Popayan Geography and History

Popayán is the department of Cauca's capital and with 258,653 people it is the most populous city in the region.

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Location and Orientation

Popayán is located in the southwest of the country, sandwiched between mountain ranges to the west and Colombia`s central mountain ranges to the east. This location gives it not only spectacular views, but an incredible amount of biodiversity in the local area.

The nearest major city is Cali, which is in Valle de Cauca to the north of Popayán. 2 Hours south by bus lies the city and archeological sites of San Agustin.

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Climate

The city is located 1760 meters above sea level, and boasts an average temperature of 18-20°C. The weather is usually humid, but is relatively mild considering how close it is to the equator. The driest months are from June to August.

Like many regions in Colombia, the rain comes fast, heavy, and then leaves almost as quickly as it arrived. If you start your days early and get under cover by afternoon, you should be fine.

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Statue Belalcazar Popayán A short history

The foundation of Popayán was declared on January 13th, 1537 by Spanish conquistador Sebastian de Belalcazar.

Popayán was a very important town during Colombia’s colonial period. It is strategically located between Lima, Quito and Cartagena and, for this reason, it was a point of transfer for gold and mining riches that made their way through Colombia on the way to Spain.

Thanks to this past opulence, Popayan is one of Colombia’s most architecturally rich towns, notwithstanding the earthquake that destroyed parts of the city in 1983. This earthquake lasted 8 seconds, and was the most recent of many in the area. The reconstruction of the city’s colonial look took more than ten years. Today you can still see areas that suffered the natural disaster, although much of its splendor remains.

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A terrible earthquake destroyed many monuments of the city in 1983, most of the buildings were rebuilt but the heart of the city still bears ruins.

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