Popayan

Popayán (Pronounced: Po - pa - 'yan), is a colonial-era city in southwestern Colombia, capital of the Cauca department.

Understand

The city was founded in the year 1537 by Sebastian de Belalcazar. Because of its beautiful colonial houses, it is known as the "white city". Popayan has played a major role in Colombia's history dating back to the early days of the Spanish conquest and into the twentieth century. A number of Colombian presidents were born in Popayan including, most recently, Guillermo Leon Valencia from 1962 to 1966. Other well-known citizens include Francisco Jose de Caldas (1768-1816) and Camilo Torres (1766-1816). Popayán has one of Colombia's oldest universities: the Universidad del Cauca, founded in 1827. The University is well known throughout the country for its Law School, Medical School, and its Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering programs. Nowadays around 220.000 people live in the city.

View of the cathedral and the Torre del Reloj during Easter

Get in

By plane

Popayan's airport does not have heavy traffic but you can reach the city by air. There are about four daily flights from Bogota to Popayan and vice versa. The airport is open between 6 AM and 6 PM (daylight hours). There are no flights between Cali and Popayan as of this writing (December 2008). The airport in the neighbour city of Cali (100 minute car ride) serves many domestic and international destinations.

By bus

There are numerous bus companies available. The most reliable are bus operators are Expreso Palmira and Expreso Bolivariano. Avoid Expreso Puerto Tejada. Be advised that there is significant guerrilla activity in the countryside near Popayan and it can be risky to travel by land during periods of disturbance if you are not a local. There are daily buses from the border town of Ipiales.

Get around

Popayan is a small city and it is an easy 10-15 minute walk between the bus station and the centre. The historical centre is fairly compact and best explored on foot. Taxis are plentiful.

See

Since Popayan was a seat of power during Spanish colonial times, there are numerous architectural gems in the city. Some of the most impressive are, naturally, churches. Do not miss: Iglesia de San Francisco, Iglesia La Ermita, and Belen which is perched on top of a small hill overlooking Popayan. As for government buildings the Gobernacion and the Universidad del Cauca have excellent colonial premises. Another architectural site is the Puente del Humilladero, which is a long walking bridge over a river in Popayan that was constructed in old Roman style.

Popayan's central square is called the Parque de Caldas, named after one of Popayan's most famous citizens: Francisco Jose de Caldas (1768-1816). On one side of the square is a city landmark called the Torre del Reloj or the 'Clock Tower.' The clock was designed by Caldas himself and was constructed in Croydon, England before being shipped to Colombia. A few doors down from the Torre del Reloj is the city's Cathedral, which was badly damaged during the major earthquake that almost destroyed the whole city on March 31, 1983. The city took almost 20 years to fully recover from the quake but the vast majority of the buildings in the white colonial centre have now been restored to their former glory.

The city is world-renowned for its Easter celebrations, or the Semana Santa. In fact, the celebrations are the second largest in the world (after Seville, Spain) and are a major sight! Every night during Semana Santa, there are processions in the streets and tens of thousands of people line the sidewalks to watch as floats pass by with religious motifs. The floats are carried on the shoulders of human volunteers. It's a great honour to be selected for the Semana Santa processions but the floats can weigh up to 500 kilo and so dislocated shoulders are frequent. It's a major cultural event that is witnessed by people from all over the country.

Also you can see other older religious traditions like of the Amo Jesus Nazareno of Puelenje is a Catholic image, that is worshiped in the temple of Puelenje, district of Popayan, Colombia. Patron Saint of this place. It is a polychrome wood sculpture of Jesus Christ of the eighteenth century made ​​in the Quito school. Is Baroque. The image also scrolls the Holy Wednesday. In the processions of Holy Week in Popayán that are inscribed in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.This religious festival is celebrated by the natives of Puelenje for 15 days, where there are fireworks, processions, religious ceremonies and cultural events as the Chirimia.

Learn

Buy

You can buy some handicrafts. They are specially made by guambiano indians

Eat

In 2005, Popayan became the first city to be designated a City of Gastronomy as part of the UNESCO Creative Cities initiative. For cheap and genuine food, try the market near Plaza Bolivar, north of the Puente del Humilladero. Meals from COP$ 1500 (June 2008).

Veggie option:

I had Crepes + Gaseosa (option of chicken or meat or fruits) $3,900 - just wow I see why its awarded city of Gastronomy

very unique - unique to the region and Popayan - can't find this any place else in the world...

Stay safe

Popayán is located in Cauca, considered one of the most dangerous departments in Colombia as of 2011. In 2011 several car bombs have rocked central Popayán, with the authorities blaming local armed and mafia groups for the actions. stay alert for information regarding drug traffickers, guerrillas and paramilitaries, as this city and its surroundings sees the presence of countless armed groups.

Drink

Aguardiente caucano is a drink based on Anis and it has some degrees of alcohol. It's the favorite drink in informal parties.

Sleep

There is a lot of budget accommodation in Carrera 6, just across the Puente del Humilladero, north of the Rio Molino.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 27, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.