Eco-friendly travel guide to Popayán advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to explore the attractions in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Popayán, Colombia.
- Air quality: 4 / 5
- Exploring by foot: 4 / 5
- Exploring by bicycle: 3.5 / 5
- Public transportation: 4/ 5
- Parks: 3/ 5
- Outdoor activities: 3 / 5
- Locals' English level: 4 / 5
- Safety: 3/ 5
- Accommodation: US$90 - $170
- Budget per day: US$80 - $300
- 1 Responsible Travel
- 2 Air Quality and Pollution
- 3 Respect the Culture
- 4 Top 10 Places to Visit
- 5 Explore
- 6 Eat
- 7 Drink
- 8 Activities
- 9 Accommodation
- 10 How to Get There
- 11 Moving Around
- 12 Sustainable Shopping
- 13 Recycling
- 14 Work and Study Abroad
- 15 See Also
Popayan is located in western Columbia and is rapidly developing as a famous tourist spot. It is known for its astounding ethnic background and cultural integrity. Also, the place has a rich historical influence making it an ideal tourist location among the people. But, when traveling to Popayan there are a few thing you need to remember to travel sustainably. First of all you should try to have a proper eco-friendly approach by using various products that are biodegradable and organic in nature. Also, traveling responsibly involve properly managing your itinerary, and packing all your things wisely along with a proper layout of various tourist destinations in Popayan. You should be considerate about the safety of the location you are visiting and having a proper list of outstanding and affordable restaurants and hotels to stay and have food.
Air Quality and Pollution
The average air quality index in Popayan is about 25 AQI. This indicates that the air pollution levels are at a safer level. Therefore, it is safer to do outdoor activities in Popayan. If you want you could also buy air purifiers or filters. Apart from that air in Popayan has a very low composition of PM10 and PM
Respect the Culture
Popayan is amongst the most picturesque city in Columbia. Popayan is home to several impressive churches and gorgeous architectural creations. You should maintain the integrity of a location you are visiting and try your best to understand their culture and traditions. You should respect the locals and appreciate their sense of ethics and cultural beliefs. Try your best to interact with locals and participate in their festivals and cultural activities.
Top 10 Places to Visit
- Parque Arqueologico Nacional De Tierradentro: Tierradentro is an ancient Colombian site. It is a national archaeological Park located 100 km away from Popayan. Park is a popular tourist Hotspot and generates significant revenue for the local economy of Colombia. The walls are painted in various patterns from red, black to white in geographic, zoomorphic and other forms. You could also watch various statues, pottery remains and fabrics scarcely in the park.
- Cathedral Basilica of our lady of assumption: This Cathedral is also popularly known as Popayan Cathedral. This church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary under the title Cathedral Basilica of our lady of assumption. It was established in the year 1546, by Pope Paul III who was appointed as the first bishop Juan Del Valle. It is mainly located along the west side of caldas Park.
- San Agustin Church: It is amongst the most popular and traditional tourist spot in Popayan. There is a unique colonial and baroque style with the essence of most amazing historical architectural representations. You can search for crown of Andes, crown of Lady of assumption around this place. The church is full of spectacular images and representations.
- Museo Casa Negret y Museo Iberoamercano De arte moderno De popayan: This place offers free admission and has an awesome collection of various art pieces. The place depicts the journey of Negret and elaborates his journey, obsession and paintings. It also has different sections containing of various artists Also, several conferences are held in this museum representing art and the history of famous teacher Negret.
- Centro Historica De Popayan: Centro Historica De Popayan is known to have a wonderful ambiance. The location is filled with tourists especially due to the vibrant buildings and colorful streets. You will come across various catholic and non catholic processes and is popularly known as the White City. The city is decorated with flowers and gaining momentum as a tourist destination.
- Iglesia de San Francisco: It is a 16th century common Roman Catholic Complex. It is also known as El Escorial of the New world. The place is divided into three main spheres Public Square, Courtyard, the church and its chapels. The church follows the essence of medieval monasteries.
- Torre Del Reloj: Torre Del Reloj is also known as clock tower and was established in 1673 to 1682. It is a white washed building present in the main plaza. You can always observe different and odd types of construction and architectural design. Apart from that there is an extremely interesting story behind the construction of Torre Del Reloj.
- Guillermo Valencia Theatre: Teatro Municipal is an amazing theatre located in Popayan. The theatre has an antique design and is popular among the tourists. The magnificent hall has been used for hosting multiple exhibition, talks and conferences. The theatre is also made up for embossed brass. There are many cafes established across the theatre.
- Paraninfo Caldas: Paraninfo Caldas was formerly Dominican Monastery. The Monastery was beautifully restored and has a very pleasant environment. You can visit this place whenever you are going for a vacation to Popayan. The auditorium is popularly used for many events in Paraninfo Caldas.
- Purace Volcano: Purace Volcano is located three hours away from the center of the city. Once you pay a visit to this location, it is enriched with natural scenery. You can enjoy sight seeing at this place and go for trekking or camping around this place.
Popayan has a rich colonial architecture and is always in lime light due to its political and cultural influence. It is famously known as the white city especially as a result of the amazing colonial cities in the center. There are several glorious churches in Popayan namely San Jose, Le Cathedral, Le Cathedral Basilica, Belen, etc. The place is also a Hotspot of interest for notable poets, painters and composers. Popayan region has beautiful parks, museums, shopping centers and much more. Everything in and around Popayan is worth exploring. Apart from that if you are planning to go on a Popayan Vacation, you should never miss the holy week processions. Also the musical display of Popayan framers and musicians is almost magical. You can enjoy yourself a lot and get completely lost in the musical melody.
There are numerous places in Popayan to visit. You can buy exotic things, enjoy the local environment and go to the most amazing tourist spots in Popayan. Try the delicious dishes of Central Europe, and taste the food from top restaurants in Popayan along with the preferred traditional dishes and drinks. You can also enjoy the rich art culture by watching various operas and cinematic theatre.
- Polideportivo Santiago De Cali: This city park has an amazing ambiance and is quite popular place among the tourists as well as the locals. Many people just come around this park to sit and relax. Everything around is extremely pleasant and local life is extremely vibrant.
- Caldas Park: Caldas Park is located in the middle of the city. The park is a beautiful location full of colorful birds and greenery around. Apart from that the plaza is surrounded by different banks and also there some of the cafes for you to have your meals. The park is beautifully orchestrated with trees, flowers and walking paths.
- Jose Hilario Lopez Park: This city park is named after the President of Republic namely Jose Hilario Lopez Park. You can sit and relax around the park. The park is extremely popular among the tourists and is known to be a regular get together Hotspot for locals.
- Purace National Natural Park: Purace National Natura parks is amongst the most popular and largest national parks in Colombia. The park is located to the south east of Popayan in the Cordillera Central Range. The main attraction of this national park is the stratovolcano Purace. Many tourist as well as the locals mostly pay visit to this Volcano for sight seeing and to spot the natural beauty around there. It was the first national park established in the Cauca Department. The park can be reached through the Pan American Highway via Popayan. There are about 200 orchids in this place. Also this national park is home to over 160 species of birds
- Cerro La Tetilla: Cerro La Tetilla is an outstanding scenic spot in Popayan. Tourists can travel the location using a bicycle and climb the La Tetilla hill. Everything around is just peaceful and is full of flora and fauna. You can also enjoy the spectacular landscape around and visit the location with your friends, families and groups of tourists. Also the inhabitants around are very warm and welcoming to the locals as well as the tourists. The location is absolutely spellbounding and holds an important tourist spot in Popayan.
- Beach Recreational Centre Popayan : Beach Recreational Centre Popayan is located in a solitary, peaceful area of the city. It is more of an artificial beach made for the recreation and well-being of people. The place is free from noise and has a very pleasant atmosphere around. Many locals and tourists have developed an extreme liking for this place to stay away from excessive crowd, pollution and noise. Also the area is filled around with greenery, vegetation and different kinds of flora and fauna around.
- Pueblito Patojo: Pueblito Patojo is an amazing place to visit this city. This place is surrounded by astonishing replicas of various monuments in Popayan. You should pay a visit to the ravishing clock tower statue you can observe it. Also, it gives you a chance to admire the grand architecture of this place. You can enjoy gathering together with your friends or families and visiting this place during your vacation in Popayan. Except that there are various shops like handcrafts, books, paintings and sculptures. The place is beautifully designed for tourists and locals for recreation and sightseeing. Pueblito Patojo is located in close proximity to the major city centers and tourist locations in this area.
- Puente Del Humilladero: The bridge was built around 1850s linking the center of the city to major northern parts around it. The bridge is symbolic representation of change and transition phase of Popayan. The main material used for making this bridge are the bricks. The elevation arch bridge is about 240 metres long. No river passes below this bridge. The architectural design is worth admiring and has an antique design along with a serene ambiance. The bridge is wonderfully built and links the major cities of these areas.
- Moro Del Tulcan: Moro Del Tulcan is an indigenous pyramid located in the Popayan in Colombia. It was basically constructed in pre-Columbian period in years about 500-1600 BC. It is one of the major archaeological sites in Popayan. The pyramid has a statue erected dedicated to the Conquistador Sebastián De Belalcazar. The people buried there belonged to the top social classes in their society.
- National Museum Guillermo Valencia: The museum offers free admission to the locals and tourists and it is all up to the visitors If they want to donate some amount of money for that. The museum is full of informative facts and it is an extremely helpful guide towards the lives and relatives of Valencia. The museum is open from Monday to Saturday. Guillermo Valencia had been a legendary poet, writer and politician. The overall collection is extremely knowledgeable and great.
- Museo Casa Mosquera: The museum contains outstanding collections and depicts a great history of Popayan. The museum has simple routes and is an outstanding location to take photos. The museum depicts a detailed history of the republic of Colombia. Museum gives a deep insight into the political history of Colombia. Apart from that, conservation and biodiversity are two important aspects of this museum. You can also learn about various local cultures and history.
- Museo Arquidiocesano De Arte Religioso: The museum has an outstanding collection of religious art. Museum also elaborates the Latin American History along with religious art. You are also offered your own private guide for museum tour. The staff is extremely friendly and the maintenance of place is up handed. You should visit the museum during holy week. The museum constitutes of exposed gold custodians made up of gems. The custodians depict the great legacy of various artists and has a bigger European influence. You can choose from the lavish collection of custodians and other items in this museum.
Popayan has an extremely rich cuisine culture. There are highly famous Colombian eateries in Popayan offering world class traditional dishes. The main ingredients of Colombian dishes include cheese, vegetables and meat. You can also try the ever delicious and low cost Arepas which is a corn filled bread very popular among the tourists as well as the locals.
Traditional Local Restaurants
If you are on a vacation you can choose from the wide range of restaurants in Popayan and taste the various important cuisines. You will come across different flavors and price ranges in various restaurants. Therefore, you can choose from various traditional restaurants in Popayan for your meals, especially dinner or lunch. Here are the top restaurants in Popayan :
- Mora Castilla
- Restauranto Italian Pizzeria
- Le Semilla Escondido Restaurante
Vegetarian and Vegan
There has been an increasing trend of switching to vegan lifestyle from the vegetarian or non vegetarian food habits. Therefore if you eat vegan food or want to try exclusively vegan food, there are specific restaurants that provide food products that are completely vegan without any dairy product use or animal food. You can find from diverse menus of top hotels in Popayan and enjoy your vacation without compromising with food taste and Flavor.
- Restaurante Carmina
- Mora Castilla
- Restaurante Vegetariano Mana
Street Food is always a mouth watering choice for especially young people. Street food is the most favorite food choices with high palatability, taste and flavour. You can choose from various street food choices and eat the savory dishes all on your own. Here are some street food Hotspots for you to taste in Popayan.
- Toppings Food Truck
- Marimonda Fast food
Popayan has a satisfactory drinking culture and some of the most amazing and unique traditional dishes for you to taste from. You can either have the traditional payanes drinks like lulada or campus. Usually these drinks are based on Lulo, Mora and Guanobana. You can try these drinks with the delicious dishes named Petacones.
The average water quality in Colombia stands around 68% and currently there is very less data available to asses the water quality in Popayan. The estimated price for a 1.5 litre water bottle in Popayan is about 0.87$. It is Better to either use the filtered water or boil it before boiling. You could also prefer using mineral water bottle for your self as it is more safer and healthier option.
Cafes are the most popular form of food shops among the tourists. They are located in close proximity to serval tourist locations on various beaches and parks too. Therefore anyone walking around often pays a visit to these organic cafes in Popayan and order their food. You can have many traditional and foreign beverages in the organic cafes of Popayan.
- Café Cauca
- Madeira Café
- LA Nigua Café
- Juan Valdez De CC Companario
Drinking culture in Popayan is quite astonishing and there variety of different drinks to try from. You can either have the traditional alcohol drinks of Popayan or choose the more mainstream brands during your vacation. Brewing companies offer alcoholic drinks at a standard price and makes it a more desirable option among the tourists.
- Beer Station
- Republic Beer Drinks and Friends
There are numerous activities to perform when in Popayan. You can choose from various adventurous activities to go to with your friends, family or alone. You can enjoy going for hiking and trekking near various national parks, go for sun bathing at beaches, enjoy snorkeling and other adventurous activities.
Yoga and Retreats
Yoga and retreating ceremonies have become an important part of tourist attraction. Many people coming to vacation in Popayan try to explore the spiritual aspect of Popayan by enrolling themselves in Yoga classes and joining for some retreat ceremonies Retreat vacations are an excellent way to establish a positive mental state and have a spiritual and peaceful vacation. The mental satisfaction received from these retreat vacation is just outstanding.
If you are staying for a vacation in Popayan it might be best for buying your accommodation beforehand. Atleast you should book an accommodation for a night or day at the time of your arrival. There are several accommodations available for your stay at Popayan. You can choose from the top rated hotels in Popayan. Apart from that staying at hostels or renting an apartment is a more better and ideal option. It is more financially benefitting and gives you a reasonable accommodation choice.
Green hotels offer excellent living conditions to the tourists along with world class room service. The hotels in Popayan are quite sustainable in approach and are very popular accommodation for the tourists staying for a few days. There are many services like swimming pool, gym, lawn tennis, spa etc that are offered to the tourists living in the top green hotels of Popayan. Apart from that they can chose between no-smoking rooms or smoking room, presidential suits or a twin bedroom, etc. Some of the top hotels in Popayan are:
- Hotel Royal Popayan
- Hotel Boutique Comfort Suites
- Hotel San Martin Popayan
- Hotel Camino Real
Hostels and Guest Houses
Popayan has many hostels established to offer accommodation services to the tourists as well as the locals. Many hostels come with their own mess services offering you atleast two meals per day. You could also look for shared rooms if you are staying with your friends or ask for single rooms. Hostels can be your best option if you want your trip to be more budget friendly.
Several other modes of accommodation are also popular in Popayan, like you could always find a local who could rent you his or her guesthouse for your limited stay in Popayan. This is the most ideal option if you are going to live in a remote area or you have a friend or someone who could lend a guesthouse to your family for your vacation. Here is the name of few hostels and guesthouses guaranteeing a safe and excellent stay in Popayan:
- Hostal Antonio
- Arte Hostel
- Hostal la Colina Popayan
- Villa Caludia, Popayan
- Colinas De Pamona
- Hogar De Paso Botania
Apartments are fairly great pick if you are going for a long vacation especially two-three weeks or few months. You can easily rent an apartment with full furniture and other amenities available in low cost as compared to hotels. Many apartment buildings also rent various kitchen equipment like refrigerator, microwave. You could also call in for a laundry service and a house keeping service if you want. Apartments are a best pick if you are going on a vacation to Popayan with your family or wife and kids. You could look it up online or ask your tourist guide to recommend you various apartment buildings.
Here are the top apartment buildings in Popayan :
- Reserva da Le hacienda
- Edificio JP
- Altos De Compostella
- Torre Catedral
Either you have heard or not heard about Couch surfing, it is a very convenient option of stay in Popayan. It is only possible if you are a lone traveler and any local offers you to stay at his or her home with their family until your vacation. It gives you a deeper insight into the local culture and traditions. You get a chance to learn more closely about their Livelihood, personal lives and much more. You can participate in their daily activity, join them for festivals and, establish a strong friendship with them. It gives you a chance to interact with them at a personal level, get to know their beliefs and establish an understanding with them.
Camping has always remained tourist favorite activity since long. Every one loves going camping with their friends or families along with bon fire activities and parties. There are various camping sites suitable for the tourists which are safe as well as equally thrilling for going camping. If you want you could also contact various travel agents or camping agencies for having a perfect camping experience
How to Get There
Popayan has a well developed transport system that allows the remote areas of the city to connect with each other. The traverse routes are well defined and there are various transportation modes that provide excellent traveling opportunities. You can opt for road, rail and air transport according to your convenience and financial expenditure. Also, being a responsible tourist you should prefer using public transportation instead of private vehicles since it costs very less money and is a more eco-friendly option.
Popayan has one commercial airport named Guillermo Leon Valencia Airport. The passenger traffic at this airport is quite low compared to other top commercial airports in Colombia. There are about many international as well as national flights. The Popayan Airport stays open from 6 Am to 6 Pm and there about four flights from Bogota to Popayan.
There are various bus companies running in and around of Popayan. Majorly there are two main bus operators in Popayan namely Expreso and Bolivariano. There are several bus routes extending over the length of 3 to 8 hours. Apart from that, Popayan region has a certain guerrilla activity which makes it a little unsafe to travel alone. Therefore it is Better if you chose to travel along with your friends or family and get on a reputed transport company.
Railway system of Popayan is far or less developed. You can travel to Popayan either by a bus or through a metro train. You can get a train from Cocoa Metro Area to Popayan. Being in a small city, it is very easy to travel various regions of Popayan in about 10-20 minutes.
Hitchhiking is the best way to make new friends while traveling. You can take lift from the people driving to Popayan. On your journey you can make many friends and can save a lot of money via hitchhiking. But since Popayan region is known to have certain guerrilla activity, it is unsafe to travel alone and you also don’t know whether you will be given a lift or not.
Apart from that there are various other modes of traveling to and around Popayan. The road network Is conveniently developed and there is a satisfactory cab service offering you to ferry you across Popayan. But hiring a taxi or cab can prove to be really expensive option but it is more comfortable that public transport an differs more privacy. But, the use of private vehicles tend to increase the overall pollution standard of the location.
Popayan is a small city therefore moving around it very convenient and easy. You can either use a bicycle or walk your way around the city. Many tourists as well as local prefer using public transport since it is a more affordable option. Except that Popayan has a good quantity of electric vehicles on the go. Apart from that public transportation is financially stable option and is a very sustainable approach.
Walking is an entirely good way to traverse your way around the city. Popayan is a small city which makes it just a 10-20 minute travel journey across the major centers of the city. You can easily travel through the narrow streets, go through the flea markets on your own, visit the tourist places and enjoy altogether. Apart from that it is an ideal option because you can interact more closely with locals and get interspersed in their culture and traditions real quick.
Bicycling is best way to travel around the city. There are several agencies in Popayan that offer rented bicycles to the tourists until there stay in the city. Also, bicycles do not release any harmful chemicals in the environment and are a more safer option. You can rent your bicycle and go for Bicycling around the city and you could enjoy riding with your friends and family.
Electronic Vehicles do not work on fossil fuels and never release harmful toxic chemicals. They are a more eco-friendly option and tend to appeal more to the locals for easy access and reasonable price. Apart from minimized pollution use of electric vehicles itself gives a chance for you to experience the local middle income people life and get a chance to experience everything more closely.
Popayan Bus Terminal is located in Pan-American Hwy. There are three independent us companies in Popayan majorly Libertad, Tanspubenza and Sotracauca Mettro. These buses cost as low as 0 50$ and the buses stop every 200 metres since routes are long. Therefore it gives them a chance to interact with each other.
Tram, Train and Subway
The railway and metro systems in Popayan are not that well developed but still there are some initiatives undertaken for future construction projects. Apart from that there are many train routes from different cities to Popayan offering faster and more eco-friendly mode of transportation.
Sustainable Shopping strongly emphasizes on health, environmental and social impact of the products bought. Also, buying sustainably promotes Eco-tourism with the use of less chemicals, and reduced waste generation. The food products use fewer pesticides, low additives, and less preservatives used. Apart from that sustainable shopping or fashion provides minimises pollution and the use of raw materials, energy and water.
Sustainable Shopping promotes the human health, animal welfare and also protects the workers. Apart from that, you should try to go and visit local restaurants and local shopkeepers since this support local businesses as well as employment.
- Coffee Green Ecotienda
- Pistilio Eco Fashion
- Ecology in Prints
- Campanario Shopping Centre
Food Markets are very popular in Popayan. Locals often come to buy food and meat every day. If you are supposed to stay for a long duration in Popayan buying your food daily from restaurants or taking takeaways is economically draining and pretty unhealthy option. Popayan has a wide range of food markets, open and closed. You can also enjoy buying organic food for yourselves.
The food markets are often crowded with locals and provide high quality fresh fruit and vegetable produce. You can also buy organic food products at affordable prices and enjoy your healthy vacation at Popayan.
Flea Markets in Popayan allow vendors to sell their products to the common public as well as the tourists. Tourists can buy both second hand as well as the brand new goodies. The objects have a very low cost and give a unique essence of Popayan culture and traditions. Tourists tend to purchase antique objects, vintage clothing and unique jewelry. It is an outstanding location for public gathering and interest. Many locals often go to flea markets regularly.
Second Hand Stores
Second Hand Stores have become a main mode of shopping for the low and middle income people living in Popayan. You can buy second hand automobiles, machines or go to second hand clothing stores. Some of the famous second hand stores in Popayan are:
- Collecionables and hobbies Colombia
- Sys Shop
Eco products are highly popular and leave a negligible impact on the environment. There are many Eco shops in Popayan offering sustainable and organic products to their customers. You can always buy recycled fabric, organic food products and biodegradable substances. The clothes are made up of organic cotton, durable and made from recycled fabrics and plant based dyes.
Recycling is the best way to reduce the waste accumulation. It is the most environmentally friendly measure and has been emphasized a lot by the Colombian Government. There are many recycling service public providers in Popayan. You should avoid using polythene and other plastic materials.
Colombia produces about thirty two thousand tons of solid waste every year. The solid waste management system of Popayan, Colombia has been based on the principles of sustainability. Waste management in Popayan is mainly focused upon reducing the landfilling measures. Apart from that there have been significant measures to increase recycling waste. Being a responsible tourist you should prefer using organic materials and eco-friendly products.
Work and Study Abroad
Work and Study abroad options are being increasingly common and diversified over the period of this decade. Popayan has a wonderful opportunities for the locals as well as the immigrants. One can easily work part time while completing their study course. It is very easy to get a proper work visa or a study visa to Popayan and the expenditure is also low. Working abroad is also an outstanding way to gain a valuable career experience in the field. Apart from that you can brush your skills and gain a edge over your finance by working overtime.
Student Exchange Programs are quite popular in Popayan. The place is absolutely great to garner education in the midst of amicable locals and a rich cultural influence. Popayan has amongst the best universities with higher education standards and low cost of education attracting a lot exchange students every year. The important universities offering exchange programs to the international students are:
- University of Cauca
- Unado Sede Norte
- Corporacian Universitera Comfacauca
AU Pairing is a very popular mode of cultural exchange in Popayan. The most preferable age group for AU Pairs lies between 18-24 years of age. This gives them a chance to blend in various cultures and traditions. AU Pairs in Popayan are offered a reasonable salary, a good working ambiance and a rich cultural heritage.
Popayan in Colombia offers outstanding volunteering opportunities to the people. You can volunteer to work in the field of education, environment and social work. Individuals can represent themselves for volunteer work in sports training, arts and crafts workshop, English classes, etc. In some cases volunteers are offered food and accommodation in return of their services. Whereas, sometimes it requires complete expenditure of money on your hand to carry out your volunteer operations abroad.