The Las Lajas Sanctuary, if you stumbled upon it in photos, does not look like something you would find in Colombia. My first thought when I saw it was that it was mixed up with a church in Germany. Las Lajas is definitely Colombian, and it has a great story to go with it. Many of the famous churches here in Colombia have old tales that are inspiring no matter your religious affiliations, beliefs or lack thereof. The Sanctuary is on the edge of the Colombian/Ecuadorian border about 916 km from Bogotá. If you’re curious about the drive, it’s 20 hours for the ultimate road trip enthusiasts out there. There are many places to stop and be touristy, so I would add in some extra time and enjoy yourself.
The Sanctuary sits on the edge of a canyon with access to both sides via a very large and very impressive bridge 160 feet above the Guáitara river in the region of Ipiales. The church boasts impressive gothic architecture which took 33 years to complete and attracts over 750k people every year. If you are a history buff, a religious enthusiast, an art historian or simply a lover of architecture, Las Lajas is one for the bucket list.
The legend of Las Lajas has a pretty consistent story line in every version. The basic plot is that in 1754 a woman and her young daughter took shelter during a storm between two lajas – slabs of stone in Spanish – and the Virgin Mary appeared. The daughter Rosa was deaf and mute, but saw the Virgin and called to her mother that the Virgin was there. Rosa passed away and her mother took her back to the two lajas where they previously took shelter and had their encounter with the Virgin. She appeared again and revived Rosa. News of the miracle spread to religious figures of the Catholic church and eventually a carving appeared in stone where Rosa was brought back to life. Nobody knows who made the carving, and it is still intact to be seen to this day as the church was erected around it.
Las Lajas is definitely a sight to see in Colombia. There are many modes of transportation to get there with flights being the fastest. However, if you do love road trips, I would recommend the scenic, crazy 20 hour drive. But that’s just me.
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