Iglesia de San Sebastián
Pasto has an array of very different churches and one of the most unusual is Iglesia de San Sebastián. The original San Sebastián was built in the Gothic style and completed in 1790 but city planning and the ever present threat of earthquakes led to a newer version being constructed in 1936. Still in the Gothic style, it retains also some Moorish influences that are a hallmark of the city's churches. Its exterior in particular is a mishmash of styles with an odd cream color and green tiled roof. It would be easy to walk by this somewhat odd church but its interior is its most stunning feature so it's well worth taking the time to go within. Bathed in a deep blue with high impressive arches, San Sebastián has gorgeous stained-glass windows. They are particularly splendid running up the length of the 60 meter octagonal tower that is far more impressive looking up from within than viewing from outside. This was another church we went back to for a second visit as it was not only unusual but quite calming especially since there were few other people there, all of whom were worshipers and not camera-toting tourists.
- Religious Travel
Iglesia San Juan Bautista
Iglesia San Juan Bautista is Pasto's most stunning piece of colonial architecture. Though renovated a few times due to various devastations, the current structure was completed in 1667 and the site on which it stands has an even longer history as a religious site of approximately another 340 years. Severe earthquakes reduced the original church to rubble.
The current San Juan Bautista is in the Mozarabic style with strong Moorish influences especially in its tower and interior which features a Mudejar ceiling of fine carved wood. Overall, the feeling when you walk in is of being in a mosque with very few human figures, scallop-edged arches and windows, and the stunning single piece wooden ceiling, a veritable jig-saw puzzle suspended from the heavens.
This was easily the highlight of Pasto for us and we repeatedly went inside to admire its beautiful interior. It was certainly reason alone to go to Pasto though the city presented other charms as well.
- Religious Travel
Iglesia de la Merced
Iglesia de la Merced is another fine church of Pasto that could easily be overlooked from its relatively unimpressive exterior though considering its long history of devastation from earthquakes it's a wonder a church stands in this place at all! The original structure dates back to the 1500s and was completed in 1609 and though elaborate, work continued to make it more so until a severe earthquake attributed to Ecuadors volcano's Cotopaxi caused major damage. A subsequent earthquake in 1822 left the church in ruin. The current version dates back to the early 1900s and already has thankfully survived another major rumble.
Though the exterior is simple, its interior is one of the city's most ornate with lots of gold encrusted detail and a fine chandelier hanging from its simple but exquisite ceiling. The main altar is particularly stunning but side altars are interesting as well. There are some fine stained glass windows to distract you but don't miss the three pound gold crown of the Virgin Mary which was made in Ecuador and features many gems.
This was quite close to our hostel and we just happened to go in as the doors were open and were very glad we did. It is another example of you can't judge a book by its cover, especially when the story within the book has such a tragic past.
- Religious Travel
Iglesia del Cristo Rey
Iglesia del Cristo Rey remains a bit of an enigma to me as I never got within its impressive walls. It always was closed when I was in the vicinity. That said, its twin octagonal towers fringed with angelic statues always captured my attention even from afar when I spotted them. Though the original structure that dated back to the 1500s withstood devastation by the various earthquakes that shook the city, the Jesuits in charge decided to knock it down in 1930 to build an even grander temple of worship. It took thirty years to complete what is certainly one of the city's most grandiose churches. It differs greatly from the Arabic-influenced churches that predominate the city with more of a Northern European feel. Built in a high Neo Gothic style, its facade features the aforementioned twin towers and between them an imposing figure of Christ that rises 36 meters from the ground with human figures at his base.
Unfortunately, I did not see what sounds like a stunning interior which features fine stained-glass windows, oil paintings, and fine gold encrusted details. Evidently, it is one of the city's most well-lit churches with lots of natural light flooding down from the clerestory and apse windows. I guess another good reason to return to Pasto.
- Religious Travel
Compared to some of Pasto's “other” churches, The Cathedral is a little lackluster in appearance though not so with regard to history with the original Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi having been desecrated during the lootings of 1822. It fell into disrepair and just before the end of the 19th century was demolished with plans to build anew. It was built in a Romanesque style in a simple red brick with twin towers. The interior is more interesting with an ornate carved wooden altar and many fine oil paintings but overall not as intriguing as some of Pasto's other churches.
- Religious Travel
POPAYAN TO PASTO
The guidebook had advised to travel by day for this part of the journey through South Colombia for safety reasons.
Well, why not? I definitely recommend it doing this trip in the day-time coz the view from Popayan to Pasto is exceptionally gorgeous. In fact, try to sit on the right side when you board the minibus. I did just that.
The journey traversed through part of the Pan-American highway, rounding and winding up and down the mountains, passing some really dramatic-looking gorges and valleys.
About halfway through, it got very hot in the microbus. OK, I know it was mid-day, but the fauna around had also changed to various forms of cacti, almost desert-like, as the road dropped to 700m in the vallye of the Rio Patia.
But, by 3pm, the air that blew in through the windows were pretty cool again as the road climbed back up to 2,600m to Pasto.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip as I craned my neck around, lapping up the gorgeous views.
Places to visit
Pasto has a great number of beautiful churches; I will recommend having a look at San Juan Bautista in the middle of town, also visit the Cristo Rey Church no far from Plaza de Nariño, and Santiago at the top of the city.
Pasto also have a couple of small museos worth a visit; ‘El Museo de Oro located in the Banco de la Republica, El Museo del Carnaval and La Casa de Taminango, Taminangos’House’
Visit the lake
The ‘Laguna de la Cocha’ a place to visit. ‘La Cocha is a lovely lake situated in the district of ‘El Encano’, if you don’t have a car, you can go by taxi –colectivo or by bus. The colectivo is a Taxi that sells places in the car and ones all the places are full the car leave and take you to a common destination. A nice, cheap and save way to travel.
Once in ‘La Cocha’ you can take a small boat and visit the small island in the middle of the lake, a beautiful little island with well mark walking paths. There you could see giant tree ferns and a large example of beautiful wild orchids.
In ‘El Encano’ you can test the best trout you will ever eat, you will find many small restaurants in the port, very economical, clean and friendly. Try the typical dish ‘trucha frita’ and have a ‘hervido’ a warn fruit drink with aguardiente -the local spirit, good after your visit to la Corota.
I love my visit to la Cocha a lovely and peaceful place.
PLAZA DE NARINO
Plaza de Narino is a lovely plaza. Really quite pretty. It is the main plaza of Pasto but interestingly, the main Cathedral of Pasto is not located there.
In the evenings, there are many snack stalls, like ice-cream or chicharrons, etc...
Next to the plaza is Iglesia de San Juan Bautista. Behind this church is a pretty pedestrian walkway with eateries and internet cafes.
The area around this iglesia has many cheap eateries and a huge supermarket.
Well, I was here on a Sunday and as most shops are closed, I made my way there and was pleasantly surprised by the simple charm of Parque Infantil (Children's Park).
Many locals bring their children there to play on the swings and slides. There are also several joggers and dog-owners exercising with their dogs. A few elderly men feed pigeons. And families and couples lie on the park to relax, chat, have picnic or read.
CATHEDRALS AND CHURCHES
There are several pretty churches around Pasto.
The Main Cathedral on Calle 17 and Carrera 26 is worth a look. In front, there are toy cars for children to play in.
Attractive churches that I remember more distinctly are Iglesia de San Felipe Neri and Capilla de Nuestra Senora de Lourdes. Both are located near to Carrera 27 beyond Calle 13.
Plaza de Narino & The City
While most of Pastos historic buildings have been destroyed, by earthquake, there are a few remaining, including Iglesia de San Juan Bautista. This church is said to be the city's oldest remaingin, dating from the mid 17th century. It sits on the city's main plaza, Paza de Narino, which believe it or not has its own chanel on TV. There is a security camera in the north-east corner of the square, which broadcasts live to the TV 24hrs a day.
Aside from this, there are several churchs in town, including the Iglesia de San Agustin and the Iglesia de San Andres (both pictured). There are also a few museums, including a Gold Museum (calle 19 #21-27 / free / 8:30-12:00 & 2:00-6:00, mon-fri) and the Museo de Artes Y Tradiciones (calle 13 #27-67 / 8:00-12:00 & 2:00-6:00 mon-fri & 9:00-1:00 sat), which has old pottery and the likes.
- Budget Travel
Cocha Lake is about 30 minutes from Pasto, and is said to be one of the best places to get to see an evergreen cloud forest from up close. This is especially tru on La Corota island, which is a nature presierve. There is a path which you can walk along across the island to a lookout point on the other side.
Next to the docks where the boates land, there is a small chapel. This chapel brings in heaps of people every sunday, which livens up the town on the lakes shore. Sunday is a nice day to visit for that reason.
Check out my Cocha Lake page for more
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