Nicknamed the White City, Popayan is a pretty colonial town tucked away in Western Colombia - one of those places where you’d love to lose yourself in the white-washed facades of the charming old town, roam the lanes and by-lanes of less-frequented spots, and hop the trendy bars and cafes for a taste of the local cuisine. This Latin American gem enjoys cool temperatures throughout the year, which makes sightseeing and moving around so much more comfortable and easy. With beautiful colonial architecture, quaint cafes, a tremendous food culture (Popayan was declared a ‘City of Gastronomy’ by UNESCO in 2007), imposing churches and sweeping countrysides, the White City should never go missing from those travel plans, especially if you’re Ecuador-bound.
In order to experience the real flair of this beautifully preserved settlement, here are some of the top things to do when in the city.
1. Iglesia de San Francisco
Dominating the Popayan skyline, the largest colonial church is also the most beautiful historic structure in the city, housing a beautifully decorated high altar and seven interesting side altars. The highlights of this landmark are the six ancient mummies uncovered after the 1983 earthquake, two of which are still preserved within the premises. If you’re keen to take a look, the one-hour tour of the church, with a guide, is the best way to do it.
Iglesia de San Francisco
Address: Cra. 9 # 4-29, Popayán, Cauca, Colombia
2. Casa Museo Mosquera
The 18th-century-mansion-turned museum was once home to Popayan’s most prominent and respected family - the Mosqueras - whose members included General Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera, Colombia’s four-time president and his two brothers - one, also one-term president of the country and the other archbishop during the same period. The museum is exactly like the lives they lead - interesting. While there are lots of impressive family artifacts, exhibits, and pictures, what stands out is the original French crystal chandelier hanging in the dining room, which was said to have been brought all the way to Popayan from the Caribbean on a mule.
Casa Museo Mosquera
Address: Cl. 3 #5-14, Popayán, Cauca, Colombia
Website: Casa Museo Mosquera - Spanish
3. Puente del Humilladero
Steeped in rich history, the landmark is a mid-19th-century bridge, built to connect the city center to the poor northern suburbs. Also known as the ‘Bridge of Humiliation’, the unique creation, built of a curious mix of cement, ox blood, and shells, is believed to be the spot where the slaves were brought to, before being sold off to the masters of the colonial past. You can visit this underrated sight as a part of the guided walking tour, which also includes the river and the adjacent park.
Puente del Humilladero
Address: Cra. 5 #1-28, Popayán, Cauca, Colombia
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4. Museo Arquidiocesano de Arte Religioso
March 14-16 different photos of Popayan exploring parts of the city missed prior to Inza.Posted by David Bradford Kane on Thursday, 16 March 2017
Set in a pretty colonial building, this museum displays a comprehensive collection of religious art, dating back to the period between 17th and 19th centuries. A must-visit for the artists and curious minds, the building houses high-quality specimens of altar pieces, statues, silverware, liturgical vessels, and paintings, to name a few. A walk around these glorious works of art is best enjoyed with a knowledgeable guide, who, with his stories, can make history come to life.
Museo Arquidiocesano de Arte Religioso
Address: Cl. 4 #4-56, Popayán, Cauca, Colombia
5. Parque Caldas
An ideal place to cut the monotony of day trips and sightseeing, a walk in this park is not only about sitting on a bench and watching the pigeons, although, that too is needed sometimes. Surrounded by eateries and shops, yet cutting off pollution and noise, Parque Caldas boasts fun scenes of bike races and street performances, alongside languid strolls and quiet moments. Named after the national hero, Francisco José de Caldas, the park, although not spectacular, is quite a mood-lifter with its cool shaded areas and ample stretches of green.
Address: Cra. 5 #6-67, Popayán, Cauca, Colombia
6. Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption
Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption and Caldas ParkPosted by David Willson on Wednesday, 23 August 2017
Inside of Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the AssumptionPosted by David Willson on Wednesday, 23 August 2017
Donning a neoclassical facade, Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption is a place of Catholic worship, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. A dome tops this architectural wonder, also called the Popayán Cathedral, which features French-style interiors. Like all important monuments in Popayan, this cathedral, too, was stripped off all its wealth and glory by Colombian political leader, Antonio Nariño, but now the fully remodeled structure stands out amidst all other churches, and is a major tourist attraction.
Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption
Address: Calle 5ª, Popayán, Cauca, Colombia
7. Parque Natural de Purace
Estupenda imagen de nuestro majestuoso volcán, en Parque Nacional Natural Puracé.Posted by Volcán purace on Tuesday, 12 July 2016
A slice of heaven nestled amidst the Andean mountains, Parque Natural de Purace is a gorgeous reserve, well-frequent by the outdoor adventurers. This national park centers around the country’s active volcano called Purace, which gives the attraction its name. While the volcano can be climbed independently, with some local help, the surrounding scenic hiking trails run by delightful waterfalls, glistening lakes, and natural thermal springs - definitely a must-see item on your Colombian itinerary.
Parque Natural de Purace
Address: Popayán-Isnos, Cauca, Colombia
Website: Parque Natural de Purace - Spanish
8. Morro del Tulcan
El Morro del Tulcán es el principal sitio arqueológico de Popayán. Este consiste en una pequeña loma no natural en forma...Posted by Arqueología Colombiana on Friday, 14 October 2016
El Morro de Tulcán, Popayàn City Fotografìa: Jose Luis Perez,-Copyright- Derecho exclusivo del AutorPosted by Jose Duenas on Thursday, 20 July 2017
Right next to the old town, lies the historic site of Morro del Tulcan, which may historians believe was once a stepped pyramid. A popular site with locals and tourists alike, this scenic little hill warrants a good climb in order to enjoy the breathtaking views of the beautiful Pubenza Valley and glorious sunsets. Spend quality moments with your family, take lots of (enviable) holiday pictures, listen to the timeless tales of the past, and soak up the convivial environment - this little picturesque spot is popular and with good reason.
Morro del Tulcan
Address: Carrera 2a., Calle 1a. Norte, Popayán, Colombia
9. Mora Castilla (cafe)
Nuestra mesa está servida!!! Bienvenidos a #Popayán Y a su #semanasanta ! Una de las más hermosas del mundo!... Disfrú...Posted by MoraCastilla on Wednesday, 23 March 2016
No holiday is complete without savoring the local delights at trendy cafes. Mora Castilla is one such popular joint that serves excellent traditional dishes that wreak havoc with your taste buds. Some of the winning items include empanadas, tamales with flavorful peanut sauce, salpicón payanese, and carantantas, all at reasonable prices. Whether you’re a coffee sipper or a big foodie, the highly recommended cafe has something for everyone.
Address: Cl. 2 #4 - 42, Popayán, Cauca, Colombia
Website: Mora Castilla - Spanish
10. Restaurante Italiano
Pizzería y restaurante italiano Abiertos de martes a domingo desde la 5PMPosted by Fratelli d'Italia on Thursday, 23 July 2015
¿Y comerte una pizza Blancanieves ahora mismo? Ayllón #restaurante #italiano #Sanlúcar #pizza #pasta #pizzeríaPosted by El italiano giuseppe on Saturday, 17 September 2016
If you’re missing European food during Colombian travels, head straight to this Swiss-owned food joint that serves mind-melting Italian food. Its comprehensive menu offers everything from a Pizza Nostra to a Pasta Carbonara to delicious salads, and in pretty big portions too. Wash down your meal with a glass of wine or freshly brewed coffee before attacking the authentic fondue meant to be enjoyed in the cool climate. Although a little more pricey than regular Colombian joints, the flavors and the portions more than make up for the extra moolah spent.
Address: Cl. 4 #883, Popayán, Cauca, Colombia
Discover the South American gem called Popayan
Housing a small population of 266,000, the sleepy town does not feature a Starbucks or a McDonalds, but it does have its fair share of quaint bars and trendy local eateries dotting the city. At nightfall, Popayan suddenly comes alive with an active night scene, thanks to the local universities, while the sporadic free concerts add further energy to the otherwise laid-back Colombian lifestyle. Discover the scenic hiking trails, the picturesque countryside, and the historical sights in the still-untouched destination, which is a current favorite with the intrepid travelers who like to take the off-beaten paths and stumble upon hidden gems like Popayan.
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