Popayán is the capital of the Cauca region of Colombia. The Spanish founded it in 1536, and the early settlers used it as a kind of retreat from their hot & sticky sugar cane farms in the Cauca Valley. As Popayán lies at 1,760 metres, the climate is significantly more bearable than low-lying areas at this latitude.
I used Popayán as a stop-off point between Cali and the mysterious archaeological site of San Augustin, my final destination, and had a couple of hours wandering the charming Andalucian-style colonial streets before nightfall. The Spanish classic architecture was beautiful, and in places (such as the main Plaza), simply breathtaking.
Popayán felt much more like a sleepy university town than its estimated population of 225,000 would have you believe, and the following morning it became yet another Colombian destination I had to reluctantly drag myself away from!
Security around Popayán
Up until relatively recently (late 2005), there have been (to quote my guide book) "guerrilla problems" in the Cauca region of Colombia, however, as with the rest of Colombia, security has improved hugely in the last few years, and according to locals these areas are now completely safe. It will of course be a few years before the guide books, then the international governments give the all-clear, and the tourists flood in, but having spoken endlessly to various locals we can assure you Colombia is safe. What’s more, it’s probably the friendliest country in Latin America!
HostelTrail guesthouse (Single room $11/night, dorm bed $7)
Photos of Popayán coming soon