At the southern tip of the Colombian Massif, on both sides of the border with Ecuador, lies the city of Ipiales. It is the bridge between Colombia and the southern Andean nations. Its height is such that even the most daring feel a bit of vertigo. However, it is a fascinating place to visit and observe its interesting mix of cultures.

Ipiales is also home to one of the most important architectural and religious wonders in the country, the magnificent Sanctuary of Las Lajas. This construction alone is reason enough to visit this small and cozy city. If you add its distinctive gastronomy and impressive nature (including towering volcanoes, bird-filled wetlands, and spectacular canyons), you will spend days exploring this remote corner of the country without realizing it.

Attractions and Experiences

Sanctuary of Las Lajas

Clinging to both sides of a deep rocky gorge, this immense neo-Gothic temple is

the most spectacular church in Colombia and a must-visit for both the devout and architecture lovers. This giant church seems to defy gravity. It was built on the exact spot where it is said an image of the Virgin Mary appeared to a local woman of low income in a small cave in the mid-18th century.

Since the first apparition in the cave, many miracles have been attributed to the Virgin of the Rosary of Las Lajas. Moreover, regardless of where they live in Colombia, its inhabitants make pilgrimages to Las Lajas to honor this sacred figure.

The church is accessed by a walkway that descends into the canyon from the access road and is lined with stalls selling souvenirs, crafts, and snacks. Be sure to overcome your vertigo and cross the stone bridge in front of the church to take some spectacular panoramic photographs. On the other side, there is also a restaurant where you can enjoy a typical meal with a view that will leave you speechless.

Religion, Architecture

Santuario Las Lajas
Photo: anyisa


Cumbal Volcano and Laguna de la Bolsa

 The highest volcano of the Colombian Massif reaches 4764 meters and is the active Cumbal Volcano, which watches over the virgin páramos and lush farmlands west of Ipiales. From time to time, it emits clouds of gases through the fumaroles at its summit.

It is one of the best volcanoes to climb in the country, as it has a challenging trail that ascends through the pristine páramo landscapes to the twin craters covered with barren stone. The journey requires good physical condition, and the low temperatures make it essential to go accompanied by a professional guide. Local indigenous Pasto community guides are available in the village of La Ortiga to take visitors to the summit and explain the flora and fauna they encounter along the way.

Behind the Cumbal Volcano, flaunting its charm, lies the attractive Laguna Cumbal, also known as Laguna de la Bolsa. It receives fewer visits and has a lower profile than the nearby Laguna de la Cocha, but it is a wonderfully unexploited natural destination where visitors can take boat rides to enjoy the landscapes and observe many bird species.


Practical Details


 As a border town, Ipiales offers many places to stay, although most of the hotels can be considered budget or mid-range. On the access road to the Las Lajas Sanctuary, there are a couple of rustic guest houses mainly for pilgrims.

Getting There

Ipiales has a small airport that offers infrequent services to Bogotá. More regular flights can be found in Pasto, a two-hour drive to the north.

Helpful Tip

Ipiales is the highest city in the country, and therefore, it is usually very cold. Bring plenty of appropriate clothing, especially if you plan to visit some of the surrounding natural attractions.

Photographs of our visitors