Popayán is known as La Ciudad Blanca (The White City) for its whitewashed historic colonial city center. It was founded in 1537 by Spanish conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar and is one of the most well-preserved colonial cities in all of Latin America.
Popayán has also been recognized by UNESCO for its annual Holy Week processions as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and as a City of Gastronomy in 2005. It has a unique local cuisine and hosts the National Gastronomy Congress every September. Several restaurants in town offer the local delicacies along with other Colombian and international cuisine.
It’s easy to get to Popayán by bus from Cali. Frequent buses depart from the Cali bus terminal and make the trip in anywhere from 2 ½ to 3 hours. It cost us COP$25,000. Heading south, buses go to Pasto (6 hours) and Ipiales (8-9 hours) for crossing the border into Ecuador. The airport, Aeropuerto Guillermo León Valencia, serves flights from Bogotá.
I stayed at Hotel Popayán Inn, just a few blocks from Parque Caldas. This budget hotel was simple, clean, and had a good location. It cost us COP$57,000 per night. The negatives were the thin walls and staff. While staff was pleasant and friendly, we were annoyed that we had to wait anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes to either be let in or out of the hotel. Even after ringing the bell or shouting several times, we received no response. It was frustrating.
Getting around Popayán is possible on foot in the historic city center. It was a long ride to the bus terminal which ran roughly COP$4,500 each trip. The minimum taxi fare was COP$3,800.