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San Bernardo, Colombia

Mummies of San Bernardo

No one knows for sure why this town's dead refuse to rot. 

In the small town of San Bernardo, Colombia, high within the Andes, people become naturally petrified for reasons unknown to modern science. The preserved remains were first discovered in the 1950s, when the local cemetery was relocated due to a flood.

Some of the town’s natives believe the local diet, which involves the guatila and the balu, two unusual fruits that are commonly eaten in the area, is responsible for the mummified remains. But a dietary explanation is unlikely, as the mummies’ outfits are also well-preserved. Others point to the area’s climate and high altitude, which are slightly more plausible reasons as to why the dead refuse to rot.

This isn’t the first Latin American country to sport spontaneously mummified residents. In Guanajuato, Mexico, underground gas and the chemical composition of the soil cause bodies to remain relatively intact after burials. For whatever the reason, those who are buried within the boundaries of San Bernardo are mummified without any sort of accidental chemical intervention.

Today, these mummies can be observed within the town’s cemetery, where a mausoleum was recently built to display some of the most complete and best preserved bodies. These mummies are curated by the families of those being displayed and their biographies are shared by their close ones. Tourists can pass through to look at the unusual spectacle, while locals can pop in to see the absurdly intact corpses of their neighbors and kin.

Know Before You Go

Accessible via the bus terminal in Fusagasugá (Fusa), and a short 10 minute walk from the town center.