Pasto is the first Colombian city you reach when travelling from the Ecuador border. The city is the capital of the Nariño department and its full name is San Juan de Pasto.
The town has a laid back leisurely ambience, as does the surrounding area. Pasto is nestled between beautiful Andean meadows and has the Galera Volcano as its dramatic backdrop. The volcano is still active and it is normal to see smoke rising from its summit. Luckily the volcano has not had a major eruption for many years as this would be catastrophic for Pasto.
Pasto’s biggest event is the Carnival de los Blancos y Negros, a colourful festival held in January of each year. During the festival the city is intense and bustling and all the hotels are fully booked. A trip to the carnival needs advance preparation to secure accommodation.
Outside of carnival, the city is calm and unhurried, nevertheless it is worth a visit to Pasto before continuing your journey, not least because of the surrounding area’s spectacular beauty with its marvellous lakes and Andean meadows and pastures. Pasto is also the key launchpad for a visit to Colombia’s famous Las Lajas church near Ipiales, a church wedged in a tall valley.
Pastusos, the people of Pasto are often ridiculed by other Colombians as the city is secluded in the south of the country. The dialect of the Pastusos is closer to that of Ecuador than typical Colombian Spanish. Pastusos are a little bit reserved but welcoming and friendly people.
If you are arriving from Ecuador you should definitely visit the Las Lajas church in Ipiales. The current incarnation of the church was built in the first half of the 20th Century and as legend would have it, it is the site of a miracle, the deaf-mute child of an Indian woman is said to have spoken when passing the valley on his way home. Because of this miracle, the construction of this incredible church commenced.
The visit to the church is scheduled into your road trip towards Pasto, we can arrange your hotel in Pasto, or we can also arrange accommodation close to Laguna de la Cocha. The laguna has some spectacular Swiss chalet style hotel accommodation which was built by Swiss immigrants. It is the perfect location for a romantic break and to enjoy the local speciality of fried trout in front of a blazing fireplace. You can also take a boat trip out onto the lake.
Hikers might want to consider a walk to Volcán Azufral, in its crate lies the Laguna Verde, a beautiful green mountain lake. The hike to the lake leads through Andean páramo landscapes with interesting vegetation such as frailejones.
Pasto is not at the top of everyone’s Colombia list but it is one of our favourite destinations and we urge you to consider a visit, it is well worth taking the time.