15 Tips for Enjoying Popayán

Walking over an ancient bridge to enjoying the beautiful colonial architecture, Popayán is one of Colombia’s most beautiful and peaceful cities you can visit.

Over the years of living in Bogota with all the traffic, noise and chaos that is within this city, sometimes I enjoy taking a trip to another destination in Colombia to enjoy a more quiet life.

And for those living in other larger cities in Colombia like Cali for example, taking a nice trip to Popayán can be a great experience for those wanting to try something more relaxing and new.

But if you are going to visit Popayán, what exactly should you do to truly enjoy this great city?

Here are 15 tips for things you should do ahead of time before your trip and for things you should be doing while enjoying this beautiful city.

¡Vámonos parceros!

Tip 1: Learn Spanish

In Colombia, there are some cities that you can spend time in where you don’t really need Spanish to really enjoy it.

Now, learning Spanish will always make your experience better regardless but it’s not necessary in places like Medellin or Bogota.

But if you visit Popayán, you are going to need to know Spanish to have any fun here. The reality is that most people in Popayán do not speak English at all.

And many of the ones that understand some English do not understand or speak well enough for a good conversation.

That’s not to say you can’t find an occasional rare person that does speak English in Popayán but it’s not very common.

So my advice would be to get a textbook or use Duolingo to start with your Spanish. But what is more important is practice speaking and listening to it beforehand.

Maybe you have some friends you can practice with where you are at or maybe you can practice in other Colombian cities first like Medellin.

And then when your Spanish is at least at a conversational level, you’ll be able to enjoy Popayán much better.

Tip 2: Enjoy the Colonial Architecture

As of right now, I am currently living in Bogota.

However, if I had to choose another city to live in Colombia, it’d probably be Popayán.

Why is that?

Well, for various reasons, but one of them is that this city is beautiful.

Often known as Colombia’s “White City,” you will find white beautiful architecture throughout the city.

Some of the most well known pieces of architecture are the Catedral Nuestra Señora de La Asunción and Torre de Reloj.

This is the most famous cathedral in Popayán that had been heavily damaged by two different earthquakes but still stands strong and beautiful. Right next to the cathedral is the Torre del Reloj, which is a colonial clock tower.

If you only had enough time to check out one area in Popayán, this is what I recommend you check out.

But if you have more time available, I’d also suggest you check out the Yambitará Hacienda.

Because when speaking of colonial architecture, this is also another place worth visiting.

It’s basically a colonial hacienda that you can find in the area that is beautiful with plenty of green gardens and nature. Overall, it’s quiet and peaceful here and is enjoyable to visit if you care to see more colonial architecture.

Tip 3: Visit the Various Parks

When people often talk about the parks in Popayán, the more popular option of Parque Caldas is always brought up.

However, I promise you that there are numerous parks in this city that are beautiful and you should check out as many as you can.

They are often very calm and quiet places where you can spend a good few hours relaxing with a partner or some friends.

So as said before, Parque Caldas is the more popular option and should be what you check out first due to how nice it is.

Beyond that, you should check out Benito Juarez Park, El Quijote Park, Villa Docente Sotará Park and Parque Santa Catalina.

In that order.

Tip 4: Visit Puente del Humilladero

This is an arched bridge that is well known in Popayán for its history.

Built in 1873, this bridge was built with different substances, including ox blood, which was meant to make the bridge durable and enduring.

Or at least that is the idea that is told about it.

Regardless of its history, the bridge also serves as a nice place to relax in the city as the area around it is quite calm and quiet similar to all the parks in the city.

I’d recommend checking out this area for about an hour before going to visit some of the nice cafes that Popayán has to offer.

Tip 5: Check out the Cafes in Popayán

After enjoying the Puente del Humilladero, head on over to Ibrik Café.

Whenever I visit Popayán, this is often the café I usually visit with my girlfriend as the place is quite nice, clean and the prices are very reasonable.

Outside of this café, I would also check out Pinemma Café y Jardin. If you go here, make sure to eat the “torta de naranja” or any of the other pastries they have. It’s one of my favorite places in Popayán for pastries.

They also have a little outdoor area that you can enjoy while here.

Then when you are hungry and want a bigger meal, you can go visit some of the restaurants in Popayán.

Tip 6: Enjoy the Food

While it could be argued that Popayán doesn’t have the best restaurants in Colombia, there are definitely a few places worth checking out.

First, let’s start with more foreign cuisine. If you want pizza, I recommend you try Restaurante Pizzeria Italiano as it has been the best pizza place I could find in this city.

Also, there are a few good French restaurants in this city also. That is quite unique since I find it difficult to find any French restaurants in most Colombian cities.

For French food, you will want to try either Semilla Escondida or Restaurante Carmina.

With the latter being the better option in my experience but both are quite nice.

Finally, if you want to have some nice beef, Loncheria La Viña is a great option with a wide variety of meats that you can eat here.

Now if you want to try some of the local cuisine that is associated with this city, then there are a few types of food that I recommend you try.

First, the empanada de pipián is something you should try. I’m always a fan of empanadas and I usually find it difficult to find good empanada food in Colombia. However, Popayán does it well here with what you can find in this city.

Also, the carantanta is a type of food common here that is basically a fried corn snack. It’s not the healthiest type of food but it is tasty.

Just make sure to go to the gym to burn off the calories after you eat a few of them 😉

Now if you want something healthier, it’s also quite common for people here to consume different types of soup. It’s not something I ever tried myself because I don’t like soup…

But if you like soup yourself, you will find various options here that are popular and might satisfy you.

Now for specific restaurants where you can try some of the local food….

Well, first you have La Fresa, which has the empanadas mentioned before.

Then you also have Mora de Castilla that has more traditional food for people to enjoy.

And when you have a good day enjoying some of the food in Popayán, why not go out for a drink with some friends?

Tip 7: Nightlife

One of the first bars you might want to try when you show up to Popayán is Popayán Beer & Co. This is a decent bar to go to for having some nice drinks with friends.

Very good service and the prices are reasonable though a little more expensive than other bars in the city.

Another place you will want to check out is the Retro Grill Rest-Bar. Whenever I have gone to Popayán, this has always been one of my favorite places to visit.

They have great food and the drinks and service are good and go well with the experience.

Finally, you have Dubai Disco. If you are a single man, this is a good place to go to as the women here can be quite attractive and the atmosphere of the place has been nice whenever I have gone.

It also works too if you want to bring a girl with you here also as the music is good for dancing also.

Which brings us to….

Tip 8: Use Colombian Cupid if Single

If you are a single man and would like to enjoy the dating scene in Popayán, you might want to try meeting a nice Colombian woman online before you even show up.

Of course, Tinder is always an option.

But Colombian Cupid is another option you can try to use to give you even more options for finding someone nice to enjoy Popayán with if you are single.

Now be warned that Popayán doesn’t have as many women available online like the bigger cities of Medellin, Cartagena or Bogota.

However, you still have some options on websites like Colombian Cupid.

So if you want to enjoy the previously mentioned nightlife here with someone nice, take your chance with Colombian Cupid to get started before you show up to Popayán.

While when you show up, it’ll be easier to arrange dates to meet someone nice.

And when going on these dates, you’ll want to remember something important….

Tip 9: Learn to Dance

Now regardless of if you are going on a date or not here, learning how to dance can always be useful.

But even more so if you are a single man looking to date the women here as knowing how to dance can be important in the dating scene in Popayán like in other parts of Colombia.

Now don’t worry – no woman here is expecting you as a foreigner to even know how to dance whatsoever.

But some of the nightlife here has a heavier emphasis on dancing.

And also knowing how to dance to typical Latin dances like Salsa or Merengue will be impressive to her.

After all, it’ll be a surprise if you can even dance just the basics as she won’t be expecting it and it will show that you are willing to learn new things.

Which can be quite attractive to a woman.

And on top of that, just asking a woman here to practice dancing with you on a date in a bar for example can be enjoyable for her.

You will learn something new and she will find it attractive that you are willing to learn.

Tip 10: Check Out Parque Nacional Natural Puracé

This is a national park in Colombia that is pretty close to Popayán. It is a very beautiful park that gets very little tourist attention in large part because not too many foreigners even visit Popayán compared to other Colombian cities.

From my knowledge, it’s mostly Colombians who enjoy this beautiful park and all its mountains and hiking areas.

I first visited this park by taking a small shared van called a colectivo. You can find them occasionally and I paid somewhere around 10,000 Colombian pesos for the ride.

When you arrive, you will see a bunch of lush green scenery with mountains. It is incredibly beautiful and has very minimal tourism as said before.

That also means that it is very peaceful and quiet with trails that are relatively clean compared to more touristy areas in the world that can sometimes have trash.

Now some of the specific spots you should visit in this park include Los Termales de San Juan, La Laguna de la Danta and the Avistamiento de Cóndores.

The first spot mentioned is a hot spring, the second is a lagoon and the third is a beautiful spot where you can see much of the green beautiful scenery with condors flying around.

You will find all of these areas along specific spots along the trails you will be walking along.

Overall, this is an absolute must that you should check out if you visit Popayán.

Tip 11: Visit Silvia

Near Popayán is a city called Silvia. If you are willing to check out areas outside and near Popayán, this is a place I recommend you visit.

In this small town you will find a indigenous market where you can purchase foods that they produce on Tuesdays.

If you want to purchase something, I recommend the hot chocolate since it is what I bought when I went and it was quite nice.

Now the town itself is also quite nice – calm and quiet. So while you check out the market, make sure to take a walk around the area also.

The town is about 2 hours at most away from Popayán, so this trip could be done in a day.

Tip 12: Visit the Museums

In Popayán, there are basically two museums you should be checking out.

The first is the Museo de Historia Natural.

In other words, the museum of natural history that essentially has a large collection of different displays of the type of animals, fossils, rocks and pottery that you can find in the area around Popayán.

Of course, the museum also has plenty of information as well provided about what you are observing here to help you understand it better and it is pretty nicely organized.

Then you have the Museo Arquidiocesano de Arte Religioso.

This museum has plenty of religious art from paintings to sculptures and more with artifacts dating back to the 16th century.

In the end, both museums are worth checking out and quite cheap to enter.

Tip 13: Enjoying Holy Week

The ideal time to show up to Popayán is during Easter.

Even if you are not religious, this is still an exciting thing to see.

During Holy Week, there will be daily processions played. The parade you see here will be exciting and worth a visit.

It’s such a good sight that their celebration of Holy Week in Popayán was even declared a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2009.

At the same time, there is also a Religious Music Festival that you can enjoy during this same week.

So if you had to plan an ideal time to visit Popayán, I’d give it 2 or 3 weeks at least. Where you show up to enjoy some of the other things mentioned in this article before Holy Week…

And then enjoy Holy Week in the end to top off your experience with something exciting.

Tip 14: Visit These Hotels

If you are not going to be staying in an apartment for a longer term stay, then I recommend the following 3 hotels for staying in Popayán:

  • Hotel San Martin
  • La Plazuela Hotel
  • Hotel Dann Monasterio

In all 3 of these options, you can find reasonable prices for your stay with good service and accommodations.

Out of these 3, I recommend the last one for those willing to spend the extra money since it is a little more expensive than quite a few hotels in Colombia – Hotel Dann Monasterio.

Now the price is still very reasonable for what you are getting and going to be cheaper than what you would pay in the US.

Some of the reasons for why I recommend this hotel the most is that the service is great, it is centrally located, has a pool and has a very colonial look to the hotel as well.

So while a bit of this article has emphasized just how nice the colonial architecture in Popayán is, now you can actually live in it by choosing a hotel with the style that this one does.

Tip 15: The Budget

How much money should you bring if you want to enjoy a short and long visit to Popayán?

Well, this is a hard question because everyone has different expenses, tastes, desires and more.

But let’s break it down between short and long term visit.

For short term stay, let’s assume you are here for 3 weeks.

Food (always eating out): $25 USD a day at most x 14 = $350 USD.

Beer: $30 USD a week x 2 = $60 USD.

Hotel: $65 USD x 14 days = $910 USD.

Fun Money (museum fees, colectivo costs, etc): $100 USD.

Total: $1,420 USD.

Of course, this budget is a little bit inflated in that you could pick a cheaper hotel for around $20 to $35 USD a night instead.

But I assume you will want to stay at a nicer place that is better for the experience and also I want to make sure nothing is underestimated here.

Also, this doesn’t include flight costs to get there since I don’t know where you might be flying from.

Either way, this is a pretty decent estimate of what your costs could be but most likely they will be less to some degree than what is suggested here.

Now let’s break it down for a long term stay.

Apartment: $400 USD a month.

Groceries: $150 USD a month.

Eating Out: $50 USD a month.

Beer: $50 USD a month.

Local Fun: $100 USD a month.

Miscellaneous: $200 USD a month.

Total: $950 USD a month.

Now of course the main reasons for why this is cheaper are because we are not staying at a hotel and I assume you are eating more at home.

Also, I believe the $950 value here is a bit inflated but I always try to overestimate a tiny bit to avoid any risk of underestimating your expenses.

For example, I spend just a little over a $1,000 USD a month to live in Bogota and I am comfortable here.

And keep in mind Bogota is more expensive than Popayán. Regardless, $950 USD a month should be enough to keep you good while living here.

Final Thoughts

Thank you for reading this article and I hope it was useful. 

Finally, if you have any questions regarding Colombia or Popayán, make sure to reach out to me in the comment section below or send me an email. 

Hasta luego parceros,


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