Fans and family have paid their last respects to much-loved Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, leaving flowers and playing music in a colourful remembrance of the Nobel laureate and giant of Latin American literature.

Garcia Marquez died in Mexico on Thursday aged 87.

Hundreds thronged outside Mexico City's Palace of Fine Arts to lay bouquets and see the urn containing the ashes of the pioneer of magical realism and author of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude'.

Mourners used umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun as they bade farewell to Garcia Marquez, who was known to friends and fans alike as 'Gabo', while some struck up music, playing on tambourines and maracas.

Inside, a few guests cried out 'Gabo' as the author's ashes entered in a box into the Palace of Fine Arts.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos gave thanks for his life as evening fell.

"A great, really great man has left us," Mr Pena Nieto said. "But his work remains with us."

Colombia is due to hold a separate memorial, and Mr Santos said Garcia Marquez had achieved "eternal glory".

"More than simply the Colombian, he brought to his works the very essence of the Latin American being," he said.

After the presidents spoke, thousands of yellow paper butterflies blew out of the columned entrance of the palace into the night sky, harking back to a character from 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' who is followed by the winged insects.

Fellow authors lavished praise on the 1982 Nobel Prize winner Garcia Marquez after his death, and political leaders across the world were quick to pay their respects.

The works of the author, whose smiling face beamed out from posters on the walls of the palace, have sold in the tens of millions, captivating highbrow literary critics and tapping into the region's everyday myth making.

Though he wrote stories, essays and short novels in the 1950s and early 1960s, he did not find fame until 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' was published in 1967.

Late Mexican author Carlos Fuentes dubbed it 'Latin America's Don Quixote'.

The novel tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia family in the fictional village of Macondo, based on the Colombian town of Aracataca, where Garcia Marquez was born.

Combining miraculous and supernatural events with details of everyday life, Garcia Marquez used the novel to explore the political landscape of Latin America.

It sold more than 30 million copies and helped fuel a boom in Latin American fiction.

He followed his best-known novel with other major works, including 'Autumn of the Patriarch', 'Love in the Time of Cholera’ and 'Chronicle of a Death Foretold'.