Walking tour of Popayán
No two walking tours of Popayán will be the same, but that is all part of the charm of this city, which is relatively unused to tourism and still playing things by ear.
It is certainly one of the continent’s great colonial masterpieces, ranking easily alongside Arequipa in Peru, Cuenca in southern Ecuador and Bolivia’s legislative capital, Sucre. Like these noble cities Popayán has the gravitas of a long and distinguished history, but is also a modern, forward looking place in love with music, art and learning. There are several universities, so the place is usually buzzing with young people strolling through the squares and congregating in the cafés and bars.
Popayán was off the map for visitors during the epoch of guerrilla activity but now it is a peaceful and optimistic city with plenty to offer the sight-seer. Following sever earthquake damage many of the stately buildings were restored with deference to the Spanish colonial style, all washed in brilliant white, fringing the original grid of narrow streets.
Depending on your guide and the time of day, you’ll pop into some of the many baroque churches, there are eight in the centre including five in one block. But you also gain access to some of the stunning colonnaded courtyards of religious buildings now housing anything from college offices to prisons. There are some interesting museums: tell your guide if you have a special interest in visiting any of them – and to cap it all a superb panoramic view from the top of Tulcán hill.