Clustered with whitewashed buildings and ornate churches, Popayan is an enchanting city in Colombia’s south-west. It is particularly renowned for its Holy Week celebrations, with processions making their way through the streets since the 16th century. Popayan has been designated by UNESCO as a City of Gastronomy due to its rich culinary traditions.
Things to do in Popayán
Stroll through the centre of Popayan to admire its historic buildings, including the magnificent Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption. It watches over Parque Caldas alongside the 17th-century Torre del Reloj, which has been nicknamed the “Nose of Popayan”. Don’t miss the San Francisco Church with its Baroque facade that is considered among the finest in Colombia.
Colonial artworks and antique furnishings are on display at the House-Museum Mosquera, which occupies the former residence of the powerful Mosquera Arboleda family. Another of their properties has been transformed into the Archdiocesan Museum of Religious Art, where you’ll find precious silverware and Quito School paintings. Poetry fans shouldn’t miss a visit to the National Museum Guillermo Valencia, which is dedicated to the Modernist writer.
Overlooking Popayan is the Morro del Tulcan, an Indigenous pyramid where influential individuals were buried in the pre-Columbian period. Combine your visit with a stop at the nearby Natural History Museum University of Cauca, which details the flora and fauna of the region. In addition to taxidermied animals and local insects, it exhibits pre-Columbian pottery.
Getting around Popayán
Guillermo Leon Valencia Airport is a five-minute drive from the centre of Popayan and has regular flights to Bogota. The much larger Alfonso Bonilla Aragon International Airport near Cali is just over three hours away. Long-distance buses connect from destinations across Colombia and Ecuador to Popayan and the city centre is compact enough to explore on foot.