Crossing the border between Colombia and Ecuador at Ipiales was a laid back affair — the actual border crossing took less than an hour and there is also a pretty amazing church in town that you should definitely check out. Here are the details…
Arriving in Ipiales
We took a bus from Popayan to Ipiales, past some dramatic, barren mountain landscapes . The bus cost around 30,000 COP and took 8 hours. We arrived in Ipiales just before dark and found possibly the cheapest hotel room in Colombia — 20,000 COP (less than $7) for a double room just across from the bus terminal (Hotel Catalina). It wasn’t the nicest room but it did the job.
Las Lajas Sanctuary
We got up early the next morning to visit Las Lajas Sanctuary before crossing the border. We paid 10,000 COP for a private taxi to entrance of the church and from there it was a short, scenic walk in a big crowd of locals — it was Sunday! This church is pretty amazing; it sits at the end of a small bridge over a gorge. There’s a waterfall in the background and the whole area is alive with people either worshipping or taking photos. We took a collectivo taxi back to Ipiales (2,200 COP each), picked up our bags and made our way to the border.
Crossing the border between Ecuador and Colombia
We left the hotel at 11.20 am in a taxi headed to the border (8000 COP, 10 mins). We got stamped out of Colombia which took about 5 minutes then walked over the bridge to the Ecuadorian border control. We had to fill in a form then wait in line for about 10 minutes — we got our 90 day visa and organised a taxi ride to Tulcan ($3.50, 15 mins).
Tulcan to Otavalo
From Tulcan most people choose to go to either Otavalo or Quito. We chose Otavalo and booked a ticket there for $3.75 (around 3 hours). We were dropped off on the side of the road just outside of Otavalo and had to walk into town — It was pretty frustrating!
Otavalo (or why you should go straight to Quito)
Otavalo is famous for its massive market, but if you’re not there on either a Saturday or a Wednesday there’s really not much to see. There was a small artisan market in the main square but it was nothing special. I’ve heard there are some nice lakes near Otavalo, but if you’re just planning on checking out the town for a day or 2 and it’s not market time, I’d say just skip it and head straight to Quito.
Have you crossed the border between Colombia and Ecuador? How was it? Let me know!