When I finally arrived in Popayán after an accident on the road from Cali had delayed my bus ride, the sky was a heavy dark, and sunlight was already disappearing. I quickly set myself up in one of the very attractive colonial mansions turned into a hotel, and rushed out again. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I only saw pedestrians on the streets. I immediately developed a liking for this colonial town. The white of the houses - all houses in the city centre are obliged to be white, and the city is also known as the White City - contrasted beautifully against the black sky and I thoroughly enjoyed walking the streets of Popayán until darkness fell.
The next day, I was out early. Unfortunately, there was a thick layer of grey clouds over the city, which did not make the white of the houses stand out as much as the day before. I discovered that most churches in Popayán only open certain hours of the day, so it is not easy to just visit them whenever you pass by. Some churches, like the San Francisco and the Cathedral, seem to be open all day. Even from the outside, I liked the La Ermita church on top of the Calle 5, which also passes the Cathedral. Unfortunately, the Parque Caldas right in front of the Cathedral was under heavy construction and I could only vaguely imagine what it would look like. I also walked up a path turned into a Via Crucis by the religious stations depicting the last days of Jesus to the Capilla de Belén on top of a hill overlooking the town. From here, it was not far to reach the Morro del Tulcán. This is a pre-Colombian pyramid, where the indigenous people were buried. Right on top, there is a statue of Sebastián de Belalcázar, the founder of the city that lies charmingly at your feet. As the sun was going down behind the clouds, we saw spectacular lightning at a distance.
The name Popayán comes from an Indian dialect and means Two villages with straw roofs, even though none of the houses have straw roofs anymore. After its foundation, it developed as an important stopover for traffic between Quito and Cartagena, and managed to retain its colonial character. It is the capital of the department of Cauca. It suffered major destruction by earthquakes, the last one in 1983 - you can still see the damage in some parts of the city. Some of the churches had to be rebuilt. The city is also known for its university, and it has contributed disproportionally to Colombian culture, art and politics through famous poets, painters, and politicians. There even is a special building in the city centre, unfortunately not open for visitors, where the famous sons and daughters of the city are buried. Walking the city continued to be a pleasure during my stay, even though the best day to visit definitely is Sunday because there are so few cars on the streets. When I finally had to leave Popayán, I felt sad at having to leave the charming town behind.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Popayán (Colombia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Popayán. Read more about this site.