The bright white buildings of Popayan.

Popayan – The colonial city in white

Popayan – The white city, founded in 1537

April 27, 2014 – April, 30, 2014

Full Popayan Photo Gallery Here

Hurrying ahead of the threatened farmers strike, we rushed to Popayan from Salento, the traditional colonial city known for its solid bright white buildings. The ride was uneventful, no farmers with pitchforks blocked our bus’s path, there was however a noticeable increase in police and military presence along the side of the road. It seemed every two or three kilometers there was a group of policemen or military personal standing alongside the road watching the traffic. Our bus was pulled over halfway to Popayan, just south of Cali and everyone was asked to get off the bus, and to stand with their arms out and were searched along with our bags. Nothing of any interest was found and our bus was allowed to continue uninterrupted to Popayan.

The bright white buildings of Popayan.
The bright white buildings of Popayan.

A modern city with a traditional colonial center, Popayan is similar to many other colonial towns but every building is painted bright white.  Admittedly after seeing so many colonial town centers the charm wore off after a couple hours of sightseeing.  While beautifully maintained there is not very much to do in town.

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Street vendors are a common sight.
Street vendors are a common sight.

 

A selection of authentic Payanesa food and drinks.
A selection of authentic Payanesa food and drinks.

We stayed at the Parklife Hostel which had a view of the main plaza, something which stepped up our experience of Popayan quite a bit.  A short walk from the central plaza will take you to the one of the cities oldest surviving structures, a small stone bridge built in 1713 to allow the priests to cross the river.  The larger bridge constructed right next to the smaller bridge was built in 1873 to accommodate more traffic.  Earthquakes have destroyed much of Popayan’s oldest buildings.

Puente de la Custodia, or often just called the 'little bridge' was built in 1713.
Puente de la Custodia, or often just called the ‘little bridge’ was built in 1713.

 

The larger bridge built 160 years later.
The larger bridge built 160 years later.

 

Silvia Market

The busy Silvia Tuesday Market
The busy Silvia Tuesday Market

On our second full day we took a bus to the small nearby town of Silvia to check out their weekly Tuesday morning market. The Guambianos, the local indigenous people descend from the surrounding hills in brightly colored buses to sell their produce and handicrafts. Remarkably shy, it is difficult to get photographs of the Guambiano people. The market was interesting but quite small. It was fun to the Guambiano men and women in their traditional dress.

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The brightly colored Guambiano buses.

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The market itself is not a touristy market, there is a lot of real haggling over produce and meat here.  Buyers come from surrounding towns every Tuesday to buy in bulk.  The constant haggling can be fun to watch.

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The market is a busy place with a lot of haggling and bulk buying going on all around.
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Large bricks of panela, a bit like brown sugar with a hint of bread flavor, a little of this in hot water makes a great tea.
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Various brightly colored potatoes.

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If various unrefrigerated meats are on your list, they have it in abundance.
If various unrefrigerated meats are on your list, they have it in abundance.
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Even the less desirable cuts are available from this man eating soup who seemed to love having his picture taken.
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A group of Guambiano men and woman in traditional dress and bowler hats.

 

While Popayan was a pleasant place, the city itself does not have a tremendous amount to offer travelers.  Though we did like Popayan, if you have a limited amount of time in Colombia your time is probably better spent elsewhere.

 

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