The ashes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez were taken to Mexico City's majestic Palace of Fine Arts on Monday, where thousands of admiring readers paid tribute to the Colombian Nobel laureate.

Garcia Marquez is considered the greatest Spanish-language writer in three centuries.

The presidents of Mexico and Colombia were attended the late-afternoon ceremony four days after the death of the 87-year-old author.

Garcia Marquez's birthplace, the town of Aracataca on Colombia's Caribbean coast, was planning a symbolic funeral.

Colombia also planned a marathon reading this week of Garcia Marquez's work, No One Writes to the Colonel.

Garcia Marquez lived in Mexico for decades and wrote some of his best-known works there, included the renowned 100 Years of Solitude.

Mexican officials said Garcia Marquez's ashes were present, and some of the author's favourite classical music was performed. The ceremony was led by presidents Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico and Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia.

In Aracataca, residents walked from Garcia Marquez's childhood home, now a museum dedicated to his life and work, to the church in the centre of town, then to the town cemetery and back to the museum.

Jorge Polo Camargo, who was organising the ceremony in Colombia, said mourners carried hundreds of yellow paper butterflies, echoing one of the best known images from 100 Years of Solitude.

Family members have not yet announced what they plan to do with his ashes.

Colombia has said it would like at least some of the ashes to go to his homeland.

Source: Agencies