Named Colombia’s “white city” for the town’s all white architecture (not Colombia’s other white substance) Popayan offers picturesque cobblestone streets, good eateries and an ample supply of churches. The city’s largest colonial church, Iglesia de San Francisco is worth a peek inside to view the collection of altar carvings. Tragically, the entire original city was leveled in a powerful earthquake on March 1, 1983. While much of the city has been restored to its original splendor, there are still empty lots and scattered ruins around town that offer a reminder of the great disaster.
In addition to the colonial architecture, Popayan bears a unique distinction as the first city of gastronomy as declared by UNESCO, for the variety of traditionally prepared Colombian dishes that have been passed down orally generation after generation. So if you’re after a true Colombia meal experience, you’ve come to the right place. The town is also home to a number of excellent international restaurants and a renowned food festival in September that shows off the area’s famous mestizaje cuisine a gastronomic fusion of Spanish, African, and Indigenous foods.
Frequent downpours in the afternoons during rainy season meant we weren’t able to explore as much of the city and surrounding areas as we were hoping. Fortunately, our over sized windows in the corner room at Parklife Hostel provided us with ample opportunity to sit and gaze out over the main square during the downpour.
Surprisingly not listed in our Lonely Planet, this charming hostel couldn’t be more centrally located, literally sharing a wall with the neighbouring cathedral in the town’s main square. Rooms are spacious, airy and reasonable priced with double rooms starting from $20. A comfortable lounge with beanbag chairs and excellent Wi-Fi makes it a great place to chill out if find yourself stuck for a few days in the rain.
Girl Gone Gallivanting Recommendation: One of Colombia’s smaller cities, Popayan warrants a visit to try some of the country’s best food and colonial architecture. Book ahead at Parklife hostel as they are often sold out.