Popayan is long overlooked as a destination for backpackers. Popayan has played a major role in Colombia’s history dating back to the early days of the Spanish conquest and into the twentieth century. Nicknamed as the “Ciudad Blanca” white city, Popayan’s narrow cobblestone streets are guarded by the white walls of historical buildings which feature beautifully manicured balconies.
There are frequent buses from Bogota and Cali in the north, Neiva and San Agustin in the east and Ipiales and Pasto in South. The airport is open between 6 AM and 6 PM and has daily flights to and from Bogota.
Getting To the centre from the bus station/airport:
From the bus terminal:
The centre of Popayan can easily be accessed by foot from the bus terminal. Upon exiting the terminal, cross the road through the red foot over bridge and walk 5 blocks straight till you reach the centre. A taxi would cost 4,000 COP to the centre.
From the Airport:
Popayan’s airport is located next to the bus station. It is 20 minutes walk away from the historic centre. A taxi would cost 4,000 COP to the centre.
Popayan is a small city, the beauty of the colonial city can be explored by walking through the cobblestone streets.
What To See:
Torre del Reloj (The clock tower) is a bell tower of Cathedral Basilica Nuestra de Señora. It was built around the year 1900. It is the third tower on the site and was restored after the 1983 earthquake. The clock in the tower is stuck in 02:45, locals believe that the clock has been stuck at 2:45 since the earthquake.
Iglesia de San Francisco is among the most important religious sites in Colombia. The bell tower features one of the largest gold and bronze bells in the Americas. Inside the church the pulpit, the white walls flank a tall golden altar stretching to the ceiling.
Puente del Humilladero is an emblematic landmark. It is 240m-long. This 11-arch brick bridge was constructed to improve access to the centre from the poor northern suburbs in the mid-19th century. Next to it is Puente de la Custodia, a pretty stone bridge constructed in 1713 to allow priests to cross the Río Molino to bring the holy orders to the sick.
El Morro De Tulcán is the main archaeological site of Popayán. This indigenous pyramid is said to be constructed in the pre-Columbian period, approximately between 1600 – 500 BC. On this pyramid a statue of the Spanish conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar is perched; he carried out the Spanish foundation of Popayán.
Museo Nacional Guillermo Valencia was the house of the former Colombian President, who served from 1962 to 1966. The museum exhibits some of his personal items like photographs, furniture, artwork and decorations. The house has a garden, a chapel, an interactive room and a reading room. There is a free guided tour.
Iglesia La Ermita is Popayán’s oldest church. It is worth visiting for its fine main retable and the fragments of old frescoes, which were only discovered after the 1983 earthquake.
Rincon Payanés is an interesting site located a few blocks away from the historic centre. It is a replica of some of the important sites of Popayan including the oldest church Iglesia La Ermita.
Capilia De Belen is a chapel set on a hill just east of the city centre offers nice views over the town. It is recommended to visit Capilia De Belen during the daylight as its often said that some people have sighted robberies and petty crimes after evening.
Where to Eat:
El Mano (Calle 7, Unit 9-56 (at Carrera 10 ))
This vegetarian restaurant is an ideal choice for lunch, chose 7 of their 12 options. Which usually includes a choice between soup and salad main course consisting of rice or pasta with fake meat and lentils or beans and sweet dish and fruit salad with juice or tea. Price from 43\00 COP
Kanda Restaurante Cafe (Calle 5, 8-53)
Kanda Restaurant serves vegetarian lunch which includes fake meat entrée, soup, mixed salad, brown rice, beans, fruit juice, and a small dessert. They also sell Fresh fruit juices and whole grain cookies. Price from 4000 COP
Mecato De Aliria (Calle 6, at the entrance of Carreras 5 and 6)
Mecato De Aliria specializes in typical Caucan (regional) cuisines and fast food. Price from 4000 COP
Where To Sleep:
Hostel Trail: Hostel Trail is located two blocks away from the main square of Popayan. It’s a super economic hostel.