Popayán – Colonial Beauty and Capital of Cauca
I would like to introduce a Colombian destination to you that probably not everyone knows what certainly doesn’t make it less interesting.
Even if you are maybe just travelling through and just stop there for a bit I am sure you will like this beautiful little city.
One of the most beautiful colonial cities in Colombia is located in the southwest in Colombia halfway between Bogota and Quito (Ecuador). The city in the Andes that was founded 1537 attracted many rich Spanish from the sugar region around Cali due to its mild climate.
The city I am talking about is Popayan, which is also called “The White City”.
Many Backpackers that come from Quito and cross the border to Colombia make a quick stop here to relax a little before heading towards the Caribbean coast. But not only backpackers also hobby archaeologists tend to stop herein Popayan on their way to San Augustin one of the archaeological highlights in Colombia.
Popayan is a very laidback, safe and low priced place and the perfect place to relax for 1-2 days. Here you can stroll through the incredibly beautiful Streets passing by impressing Colonial buildings. Museums, churches (San José, Belén, Santo Domingo, San Agustín, and the cathedral Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, that is often only called „La Catedral“) as well as several bridges make the picture of this lovely city complete.
The capital of Cauca was also home of several Colombian presidents, Poets, Painter and composers.
The university Universidad del Cauca located in Popayan is one of the most prestigious and oldest educational institution in Colombia.
How to get there?
From Bogota you can go there directly with two different airlines. The two airlines go once per day to the “White cities” airport „Guillermo León Valencia“. Offered are the flights by Avianca and EasyFly.
If you are coming from Medellin you can both fly to Cali and take a bus from there to Popayan or you can take a bus directly from Medellin. The shortest route is with the company Flota Magdalena. The bus goes one time per day and the drive takes about 8 hours and a half. The Price is between 18 and 28 Euro. There are several other companies that go to Popayan like Bolivariano and Arauca, but the journey takes here between 12.30 hours and 15.40 hours.
Obviously you can also simply take a plane from Medellin to Bogota and catch the direct flight from the Colombian capital.
Sights and Activities in Popayan?
Generally the historical city centre is the main attraction. Here you find beautiful buildings, Museums and Churches.
- San Francisco – The building in baroque style is the biggest in Popayan and dates back to the colonial time.
- La Ermita – was built 1546 and is the oldest church of the city.
- Santo Domingo – Famous for it impressive selection of artworks made from wood.
- The cathedral Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.
- Caldas Park
- The Clock tower
- The Humilladero Bridge
- The building of Calibio
- House-Museum Mosquera
- Archdiocesan Museum of religious art
- National Museum Guillermo Valencia
- Museum of natural history
Semana Santa and Carnival:
Many people vist Popayan during eastern or how it is called in Colombia, Semana Santa. During Semana Santa which is a very important feast in entire Colombia figurines and statues from the churches are being carried around through the city. The carnial celebrations on the 5th and 6th of January are something special as well. During the celebrations the citizens of the town will throw shoe cream and flour at each other in order to celebrate the diversity of skin colours in Popayán and Colombia.
Visit the National park:
Near the city is the National park Purace located. A 83,000 hectares large Reserve in the middle of the Andes. Several hiking trails lead past lakes, waterfalls and thermal springs.
From the hill Cerro de Las Tres Cruces (The hill of 3 crosses) on the Westside of the city you have a great view above the city. Here you have a beautiful panoramic picture of Popayan and the surrounding mountains and valleys. Another elevated point from where you have a good view is the Morro del Tulcan. In the 20th century a monument was built on top of the hill in honour of the Spanish conquerer Sebastián de Belalcázars.
Some travellers start their trip to San Augustin from Popayan one of Colombia`s archaeological highlights. The busses to San Augustin leave early in the morning and the journey takes 6 – 7 hours. The roads to San Augustin are a little bumpy but the beautiful landscapes that you can enjoy on the way make up for it. Alternatively you can also go to Pitalito shortly before San Augustin and continues with a Colectivo (shared cab) from there.
If you want to visit the impressive stone statues of San Augustin anyways, you should think about combining it with a quick stop in Popayan.
Upper price range
Hotel Dann Monasterio
Calle 4 Numero 10-14, 190002
5 Star luxury hotel with pool, a Turkish bath, colonial interior and a lot more. More information
Middle price range
Hotel Arcada Payanesa
Calle 2 # 4 – 62, 190001
Well situated Hotel with own restaurant, very good value for money. More information
calle 7 # 7-78, 190001
All rooms are equipped with TV and private bathroom. Additionally a free Shuttle Service is being offered. It is a little cheaper than the Payanesa. More information
Hotel Alcala Colonial
Carrera 6 # 1n-22 Barrio Bolívar , 190003
When you are travelling on a budget you should consider the Alcala Colonial.
The price is with 11 Euro per night simply unbeatable. More information.