Las Lajas Shrine is located in Colombia and is perhaps one of the most dramatic churches in all of South America. It is built in a neogothic style and is beautifully set in a stunning forested gorge near the Ecuadorian border. It is a basilica church with legends stretching deep into Colombia's colonial past and one of the country's most iconic attractions.

Without a doubt, Las Lajas is one of the 10 best places to visit in Colombia. Colombia is a country with so much on offer, another must-see Colombia cathedral is the underground Salt Cathedral in a salt mine that one can visit and go to mass in. Plan ahead and Colombia may be one of the most rewarding trips abroad yet!

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What to Know Of The Las Lajas Shrine

The Las Lajas Shrine is located on the Guaitara River in Colombia and is one of the country's most dramatic architectural monuments. The Las Lajas Shrine was built between 1916 and 1949. The name "lajas" means slabs and is a reference to the flat and wide stones that surround the cathedral.

  • Located: In the Canyon of the Guaitara River, Colombia
  • Built: Between 1916 and 1949
  • Height: 100 Meters or 330 Feet Above the Canyon Floor

Visit Las Lajas cathedral and be in awe of its needle-shaped towers, its intricately decorated windows, and the bridge spanning the canyon - seemingly a part of the canyon.

  • Most Beautiful: Arguably the Most Beautiful Sanctuary in the World Topographically Speaking

The first shrine was built there in the middle of the 18th century from wood and straw and replaced in 1802 with a larger shrine. This old shrine was connected by a bridge to the other side of the canyon. The oldest reference to the shrine and site is believed to have been by Spanish Franciscan Juan de Santa Gertrudis (1724-1799).

  • Pilgrimage: It Is A Popular Pilgrimage Site For Colombians and Ecuadorians

The current building is connected to the opposite side of the canyon by an impressive 50-meter or 160-foot tall bridge.

The Legends of Healing of The Las Lajas Shrine

The origin of Las Lajas can be traced back to a legend in 1754 when a mother and her deaf and mute girl were caught in a strong storm and sought refuge at the site. They reportedly saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary and the daughter, Rosa, exclaimed "the Mestiza is calling me." The story soon spread that the Amerindian girl was miraculously cured of her ailments in the canyon by the Virgin Mary. Afterward, the site became the destination of pilgrims with reports of miraculous healing.

  • Pilgrims: It Attracts 1000s of Pilgrims Every Year

There are other legends linked to Las Lajas Sanctuary. Another is an image of Mary behind the altar at the back of the church. The image is said to extend several feet into the stone. It is said to have been first seen by Museces (the mother of cured Rosa) when she went to show a priest and others where her daughter had been healed.

Related: Heart Of Bogota: Bolivar Square Is Home To Many Of The City's Must-See Historic Buildings

Getting to Las Lajas

Las Lajas is located close to the border with Ecuador and so can be visited from both countries. If one is coming from Quito in Ecuador, then it is around a 5-hour bus ride to the border. From the border, one can get a bus to Ipiales or just take a taxi straight to the imposing basilica. It is only around 15 minutes drive from the border.

  • From The Ecuadorian Border: 15 Minutes Drive
  • From Quito: 5-Hour Bus Ride To The Border
  • Closest City: Ipiales, Colombia
  • From Ipiales: 10 Minutes

The closest town to Las Lajas in Colombia is Ipiales. It is only around 10 minutes drive and one can hire a taxi easily. From the parking lot, it is another 5 to 10 minutes walk.

Take A Guided Tour To Las Lajas

There are tours from the neighboring city of Ipiales (it's only around 6 km or 4 miles away). Travelcolumbia.com lists one example of a guided day tour to Las Lajas. This tour starts in Pasto and includes breakfast. On the tour, visitors enjoy the eye-watering natural scenery of Columbia's unvisited south along the way.

After visiting Las Lajas, guests enjoy lunch and have the possibility of a visit to Tulcán (shopping tour, visit of the bridge “Rumichaca” and the border to Ecuador).

  • Duration: 1 day
  • Location: Ipiales/ Southwest Colombia
  • Price: from $150
  • Includes: Transportation, Professional Guide, Breakfast, Lunch