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Popayan’s Missing Tourist Infrastructure

Colourful Chiva buses, old dodge buses, always completely full, Guambiano Indigenous Market, Silvia, near Popayan, Cauca, Colombia, South America

Colourful Chiva buses, old dodge buses, always completely full, Guambiano Indigenous Market, Silvia, near Popayan, Cauca, Colombia

In the previous text on Popayan we marveled why relatively few tourists visit this city, despite its beautiful colonial centre and scenic surroundings. One guess is, travelers easily bypass what is not clearly marked as a high-light in their “bible”, the Lonely Planet and the number of other kinds of tourists is still marginal.

Another reason could be the city’s lack of modern tourist infrastructure. A few examples: the tourist information is staffed with friendly soldiers who have no clue of what is going on. We asked them about a dance festival that was widely advertised and got nothing but blank stares. Feeling somehow devoted to this city, we paid tribute to the two small museums Guillermo Valencia and Casa Museo Mosquera. Well, only those who have never ever seen a selection of 18th & 19th century colonial furniture, weapons, paintings may be really impressed. It did not help that the assigned soldier guides rattled of what they were told to memorize.

Also accommodation is a bit tricky. Yes, there is a new Scottish owned hostel in town, HostalTrail. It provides everything backpackers need: super modern, clean rooms, reliable information, Internet, cold beer, laundry, a TV room, but unfortunately it is situated right on a busy bus route and a super noisy intersection. On top of that, the building is so modern that once you enter you lose all feeling for where you are – it could be Stockholm.

For these reasons, we checked into Hotel Los Balcones, located in a 200 year old colonial building with grand rooms and furniture dating from colonial times. No, it is not within a backpacker’s price range, but we decided to dish out the € 36,- per night and reside in a two room suite with a small kitchen. Actually the main reason we moved to Los Balcones was that Heidi needed a quiet place to work that has WIFI. Guess what: the Internet is down! Not that anybody noticed it, since we are the only people in the whole hotel using it. Luckily, we found the Juan Valdez Café on the main plaza that has WIFI in a quiet patio…

The conditions of some roads does not help either: to cover the 115 kilometers from Popayan to San Agustin, Columbia’s most famous archaeological site, takes 6 to 8 (!!!) hours, same dilemma for Tierradentro. So those tourists really interested in visiting these places probably will use the good road from Bogota, never setting a foot into Popayan.

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