Hostal Huaka-Yo - San Agustín, Colombia

Sometimes where you stay defines  your experience, and we couldn't have made a better choice than staying with Cesar at Hostal Huaka-Yo. This is a place which is all about the location and the hospitality you'll find there. Cesar helped us put together our entire trip through southern Colombia by organizing a driver to pick us up from Nieva airport and another to take us from San Agustín to Tierradentro and on to Popayon. Years ago I went the whole South American rural-chicken-buses  route but now I'm both too old and too soft to get up at 6am and jostle for a seat. The truth is we wanted the comfort and convenience of private transfers but we didn't want to spend the extraordinary mark-ups to have a US travel specialist plan the trip for us.
Here I am with Cesar outside the dining room; he grows and roasts his own coffee and takes great pride in sharing it with his guests. I don't drink coffee but D loved it! We intended to bring some coffee home with us but forgot!
 
Organizing the whole thing was incredibly easy. Cesar has lived in the US, speaks perfect English and proactively called me in California to  finalize everything. We paid a 50% deposit and found everything as we had arranged when we arrived. It's always a bit nerve wracking,  but he had great reviews on Trip Advisor and I had a good sense of his character over email. Booking directly  and arranging the onward accommodation ourselves was FAR cheaper than using either a US or Colombian agency and it made the trip extremely easy. It really isn't that adventurous or difficult when you have a car and driver!  We had planned to take an intercity bus from Popayan to the Carnaval in Pasto  but ended up arranged a private transfer through our hotel in Popayan: see the sentence above where I admit I'm too pampered/old/soft!  If you are going to go this route I recommend requesting the taxi when you arrive as it took several days to sort out, and was still somewhat up in the air on the morning of our departure!
Our flight from Bogota to Nieva was four hours late and we were very happy to have the car  and a friendly drive waiting for us - as it's about a five hour drive. In Bogota we'd stayed at the Four Seasons (which I reviewed here) but don't expect that kind of luxury in  San Agustín! The Hostal is simple but modern, with functional, immaculately clean rooms, unlimited hot water, excellent wifi and a separate dining room at the top of the hill with amazing views. We had a large upstairs room which was designed for a family group with extra beds on a mezzanine, two toilets and two showers!
Here's the dining room which has beautiful views; we met a lot other visitors including several Americans, Europeans and lots of Colombians. On New Years Eve an Andean band played and one of the French guests took out his guitar and joined in playing several traditional tunes. There was even sparkling wine at midnight which was a nice touch!
There are a number of small hostels outside San Agustín, several of which look quite charming and are run by Europeans who have settled in the area. However, for us the immediate advantage of Hostal Huaka-Yo was the location. From here it's only a couple of hundred meters to the Archeological Park which means you can walk over there very easily which we enjoyed. The disadvantage was you have to take a taxi into town  for restaurants but we were happy enough to eat at the hostel; I enjoyed the local trout.
Overall I highly recommend both San Agustín and Hostal Huaka-Yo. We spent three nights,  which worked well, but could have spent longer. There's a lot to do in the area and several people  at the Hostal made visits to local  archeological sites and Rio Magdalena by horseback. After our day at the archeological park we spent New Years Day with Luis-Alfredo driving through the region, visiting waterfalls and seeing both Alto de Los Idolos and Alto de las Piedras in  nearby San José de Isnos. It's a stunning area with magnificent vistas over  the Rio Magdalena and seemingly endless small villages and farms growing coffee, sugar cane and bananas. We'd signed up for a small group tour but were lucky enough to be the only customers!
Without Cesar's help we might not have visited San Agustín or Tierradentro, and ultimately our trip through the south was our favorite part of our time in Colombia. It's really worth the time, effort and expense to see this region.

Comments

Unknown said…
Hi - great to read about this section of your trip. I really want to visit these pre-columbian tombs and statues. It seems not many traveller's go to this part of Colombia, so it's great to find your post! Can you tell me how much the transfers costs? Since I don't speak Spanish and am traveling alone, I think private drivers is better option than buses, assuming it's relatively affordable.
Hi, I'm sure you'd enjoy this area. The transfers are not inexpensive and we found it much more expensive than Egypt, India or Sri Lanka, but it was a four wheel drive and much cheaper than through a travel agency.

Transfer from Neiva airport to San Agustin $450,000 COP
Transfer from San Agustin to Tierradentro $500,000 COP
Transfer from Tierradentro to Popaya $450,000 COP
Car a driver stay day in Tierrdadentro $140,000 (2 days $280,000)
Thanks! This is very helpful!

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