Long overlooked as travel destination, the city of Popayán, Colombia is finally starting to get its due. Rich in well preserved colonial architecture and quaint walkways this city in the Valle de Cauca thrives in its wealth of character and charm. The narrow streets of Popayán are guarded by the white walls of historical buildings which feature beautifully manicured balconies. This city, which is perhaps the second most impressive colonial town in Colombia next to Cartagena, has been overlooked in the past because of its location well off the normal travel circuit of Colombia. However, as tourism in Colombia has begun to increase over the past couple of years this city is quickly becoming a favourite of travellers willing to jump off of the beaten path. Popayán is especially impressive during Semana Santa as Colombians descend on the city for the Easter week processions.
Time Needed: 2-3 days
Budget: 25-40$ a day
Things to do in Popayán
- Churches: There is seemingly a church on every block in Popayán. Among the most impressive is the massive Iglesia San Francisco, it is worth it to head up the bell tower here for a great view of the city as well. The oldest church in town is Iglesia La Ermita which is worth a stop.
- Museums: There are a number of museums in Popayán including a Natural History Museum, a Museum of Religious Art, and the interesting Casa Museo Mosquera, the former home of a long serving Colombian president and current home to his heart which was removed upon his death.
- Ziplining: It is almost as though a destination knows it has really arrived as a tourism spot as soon as a zipline is put in place. Just outside of town at Las Ardillas nature reserve you’ll find the ziplines, a swimming pool and a sauna. Price of go on the ziplines is about 15US$.
Where to Eat in Popayán
The one local dish you’ll need to try while in Popayán is their local twist on empanadas. They serve empanadas de pipian which are a spicier verison with almost an Indian, spicy Peanut Butter, flavour. The food options I tried are below:
- La Italiana: Serves Italian and local meals, as well as pizza. The atmosphere is lacking but the food is good. You can get set lunch for 8,000 pesos, or order off the menu for between 15,000 and 20,000 pesos (8-11US$).
- Tequila: For Mexican food head to Tequila which does very good food for a fair price. Full meals like Tacos or Quesadillas are about 12-15,000 pesos (7-9U$).
- La Via: Maybe the busiest place in town. The menu is big and set lunches are available for about 9000 pesos. If you want to order off the menu prices are between 15-25,000 pesos. This is a great place to try pipian empanadas which are tiny but cost a mere 300 pesos (20cents).
- Pizza Net: If you’re looking for a cheap meal try Pizza Net. You can get a good sized personal pizza for between 5 and 7,000 pesos or there are also sandwiches and burgers for around the same price.
Where to Stay in Popayán
There isn’t yet a great variety of places to stay in Popayán, however the places that exist to date are very nice and well priced. While in town I stayed at the very well located Hostel Trail which is out of the center but within about a 5minute walk. The private rooms in Hostel Trail are very nice and quite large, they are a good value. I have also been told by fellow travellers that a new hostel has sprung up called Park Life Hostel and is very nice; it is right in the main plaza.
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