Popayan is a destination in the South of Colombia that is not very popular compared to what it can offer. Many of the visitors are backpackers in transit between Colombia and Ecuador. Most of them make the mistake of staying only one night before hitting the road again.

However, even if it is true that there is not so much to do in the white city, you will be surprised to discover a colonial city steeped in history. Did you know that a significant proportion of Colombian presidents were born in Popayan?

Although the old center is charming and culturally rich, this is not the only reason that makes this destination attractive. The surrounding area is full of little gems that you can add to your Colombian itinerary.

Here are some possible options:

  • Visit Silvia’s market on Tuesday morning
  • Spends several days in Purace National Park. Paramos, condors, mountains, volcanoes, natural thermal baths…
  • Trips to Tierradentro and/or San Agustin. Indiana Jones himself would be jealous!
  • Canyoning in El Tambo
  • Gastronomy and history of the white city


Getting to Popoyan? (+)

From Cali

  • Bus at the main terminal | Transporte Puerto Tejada & Coomotor | 4 hours

From San Agustin

  • Bus at the 4 Vientos (A crossroad in the center) | Cootranshuila & Cootrans Laboyana | 5 hours

From Medellin

  • Bus at the South terminal. Only 1 bus in the evening. Schedule – double-check with the bus company. | Flota Magdalena | 11 hours
  • Bolivariano is maybe doing it too.
  • By plane : there are flights with 1 stopover departing from Jose Maria Cordova Airport of Medellín | Company: Avianca | Duration at the shortest: 3h30 |

From Bogota

  • Bus at the main Terminal (Salitre) | Only 2 buses in the evening. Schedule – double-check with the bus company. | Flota Magdalena & Bolivariano | 12 hours
  • By plane : only 2 or 3 direct flights per day from Bogotá airport | Company : Avianca | Duration : 1h30 |

From Tierradentro:

  • There is one bus leaving from San Andres at 6 am. You can also catch a bus at the crossroad  “Crucero de San Andres”. More information here. | 4-5 hours

Where's the terminal?

The Popayan bus terminal is located on the outskirts of the historic city center.
It takes about 5-10min by taxi to reach the “Parque Caldas” in the old center.

Where is the airport?

Popayan’s Guillermo Leon Valencia Airport is located on the outskirts of the city’s historic center.
It takes about 5-10min by taxi to reach the “Parque Caldas” in the old center.

Cruse de Isnos?

You’ll often hear about“Cruse de Isnos”. If you open the Google map link, you will see an intersection with the main road (in yellow) that connects Popayán with Pitalito and a secondary road (in white) that departs from the main road in the direction of San Agustín.

This crossing is important there because most of the major buses transit between Popayán and Pitalito without going up to San Agustín. That’s why some transport will leave you at this intersection, at the side of the road, but don’t be afraid.

  • Popayán – San Agustín Route
    • Case 1: you have a direct bus (they are rare) Popayán – San Agustín
    • Case 2: You don’t have a direct bus. So you will do: Popayán – Cruse de Isnos – San Agustín.
      The bus will drop you off at the “Cruse de Isnos” intersection but another bus should be there to take you to San Agustín. Ask for it when you buy your ticket.
      Note: in any case, there are many jeeps and shuttles that make the trip. You can also stop one of them by making a hand gesture.
  • San Agustín – Popayán Route
    • Case 1: you have a direct bus (they are rare) San Agustín – Popayan
    • Case 2: You don’t have a direct bus. So you’re heading to San Agustin – Cruse de Isnos – Popayan.
      The taxi will drop you off at the intersection “Cruse de Isnos” and you will wait for the main bus to go to Cruse de Isnos – Popayán. Check with the company you choose to make the trip.

Table of Contents

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Where to stay in Popayan

All the tourist sights are in the colonial city center. There are tons of students during the day, but the streets are quiet at night. There are some good options for lunch & dinner, and a couple of charming bars. However, you will have to take a short cab ride if you decide to party in the Zona Rosa. Most of the hotels are quite old, with a weird-interesting "religious" decoration.

  • Caracol

    Hostel - $


    Basic and affordable rooms. Lovely cafe where you can sit and enjoy a tasty breakfast.
    Get the best price
  • Arte

    Hostel - $


    Cheap and affordable rooms, with nice hammock area to hang out. Clean. Welcoming staff.
    Get the best price
  • Arcada Payanesa

    Hotel - $$

    Arcada Payanesa

    Clean and modern rooms. Comfy beds. Twin rooms or triple. Perfect for a quiet night.
    Get the best price
  • La Herreria

    hotel - $$

    La Herreria

    A lovely colonial house with basic and clean rooms. The staff is welcoming and ready to help.
    Get the best price
  • La Plazuela

    Hotel - $$

    La Plazuela

    Peaceful and beautiful colonial building. Lovely courtyard and old fashioned rooms.
    Get the best price
  • Dann Monasterio

    Upscale - $$$

    Dann Monasterio

    "Luxurious" option in Popayan. Old and beautiful convent with a swimming pool. Spacious rooms.
    Get the best price

Things to do in Popayan

Exploring the colonial center of Popayan won't take long, and we don't recommend you travel all the way done there only for visiting the white city. However, it's a stop to add to your Colombia itinerary if you're looking for an easy hike to admire the Paramo in the national park El Purace.

  • Visit Popayan

    2 hours | $

    Visit Popayan

    Young and energic Colombians organize free walking tours to show you the secrets of the city
  • El Morro

    1 hour | Free

    El Morro

    Watch the sunset from "El Morro", a small pyramid built by the indigenous to bury their dead.
    Google Map
  • Bike tour

    3 - 5 hours | $

    Bike tour

    An easy bike tour from the Termales Coconuco. 30 km, mostly downhill. You can't be lost.
    Learn more
  • Silvia

    6 - 8 hours | $


    Every Tuesday morning, indigenous communities meet in Silvia to sell goods.
    Learn more
  • Paramo & Condor

    Full day | $$$

    Paramo & Condor

    Go to the National Park el Purace and explore the paramo, condors, waterfalls, and hot springs.
    Learn more
  • Volcano Hike

    10 hours | $$

    Volcano Hike

    Hike the Volcano Purace - 4650m high. It can be part of a 2-day trip, with a night in a refuge.
    We recommend
  • Thermal baths

    8 hours | $$$

    Thermal baths

    There are a few hot springs scattered around Popayan: Las Salinas, Pozo Azul.
    Learn more
  • Canyoning

    8 hours | $$


    Go to El Tambo for exploring fantastic canyons. 20 - 40m waterfalls. Spanish only.

Where to eat & drink?

For us, good restaurants and exciting nightlife are important when traveling. We gathered our favorite picks on an interactive Map. Download the APP "Mapstr" and look for "Colombia Insider"!

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