Our arrival in Popayán took us by surprise… we were expecting the mini-van we were in to drive into the colonial town of Popayán – famous for its beautiful white colonial buildings – and deposit us at the bus station… from where we would make our way to our accommodation (pretty normal expectations – or so we thought anyway!)…
Instead… in the pouring rain, the driver stopped the mini-van on the main road… got out of the vehicle opened the passenger door and said ‘Popayán’… Umm…
Not the perfect introduction to our third Colombian destination!!! But to cut a long story short we found our way to the centre of Popayán, and I’m happy to say that things only improved from there on AND we ended up really liking the place 🙂
Popayán is known for two things – its colonial buildings and its food!
BUT I reckon it should add a third thing…. rain!!! It rained A LOT during the time we were there AND it was – apparently – the dry season….
Our time in Popayán was basically spent making the most of the things the city is famous for! We strolled around the streets, and looked at the colonial architecture, including the huge number of churches – which were all very different… Apparently a lot of the colonial structures were destroyed in an earthquake in 1983 – but they had done a pretty amazing restoration job if you ask me – the buidlings were impressive 🙂
And then we ate and drank!!! Given that Popayán was declared a City of Gastronomy by UNESCO in 2005, we thought that it would have been inappropriate not to over indulge on the local cuisine!!! While in Popayán we tried as much of the traditional food and drink as we could… and we really enjoyed it 🙂 Highlights for us were Champú – pronounced shampoo… – although I swear it tasted nothing like I imagine shampoo to taste like… it was nothing less than a whole heap of fruity deliciousness! AND empanadas de pipián i.e. empanadas filled with potatoes and served with a peanut sauce… which reminded us of satay sauce.. yummmm 🙂
Popayán also has a BIG hill – or to be technically correct, a pyramid – El Morro de Tulcán. El Morro is actually an ancient man-made hill which is believed to date back to between 500 and 1600 BC, and at the top of the hill is a statue of Sebastián de Belalcázar – the man who founded the colonial city of Popayán. The monument and hill can be seen from many places in the city…
During our stay we took a stroll to the top of El Morro de Tulcán… it was a pretty nice stroll through town to the bottom of the hill and then up past a few trees to the top! We liked the walk because we got to spot our first NEW bird of Colombia on the way to the top – yay! The view from the top was also pretty cool – you could see all the historic buildings of the city centre, the surrounding countryside, and the new modern area of Popayán as well.
The final thing we specifically went to look at was Humilladero Bridge – a bridge that was built in 1873 to connect the northern end of town and the central area… The central area near the bridge was pretty nice – well-maintained and full of stalls selling souvenirs… the northern end of the bridge was rougher, and there were a few shady characters hanging about… we walked back over the bridge the way we came!!!
All in all the city of Popayán was an awesome place to hang out – not only were some of Colombia’s finest colonial buildings there, but it had awesome food 🙂 On leaving Popayán we hoped that that the famous culinary delights of Popayán weren’t restricted to Popayán – we definitely wanted more!!!