Tierradentro is one of our favourite spots in the lush green Colombian south. Ideally located to combine with a visit to San Agustín, you can also reach Tierradentro from Neiva and Popayán.
The name Tierradentro was given to the region by the Spaniards and reflects its location in the in country’s interior surrounded by seemingly endless hills. The landscape is unique, rugged and seems to stretch for infinity.
At the bottom of the Tierradentro Valley is the small town of San Andres de Pisimbalá, a town inhabited by Paez Indians and people that have migrated to the town from other parts of the region. The focal point of the village is the beautiful church, a true mixture of cultures it boasts a Paez Indian thatched roof and Spanish colonial whitewashed walls.
Outside the church is the village square where still to this day ancient punishments are meted out to those in the community that have embezzled, committed adultery or broken one of the community rules. Punishments are very infrequent but as a visitor you may just witness a whipping or more commonly, someone being hung upside down by their feet from wooden stocks. Whenever you visit though you will be able to see ancient punishment and torture devices in the Museum of Tierradentro.
With altitudes as low as 800 metres above sea level, many parts of the region enjoy warm temperate climates. The circular ecological walk to the underground tombs on a typical sunny day is one of Colombia’s most beautiful walks.
The archeological site itself is a UNESCO world heritage site composed of ancient tombs buried deep in the Tierradentro landscape. These underground burial chambers range from 2 to 7 metres in width and are decorated with elaborate geometric designs.
Like many of Colombia’s finest destinations, to reap the benefits of this marvellous place, one has to make a particular effort to get there. As its name suggests it is very much in the middle of nowhere and requires a 4-6 hour road journey from either Popayán or San Agustín. The roads to reach Tierradentro invariably make for an arduous adventure, but those that undertake the journey will be delighted that they did.
We recommend you spend two nights in Tierradentro. The village of San Andres de Pisimbalá and the archeological park itself have limited tourism infrastructure but a number of simple restaurants and a cute simple hotels.
The spectacular circular walk itself takes a complete day as it takes you up the steep hills to Alto de Aguacate from where there is an incredible view across the Inza Valley. After a break for lunch close to the museum one descends again back to San Andres de Pisimbalá.
Take a look at our popular round trip The Colombian Heritage Experience to see how Tierradentro fits into a broader itinerary in the Colombian South. The destination can also be accessed from Popayán.