112km (69 miles) S of Cali
For those enchanted by Cartagena’s colonial splendor, just wait until you set your eyes on Popayán. While Cartagena’s cobblestone streets are increasingly filled with tens of thousands of cruise ship passengers at a time, Popayán, with architecture that is equally as stunning, remains relatively tourist free. Nicknamed La Ciudad Blanca, or the White City, for its whitewashed facades, the city is home to several universities that sit side by side with historic churches and monasteries that have all been beautifully maintained.
Founded by Sebastián de Belalcázar in 1537, Popayán was once the most powerful city in southern Colombia, strategically located on the crossroads between Quito and Cartagena. Wealthy sugar barons came here to escape the heat in the Valle de Cauca, building elaborate mansions and religious monuments. When the railroads, and later highways, were built in the early 1900s, Cali’s population ballooned and the balance of power shifted away from Popayán.