Ipiales is a 10-minute drive from the border with Ecuador. The city itself is not a reason to travel to, but the Las Lajas Cathedral is. This is actually the only reason and attraction in Ipiales that makes it worth traveling there. The city itself is not special and it is therefore advisable to pay close attention in the evening. What can you do in Ipiales and how do you get there and back?
Santuario Las Lajas
This special and beautifully built cathedral is about 20 minutes drive from Ipiales. Cathedral de las Lajas was built on the basis of the legend that in 1754 an Indian mother and her deaf and mute daughter took shelter in the gorge from bad weather. While hiding, the Virgin Mary appeared and the daughter was suddenly able to speak. Since then, a painting of Mary has been left behind and the ground where the cathedral stands is still seen as holy ground.
Where there are plenty of sellers, that is not allowed near and around the cathedral.
A small chapel was built in the early 19th century and the rest of the cathedral was built from 1914 to 1949 and is now considered one of the 7 Wonders of Colombia.
The cathedral is beautifully situated in the middle of a gorge, built over a river with surrounding waterfalls and mountains. With a lot of details, the cathedral is a picture to see. During the day until the early afternoon, daylight falls most beautifully on the cathedral. But when the sun goes down in the evening, between 6:00 PM and 6:30 PM, lights are turned on and the church is lit up in multiple colors. Beautiful to see and therefore a nice place to visit.
The cathedral is free to visit and you can also enter. Every day there are masses that you can attend at several times. The paths around the cathedral are well maintained and there are several paths to vantage points so that you can view the cathedral from multiple angles.
Good to know that the cathedral is an important but also much visited place for local people. It can get very busy, especially on weekends and holidays. If you can plan it, and you want the cathedral a little more for yourself, it is recommended to go during the week.
You get to the Cathedral de las Lajas by taxi or by minibus. At the intersection of Calle 4 and Carrera 6, 3 blocks from the main square, white minibuses with Las Lajas on them depart. A one-way ticket costs 3,000 pesos/€0.75 per person and the minibus leaves with a minimum of 4 people.
A museum is located next to the cathedral. The museum mainly contains archaeological and religious relics. The museum is open daily from 7am – 12pm and 2pm – 5pm and costs 3,000 pesos/€0.75.
For a different view over the cathedral de las Lajas, you can take the cable car, el teleférico. This starts and/or ends at the cathedral or higher up in the mountains. A single ride takes about 30 minutes. The prices below are for adults, children pay 7,000 pesos/€1.75. During the week prices are 10,000 pesos/€2.50 one way, and 16,000 pesos/€4 round trip. On weekends and public holidays you pay 12,000 pesos/€3 for a one-way ticket and 20,000 pesos/€5 for a round trip. The cable car is open daily from 9am to 7pm during the week and from 7am to 8pm on weekends and public holidays.
How do you get there and back?
You arrive in Ipiales by bus from Cali. The journey takes about 13 hours for about €13. Ipiales is about a 10-minute drive from the Ecuadorian border. This makes Ipiales an easy stopover before or after the border crossings. If you want more information about Colombia‘s border crossing with Ecuador, read more here.