Popayan is a stunning colonial city a couple of hours south of Cali. It is know as The White City for its white colonial architecture. The city's colonial district covers a fairly large area of the centre and forms the working heart of Popayan (as compared to other colonial cities such as Cartagena whose colonial sectors are now predominantly tourist attractions).
Perched at an altitude of 1740m Popayán's cool climate is more remiscent of that of the coffee region than of sweaty Cali just up the road. The sun can sometimes be quite strong during the day, but nights are cool.
In theory it is possible to "do" Popayán in a day, but depending on what floats your proverbial boat it's probably worth spending a few days here at least to soak up the calm atmosphere.
Without doubt the first thing to do upon arrival in Popayan is to simply walk down to the impressive central park/square Plaza Caldas and from there stroll up any of the adjacent streets and weave your way through the whitewashed buildings. Some of the buildings can be entered and almost all contain some kind of picturesque courtyard.
Parque Caldas ranks as one of my favourite squares in the whole country and it's a fantastic spot to relax in for a while and watch the world go by. The cathedral to the south of the square is worth peaking inside.
A couple of blocks north of Parque Caldas along carrera 6 you come to two bridges; the larger (and more modern of the two) is called Puente del Humilladero.
The smaller footbridge down to the left (looking north) is one of the oldest bridges in Colombia and is called Puente Chiquito.
By crossing Puente Chiquito you will be following in the footsteps of the great liberator Simon Bolivar who is said to have traversed the bridge some two centuries ago.
Once the novelty of trampling the same ground as history's greats fades you can wander around and savour the beauty and quaintness of the area around the bridges and the stream over which they pass.
This area of Popayan is popular with artisans and the usual colombian trinkets (bracelets, necklaces etc) are sold in the area just before you reach Puente del Humilladero.
Popayan's largest church, La Iglesia de San Francisco, is situated two blocks west of Parque Caldas next to the Monasterio Hotel. It's a beautfiul church with a small plaza in front of it.
Iglesia La Ermita is Popayan's oldest church a few blocks east from the south east corner of calle 5. From the slight elevation of the church is a nice view back along calle 5 with the trees of Parque Caldas poking over the slated roofs (see photo, left).
To the north east of Parque Caldas lies Morro de Belalcazar, a hill with a great view overlooking Popayan. At certains times of the year trees covered in pink blossom can be seen peeking out from between the white buildings; a beautiful sight!
At the base of the hill is a small mock colonial town (similar to 'Pueblito Paisa' in Medellin). Within it are small shops selling snacks and artwork.
Further south on a different hill is Belén chapel. The view from here isn't quite as good as from Morro de Belalcazar, but it's still worth the effort if you have time.
New! CommentsHave your say on the site! Leave me a comment in the box below.