Popayan: The White City

If you have been climbing in Colombia chances are you will eventually head south to visit Pasto (post coming soon). On the way to Pasto you will have the opportunity to visit the pristine colonial city of Popayan.


Popayan is know as “The White City” because of its white buildings. Why paint them white? It all has to do with an insect infestation from the colonial era which devastated the towns folk. These insects would bury themselves into the skin of their host and cause incredible itching so much so that the infected persons would use the cities coarse stone walls to scratch the incredible itch. Soon the town realized that they could kill the bugs with a chemical derived from chalk and painted all the buildings with it. Though the insects and chalk are no longer present the traditional white color for buildings remains.


            Photo: itching corner

There are many great activities to do on an off day in this quaint town. I recommend heading to National Park Purace or head to the thermals 30 minutes out of town and bike downhill on your way back.


Additionally, I recommend taking the free walking tour run by students which leaves from the main square at 10am. They guides are kind, knowledgeable, and funny. During the tour we even found about a free piano concert in the main theater that lead to a night of high class culture, which was refreshing after 9 months of a dirtbag backpacker lifestyle.


Popayan is a town worth stopping in for any traveler in Colombia. Whether it be a day or two or even a week this town will leave you wanting more colonial city exposure. 

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