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, volcano, natural thermal baths…
Trips to Tierradentro and/or San Agustin. Indiana Jones himself would be jealous!
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 transports 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.
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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.
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.
Where to sleep? What to do? Where to eat? How do you get from one place to another?
How to decide among all these stunning places?
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