The White City

Popayán is known throughout Colombia for its whitewashed colonial city center. It’s one of the best-preserved colonial cities in all of Latin America. Homes, government buildings, churches, museums, and shops are all painted white.

Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Popayán

Popayán used to be an important stop on the road from Lima and Quito to Cartagena and it has done a wonderful job of preserving its past. Many of the buildings were destroyed or severely damaged in a 1983 earthquake and it took over 10 years to rebuild most of them.

Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Popayán

 

Parque Caldas

Other than the beautiful colonial churches and interesting museums, the “White City” can be a rewarding place to walk through. The focal point of the historic city center is Parque Caldas. This huge plaza is home to the cathedral, government buildings, and a nice clock tower.

Parque Caldas in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Parque Caldas

Parque Caldas in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Parque Caldas

Clock tower at Parque Caldas in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Clock tower

In the center are tall trees and a monument to Francisco José de Caldas, a national hero of Colombia originally from Popayán. Street vendors are scattered throughout.

Parque Caldas in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Parque Caldas

Caldas monument at Parque Caldas in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Caldas monument

 

Panteón de los Próceres

Just north of the plaza is the Panteón de los Próceres. Several important sons of Popayán are buried inside, including Caldas and José Hilario López, the signer of the declaration ending slavery in Colombia in 1851.

Panteón de los Próceres in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Panteón de los Próceres

Panteón de los Próceres in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Panteón de los Próceres

 

Teatro Municipal Guillermo Valencia

On the next corner is Teatro Municipal Guillermo Valencia, a theatre which opened in 1927.  The rooftop is adorned with eight of the nine muses of Greek mythology (missing is Calliope). We asked to look inside but were denied.

Teatro Municipal Guillermo Valencia in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Teatro Municipal Guillermo Valencia

Teatro Municipal Guillermo Valencia in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Teatro Municipal Guillermo Valencia

 

Puente del Humilladero

Puente del Humilladero is an arched bridge on the northern boundary of historic Popayán. It was built around 1860 to allow easier access to the city center from the north. It has 11 arches and is 240m long.

Puente del Humilladero in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Walking across Puente del Humilladero

Puente del Humilladero in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Puente del Humilladero

 

Puente de la Custodia

Next to Puente del Humilladero is the tiny Puente de la Custodia, the original bridge built in 1713 to allow priests to attend to the sick in the poorer northern suburbs.

Puente de la Custodia in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Puente de la Custodia

 

El Morro de Tulcán

For great views of Popayán, head to El Morro de Tulcán. This grass-covered hill is thought to be a pyramid built in pre-Columbian times. Legend says it’s filled with gold and riches. The hill is topped with an equestrian statue of Sebastián de Belalcázar, a conquistador the founder of Popayán in 1537.

El Morro de Tulcán in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

El Morro de Tulcán

View of Popayán from El Morro de Tulcán in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

View of Popayán

El Morro de Tulcán in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

El Morro de Tulcán

Sebastián de Belalcázar monument at El Morro de Tulcán in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Sebastián de Belalcázar monument

 

Rincón Payanés

Finally, next to El Morro de Tulcán is a miniature version of Popayán, Rincón Payanés. This is a place to buy local arts and crafts. There were only a couple shops open at the time we visited and it wasn’t very interesting. It’s better to walk around the actual city.

Rincón Payanés in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Rincón Payanés

Rincón Payanés in Popayán, Cauca, Colombia

Rincón Payanés

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