The National Archaeological Park of Tierradentro is one of the most important and fascinating archaeological sites in Colombia and South America at large. The ruins and tombs are found in five different locations that are scattered around a remote valley in the southern part of the Andes Mountains. This UNESCO World Heritage Site reveals what the customs and rituals were like for pre-Hispanic societies during the 6th to 10th centuries.
Tierradentro is fairly easy to get to. The simplest way to get here is to travel to the site from cities like San Agustín and Popayán. Some travelers also choose to stay overnight in San Andres de Pisimbala or San Andres, in short, which is a tiny village near the site. Tierradentro can be reached by bus or the pickup trucks used as colectivos throughout the region. Due to rough road conditions, landslides and breakdowns are common so taking the last bus of the day is not recommended. No flights go near this area.
If you don’t want to take your chances with local transportation, consider this 11-day tour. This itinerary is perfect for balancing out Colombia’s ancient and modern cultures. You’ll see highlights around Colombia like Medellín, El Peñon de Guatape, and the mountainous Coffee Region. Visits to the north will allow you to explore the Caribbean coast and the stunning Tayrona National Park. You’ll then visit Tierradentro to explore the ancient underground burial tombs, before ending your stay in the colonial town of Popayán.
Duration: 4 to 5 hours
The most direct way from this area is to take a direct bus from Popayán. Bus companies like Sotracuca leave daily every day in the morning hours, around 10:30 AM. Again, the roads in this area are in bad shape, so trips can take anywhere from a minimum of 4 hours and up to 7 hours of travel. Some buses will drop you off in the tiny town of El Cruz, and from there it’s a 2 kilometer walk to San Andres.
From San Agustín
Duration: 6 hours to 7 hours
From San Augustín, you can take the small bus departing for Bogotá at 6 AM. From there, you’ll want to get off the bus in the small city of Garzón, which takes approximately two hours to get to from Bogotá. You’ll then transfer to bus that departs for La Plata. From La Plata, take the 10:30 AM bus to San Andrés de Pisimbalá which should arrive about 2 or 3 hours later.
If it all goes as planned, this route should take about six to seven hours, arriving in San Andrés de Pisimbalá around 1:00 PM. However, if you miss any “connecting” buses, chances are you will probably have to spend the night and try it the next day. These “buses” can vary in make and model and don’t look like your typical public bus; some resemble a van, some look more like pick-up trucks. If confused, the best method is to ask or to look for the signs in the windshield which will state their final destination.
Duration: 8 to 9 hours
There is no direct bus from Cali so you’ll want to travel from Cali to Popayán, then follow the directions above. From Cali, take the bus to Popayán which should take about 3 hours. Then, you’ll transfer to a bus that drives directly to San Andrés de Pisimbalá, which should take about 5 hours. You’ll want to depart from Cali early enough to give you ample time to catch the direct bus in Popayán that departs at 10:30 AM for San Andrés de Pisimbalá.