While Mompos does not have lots to do or see per se, it does have lots of atmospheric places to hang out and also take photos. One of these is its main square, Plaza Real de la Concepcion. Its key feature may be its namesake church but equally stunning is the very run down old building complex directly across from it which acts as the backdrop for the early morning food stalls that serves breakfast to the locals. Though the building was only of passing interest during the morning hours, I found it particularly alluring late in the afternoon after the make-shift food stalls had cleared away and the sun was low in the sky, casting an amber hue to the decaying structure. It's odd that in a town that seems so well-preserved that the town would let such a key building fall into such disrepair but to be honest, it would lose something if all spiffed up.
The riverfront area that runs along Rio Magdalena is Mompos' most charming feature. The river itself is a lazy meandering affair but wide and strewn on either side with gorgeous trees that will have you imagining you are in an even more exotic locale awaiting Humphrey Bogart's African Queen to come up and whisk you off to points unknown. It's a great place to have a meal, a drink or just stroll. It is also a great spot for bird-watching.
Mompos was a surprisingly great place for bird-watching. We may not have seen the sheer variety of other places along our Colombian travels but they were some of the best up close encounters. Mornings were best but later afternoon was not bad either. We saw a stunning Great White Heron fishing on the banks of the river, quite a few colorful smaller birds fluttering from tree to tree, but surely our greatest sighting was a gorgeous Kingfisher. These amazing birds are very acrobatic and you can count yourself lucky indeed to watch their graceful endeavors to secure food.
Perhaps the most interesting “sight” of Mompos is its Cemeterio Municipal. This is one of the most atmospheric cemeteries I've ever seen, with great white-washed above-ground tombs with “hotel-like” filled and ready-to-be filled slots. There is a tiny chapel in the center but most intriguing are the large group of cats that seem to call the cemetery home. There is great light early morning but we found it even better at dusk, with an entirely different look. It was well worth going twice and there is a nice little park at its entrance where with shady trees that locals (and you perhaps?) like to linger under.
There are two additional colonial churches in Mompos. There is little information about them and though we enjoyed their exteriors, we never saw either open so not sure they are still operational That said, their exteriors were well-preserved and it's a shame the town does not promote them if they are now not in use as many visitors would likely want to see their interiors. While I am not a big fan of turning churches into touring sites ala Cartagena, it is nice to have them open to the public at perhaps a nominal fee.
The most central and certainly biggest of Mompos' six churches is Iglesia de la Concepcion which is right on the main square of town. It sits across from the open air market that serves up breakfast foods early in the morning so a church you will see quite often if eating there. Though you would imagine it to be the most popular place to worship, we did not see it open during our stay so did not get to check out its interior.
The oldest church in town is Iglesia de San Francisco which was built in 1530 and is one church you will want to make an effort to get into as it features the most ornate interior with lots of carved wood and one very pretty wooden pulpit. The feel reminded me of a Baptist church in the Southern US most likely due to the simple wooden walls and ceilings.
Though its exterior is no match for La Iglesia de Santa Barbara's, the rich interior of La Iglesia de San Agustin more than makes up for it and perhaps more importantly, it houses the richly gilded Santo Sepulcro. This is one of the most important parts of the precession during the Semana Santa or Holy Week that Mompos is most famous for.
Mompos has its share of well-preserved colonial churches and perhaps most stunning is Iglesia de Santa Barbara which sits prettily on the Rio de Magdalena on the edge of town. The 1630 beauty is yellow with ornate white trim featuring native plants and features a baroque octagonal bell tower with an odd wooden balcony half-way up. It is something to behold from the outside but has a particularly interesting interior but to see it you'll have to wait for a mass as it is not open to the public otherwise. Since it was right next to La Casa Amarilla and we were staying there, we did manage to make such a visit. It was full of not only worshiping Momposinos but also bats which flew from the rafters over the prayers heads who seemed quite oblivious to their fluttering.
While there are few real sights in Mompos, it does not fall short in the realm of colonial charm and wandering its quiet streets is pure joy if one gets out of bed early and enjoys the architecture during the coolest hours. The style is pure Mompos and is a bit unlike anywhere else in Colombia. In fact, it reminded us more of Laos at times and for that reason had an air of colonial Asia. Of particular interest are the elaborate wrought-iron grilles that cover many extended window sills as well as ornately carved wooden doors. If one is a fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, there can be no better way to spend your days in Mompos than strolling through these great old buildings and imagining the town's former glory.
This is a very large, and mostly empty plaza that is made up of an abandoned market building on the riverfront, the large Iglesia Concepcion and a few restos and bars with tables on the plaza itself. A nice place to soak up Mompos.
This small town is located amidst the river cenotes that filter into the Magdalena River nearby Mompos. It is probably reachable by a mix of canoe and car but we arrived by boat and strolled through town. Not much to see here but its interesting to soak up the town's atmosphere and watch the locals going about their day. The children are often curious to chat with you as are the locals. Buy a soda and sip it in the shade and have a chat. The children all came to hang out on our boat and cool themselves off with dips in the water.
Sit in the shade of its trees, enjoy a fresh-squeezed orange juice, watch the people go by on their motorcycles and bikes, enjoy a strong cup of tinto while enjoying a light Colombian breakfast at the restaurant on the one end, just enjoy Momposian life!
Las Portales is a narrow passageway sheltering several residences on the Albarrada facing the River. You could easily pass by it, noting the rosey-pink coloured paint, see the cross and continue on without knowing the full story of this block.
As I mentioned in another post, Las Portales was home to one Masonic family that Bolivar asked for help in recruiting men for battle. However, this passageway also served a much more brutal and tragic purpose.
Back in the times when slavery was not yet abolished and in full force in Mompos, slaves were given the opportunity to obtain their freedom if they were able to run the length of the Portales and touch the cross on the opposite end. However, police and guards wielding batons and other weapons stood between the slave and his freedom and many, if not most, were bludgeoned to death before they made it to the cross. We took a moment to appreciate the fact that we were born free and sent our thoughts out to those people who have struggled and continue to struggle today for freedom and a world free of racial intolerance.
This is a simple typical Momposina plaza with benches, shades, colonial buildings but is special because of its monument to Simon Bolivar in the middle. In quotes him saying (translated), "If I owe my life to Caracas, then I owe my glory to Mompos"