The city of Popayán is well-known for its beautiful colonial architecture, often referred to as the ‘White City’ due to the prevalence white-walled homes, buildings, and several churches in the historic center. Founded in 1537 by Spanish Conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar, it played an important role during the colonial period as it was the mid-point of gold in the journey between Lima, Quito and Cartagena on its way to Spain.
As result of its colonial importance, Popayán’s historic center is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved in Colombia. There are stunning churches such as the ‘Iglesia de San Francisco’, the ‘Iglesia de Santo Domingo’, Iglesia de San José’, the ‘Iglesia La Ermita’ the oldest which dates back to 1546, the Cathedral Basilica Nuestra Señora La Asunción neoclassical style and the attached Clock Tower, main symbol of the city. Although the city was damaged by an earthquake in 1983, most historic colonial architecture was completely restored. Popayán is also widely-known for the solemnity of its Easter Week sacred processions, a tradition dating back to colonial times (1558). In 2009 Popayán’s Easter Week celebrations were declared by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. During Easter Week, Popayán also hosts the Religious Music Festival.
The ‘Morro de Tulcán’ is the main archeological site, an ancient pre-Hispanic pyramid. Nearby is the Puracé National Natural Park a geothermal land of waterfalls, and an inactive snow-peak volcano of the same name.