Popayán, also known as La Ciudad Blanca or the white city, is a pretty colonial city painted, you guessed it, white. It is also one of the UNESCO creative cities of Gastronomy so what’s not to like!? Our first introduction to Popayán was a quick scramble around the white streets looking for the Liverpool versus Roma match. Thankfully we found a little restaurant where we could watch this very important Champions League semi-final and have a much needed menu del dia y cervezas. We stayed 3 nights in Hostal Trail which is located close to the bus station and center of town and offers different tours of interested. Here are our top 5 things to do in Popayán.
The beautiful architecture of Popayan
Top 5 things to do in Popayán
1. Sample the Traditional Food and Drink
You must not leave Popayán without eating empanadas de pipian. These goodies are tiny empanadas filled with potato served with spicy peanut sauce and they are amazing. We ate 20 in one sitting. We also tried tamal de pipián, a vegetable tamal covered in peanut sauce but one was enough for us.
Just wander the streets of Popayan
Next up were the traditional drinks. Salpicón payanés is a blackberry, lulo and guanábana mix and it wins hands down over Champus, which is a maiz, pineapple, lulo, panela mix. I tried Champus in Cali and regretted my decision almost instantly.
For all our traditional food sampling needs we headed to Mora de Castilla. The food is very cheap and delicious, and a visit should be top of your list when visiting Popayán.
2. Free Walking Tour
We did a free walking tour with Get Up and Go Colombia. This company is set up by and run by university students. It was really enjoyable and interesting, it’s up there with the best ones we did. We learned why the city is white, a bit about the cathedral, the traditions of the famous Easter procession, visited some buildings and the humiliation bridge. As part of this tour we also visited Mora de Castilla to sample some of the traditional food. The tour was short and we felt it could have been a bit longer but it was a nice way to spend two hours. Start times are 10am or 4pm and the office is located in the main plaza. Check them out on facebook.
Walk around this wonderful city and learn its history
3. El Morro De Tulcán
El Morro is a hill overlooking the city and is believed to be a pre-hispanic pyramid structure. We headed off to El Moro to watch the sunset over the city. It was a nice stroll around the hill to find the steps and we were greeted with the statue of Sebastián De Belalcázar the Spanish conquistador. There are lots of people around the hill enjoying the scenery. It was really peaceful and beautiful.
The statue of Belalcazar on top of El Morro
Sunset views are amazing
4. Walk around the white washed streets
Popayán has a lot of churches and beautiful white buildings. Make sure to go inside the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption, it’s beautifully decorated in blue. Watch out for mummies in San Francisco church. They were discovered after the 1983 earthquake. Walk along the Humilladero bridge, known also as humiliation bridge due to the way traders and people approached the city nearly on their knees due to it’s incline. Take a break in the main Parque Caldas with some tinto and an empanada.
The Cathedral and a bird photobomb
Its called the White City for a reason!
5. Tasty Menu del Dia
Looking for a tasty menu del dia? If yes then Carpe Diem is a good choice. We stumbled across Carpe Diem on a search for lunch and went back again the next day. The food was good quality and the restaurant has a nice setting. It cost 10,000 COP for the lunch but it was well worth it. You can definitely find cheaper but it won’t taste as good, I can assure you!
Dinner option – We headed to Casa Blanca for dinner one evening. It offers different 2 x 1 specials each day. The food was really tasty and plentiful. We paid 27,000COP for two dinners and two drinks.
Popayan at night – just as pretty
Other things to do in Popayán
Museums, there are a lot of different museum’s to visit if you have time – National History, Religious Art, Mosquera. Note: most museums close between 2 and 4 so check out opening hours beforehand.
We had planned to go to Purace National Park, however after realizing how much it was going to cost, 40,000 entrance, 18,000 transport each way, 35,000 for guide, we didn’t think it was worth it.
Coconuco Thermal Baths, visiting the pools was also on our list for Popayán, but rain and laziness won over. There are two pools Aguas Tibias (~10,000COP) and Aguas Hirviendo (~8,oooCOP). It’s possible to go on your own (approx. 10,000-15,000COP) or by tour (~45,000COP). Check out prices before hand as they seem to be increasing.
Bar La Iguana, we headed here in the hopes of practicing some more salsa. Supposedly there is a free salsa class on Wednesdays with live music afterwards but when we checked it out, there was no one around and no salsa.