The far south

From Popayán to Ecuador, the Pan-American highway travels through arguably the most spectacular scenery in Colombia, at first dipping into humid agricultural land before rising again as it nears the highland city of Pasto. It is a forever engaging ride as the landscape becomes increasingly dramatic; at times the road follows in the shadow of the Western Cordillera, as waves of small hills roll out towards its edges like crumpled sheets on an unmade bed. Beyond Pasto it is even more impressive as the road snakes its way ever upward, clinging to the edges of steep escarpments painstakingly planted with maize, peas and wheat, over deep gorges that plunge down to torrid rivers. The area is dominated by volcanos, some of them active, especially those that look over the border town of Ipiales. Near Pasto is Laguna La Cocha, which has a national park well worth visiting on the Isla de Corota. Just outside Ipiales is the extraordinary Gothic church of Las Lajas that straddles a deep gorge and is a magnet for miracle-seekers and pilgrims. To the west its a long ride down to the Pacific coast at Tumaco where salt marshes and mangroves have created a distinct eco system. On the way the private nature reserve of La Planada has a unique population of native birds and a conservation programme of special interest to ecologists.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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