Popayán is an attractive colonial city in the southwest of Colombia, characterised by its fine white buildings and cultured air. The city grew up as a cool mountain retreat for Spanish sugar cane owners based in the sultry Cauca Valley. As well as its dazzling colonial architecture, Popayán is well known in Colombia for its strictly observed Semana Santa celebrations, which are akin to those in Seville, Spain.
Popayán lies on the Pan-American Highway, towards the border with Ecuador, making it an easily accessible addition to a Colombia travel itinerary. While in the city it's well worth arranging an excursion to the archaeological remains at San Agustin and Tierradentro. The former is known for its mythical pre-Columbian stone figures - of men, animals and deities - which can be seen in the UNESCO-protected Parque Arqueológico. Tierradentro, meanwhile is a series of pre-Columbian burial caves set amid beautiful hills and indigenous villages.