By Joanna MarracelliClose to the border of Ecuador sits an exquisite, white colonial city which just happens to have some of Colombia’s best food. Popayan, capital of the Cauca department, is not as visited as some of the country’s bigger cities perhaps due to its southern, almost out of the way location. Sitting about two hours south of Cali, unless you are en route to Ecuador, it can seem a bit far to reach. But as is often the case, a little effort has a big payoff. Like Arequipa in Peru and Sucre in Bolivia, Popayan is known as the ‘ciudad blanca’ and the white façades found all over the city are indeed impressive and give the city a distinct character.
Popayan was a seat of power during the Spanish colonial years and this is the primary reason why the city is so rich in stunning, colonial architecture. It’s only second to Cartagena in terms of architectural splendor. Unfortunately, much of this was rebuilt due to a severe earthquake striking the area back in 1983. The city took almost twenty years to rebuild itself and many important landmarks suffered great damage. The town is an important religious center and thus there are numerous impressive churches. Popayan is world-renowned for its celebration during Semana Santa (the holy week). It’s second only to Seville, Spain for its nightly processions and elaborate religious celebrations.