Hey everyone, welcome back to another travel entry. We are now in the beautiful city of Ipiales, Colombia. My favorite part of this city would have to be exploring The Shrine of Our Lady of Las Lajas. This was the most beautiful architecture I think I have ever seen. I was truly in awe of this exquisite building. This was such a fun adventure and we got to see and capture so many cool things, including colorful llamas!
The Shrine of Our Lady of Las Lajas is a Roman Catholic Basilican church. It sits on the border of Ecuador and Columbia on a 130ft bridge, which was built over the Guaitara river. The church was built in 1916 on the site where people say the Virgin Mary appeared in 1754. They say she appeared to a woman with her deaf-mute daughter and protected them from a bad storm. Originally, there was another monument dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the early 1800s, but the monument was replaced by this church in the early 1900s.
The church is very beautiful and has amazing architecture. The wall plaques, pictured below to the far left, were amazing. Prayers previously written there covered the walls. They’re really beautiful to read, some of them ask for world peace, help for a family member who is sick, for better treatment of animals, and many more amazing requests.
The fountain, which is located on the side of the building, is one of the most beautiful features of this location. Nobody except for the builders knows why the fountain flows the way it does, but thousands of people every month come to bathe in that water and pay tribute at this beautiful cathedral. We also got to hang out with the colorfully dressed llamas in front of the building, which were very friendly. We got a few super cool photos with them, as you can see above.
Details on Difficulty
It’s a lot of rigorous work to get there and then back up. We had to walk down about 500 steps and then proceed to turn around and walk back up, which was much worse. There were handrails for the majority of the stairs, which was helpful. I would say it took about 45 minutes to get down from the parking area, but it took about an hour to get back up. The experience was worth it because this church is a must-see for anybody who plans to visit Southern Colombia.
Cable Cars and Taxis
We then took the cable car across the valley, which had us suspended 2,000 feet above the ground. The car took us over the monument and then through the forest, which was an incredible view. I felt secure in the cable car, but Kris did not. It was a little crazy because the car would sway a lot and move from side to side. Then, what’s even crazier, we thought that we had made it through the valley, but then we started to go up even higher over a huge hill. It was quite the experience, but very worth it for the incredible views.
The border of Equador is currently closed due to COVID. As a result, there were hundreds of people on bicycle taxis willing to take us through the forest, which isn’t a monitored part of the border. So, needless to say, we wouldn’t be detected and they offered to smuggle us into Ecuador! We laughed and politely explained that we were just on a vacation, but that we would still take the ride into the city. We explained we were willing to pay them the same amount as the “smuggler’s ride,” which cost 50 million pesos (about $14.00). They were great, hard-working people who would do whatever it took to provide for their families. It was an honor for us to get to ride with them for a bit and learn more about Colombian culture.
This was an amazing experience. We feel so grateful to have been able to explore this wonderful site. I would highly recommend these excursions to everyone visiting this beautiful city. Thanks for following along with me on my adventures. I have always had a passion for traveling the world. But, I also have a passion for people. So, this has been an amazing way to both explore and connect with all of you. If you would like to read more about my previous adventures, you can catch up here.
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Big Guy Big World is a travel blog, following Mark Jacoby’s journey as a big guy on a bigger journey, exploring the world during a global pandemic. Follow along as we experience some of the world’s most beautiful and exotic places.