outfits.
Whether you’re starting from Colombia or Ecuador, you’ll first need to make your way to Ipiales, Colombia, the most convenient city close to Las Lajas. In Ipiales, you’ll find multiple transportation, restaurant, and accommodation options. Depending on where you’re coming from, it’s possible to take a day trip to Las Lajas, but if you’re travelling from further cities like Bogota or Quito we recommend spending one night in Ipiales or in the closeby city of Pasto.
Getting to Ipiales
If you’re travelling from Colombia, the fastest option to get to Ipiales is by booking a flight through Satena Airlines. They offer multiple departures every week from Bogota, Cali, and Medellin. If you’re looking for a budget option and have time to spare, you can also take a day or overnight bus from Cali to Ipiales. The bus usually takes 12 hours and is incredibly scenic – with vast landscapes and endless views of the Andes, passing through idyllic small towns and villages. There are also frequent buses departing from the city of Pasto, located about 50 miles (80 km) away.
If you’re coming from Ecuador, there are direct buses from Quito to Ipiales that take around 5 hours and include the border crossing. Alternatively, if you’re departing from another city or taking a flight, you’ll first need to make your way to the border town of Tulcan, Ecuador. From Tulcan, it’s only a 3.1-mile (5-km) drive to the border and taxis will drive you to right outside the immigration office for the price of $4 or $5 USD. Once you cross the border by foot, you can take another taxi or a bus headed to Ipiales.
Getting from Ipiales to Las Lajas
From Ipiales, you will only have to cover about 4 miles (7 kilometers) to reach the sanctuary. You can do so by foot if you like, by bus for about $3,100 to $6,200 Colombian pesos ($1-2 USD), or by taking a cab. Expect to pay around $8,000 pesos (about $2.55 USD) for a private taxi or around $2,200 pesos (about $0.70 USD) for a collective taxi (called colectivos), which are unmarked and painted in white.
Travel Tip: If you’re only planning to visit Las Lajas for a day you can store your bags in one of the bus station’s internet cafes for a couple thousand pesos.
Access to the church is free and if you want to learn more about both the construction and the region’s people there is a museum located right under the religious masterpiece that you can visit for a low entry fee. The sanctuary holds masses daily for locals and pilgrims to come together. If you’re looking to attend mass, you can find the updated schedule here.
On the other hand, if you’re visiting to just take in the beautiful architecture and sights, we recommend visiting during the week or on Saturdays since the cathedral can be crowded on Sundays. If you want to avoid the crowds we also recommend visiting in the early morning as there are less tourists. In the evening there is also disco light-show that illuminates the building.
You should plan to spend around two to three hours at the cathedral, taking in the incredible views and walking across the 131-foot-long (40-meter) bridge. A cable car was also recently built across the valley and provides a good angle to take photos, but be aware that you will have to take a 10-minute ride by cab or bus if you take it on the way down, since the cable car will drop you in the middle of nowhere.
There are a number of small eateries on the other side of the bridge offering simple local fare. Alternatively, you can buy snacks and drinks in Ipiales and bring them with you on your day trip to Las Lajas.
Where to next? Ipiales has an extensive bus station with bus lines than can drive you almost anywhere in Colombia. Or, again, you can opt to take a flight to one of Colombia’s main cities – Bogota, Medellin, or Cali. Some general information about traveling nearby or across the Colombia-Ecuador border:
If you prefer to relax and travel with a guide that will take care of the transportation details, check out our day tour from Quito.
What most visitors recall from visiting Las Lajas is how impressed they were with the majesty of the building, its location, and its strong presence. Believers and non-believers agree on that last point and describe Las Lajas as one of Colombia’s must-see destinations. Tourism isn’t well developed there yet since this is not an especially well-known attraction. However, Colombia’s reputation as a travel destination has been growing and the cathedral is expected to be more and more visited in the future.
However you get there, visiting Las Lajas is an incredible experience that will undoubtedly be a highlight of your trip to Ecuador or Colombia. Come see for yourself why visitors have been captivated by the unique architecture and gorgeous canyon scenery of Las Lajas.