City Center and Plaza
City Center and Plaza
Flag of Popayán
Official seal of Popayán
"The White City"
Location of the City and municipality of Popayán in the Cauca Department.
Location of the City and municipality of Popayán in the Cauca Department.
Popayán is located in Colombia
Location in Colombia
Coordinates: 2°27′15″N 76°36′33″W / 2°27′15″N 76°36′33″W / 2.45417; -76.60917(2017)
 • City439,257 (Metropolitan)
 • Density909.23/km2 (2,354.9/sq mi)
 • Urban
 • Metro
Time zoneUTC-05 (EST)
Postal code
Official website

Popayán (Spanish pronunciation: [popaˈʝan] (About this soundlisten)) is the capital of the Colombian department of Cauca. It is located in southwestern Colombia between the Western Mountain Range and Central Mountain Range. It has a population of 258,653 people,[1] an area of 483 km2, is located 1760 meters above sea level, and has an average temperature of 18 °C.

Popayán downtown ceilings view at night
Popayán evening
Purace volcano

The town is well known for its colonial architecture and its contributions to Colombian cultural and political life. It is also known as the "white city" due to the color of most of the colonial buildings in the city center, where several churches are located, such as San Francisco, San José, Belén, Santo Domingo, San Agustín, and the Catedral Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, known locally as "La Catedral". The city's cathedral was home to the Crown of the Andes, a 16th-century Marianist devotional object featuring emeralds taken from the captured Inca Emperor Atahualpa. It was sold to finance local health care institutions.

Popayán has been home to seventeen Colombian presidents, as well as noted poets, painters, and composers. The University of Cauca (est. 1827), one of Colombia's oldest and most distinguished institutions of higher education, is located here, so Popayán is also known as the "University City". Nearby is Puracé National Natural Park. The nearest large city is Cali, in the Valle del Cauca Department, north of Cauca.

Much of the city's original splendor was destroyed on 31 March 1983, when an earthquake toppled many buildings. Though many were rebuilt and repaired, the heart of the city still has ruins and empty lots. In 2005, Popayán was declared by the UNESCO as the first city of gastronomy because of its variety and meaning to the intangible patrimony of Colombian culture.[2] The culinary history of the Cauca Department was chosen because it maintains traditional food preparation methods that have been passed down orally for generations. In 2009, UNESCO also declared the Semana Santa processions during Easter Week a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Patrimony of Humanity.[citation needed]


The word Popayán comes from an indigenous language. There are different theories about the origin of this word, one claims it means: Po: "Two"; pa: "reed"; yan: "village", or; "Two villages with reed roofs". Another theory says that the word Popayán comes from the name of the indigenous cacique, called Payán, who used to live around Eme Hill, nowadays known as Las Tres Cruces Hill. Yet another theory says that according to the historian Arcecio Aragón, the origin of the word Popayán is "Pampayán" from the Quechua language: pampa (valley) and yan (river), thus, the "valley of the river", where "river" refers to the Cauca River.[citation needed]

Other Languages
العربية: بوبايان
azərbaycanca: Popayan
български: Попаян
brezhoneg: Popayán
català: Popayán
čeština: Popayán
Deutsch: Popayán
español: Popayán
Esperanto: Popayán
euskara: Popayán
فارسی: پوپایان
français: Popayán
Gàidhlig: Popayán
galego: Popayán
한국어: 포파얀
Bahasa Indonesia: Popayán
italiano: Popayán
lietuvių: Popajanas
magyar: Popayán
Bahasa Melayu: Popayán
Nederlands: Popayán
日本語: ポパヤン
Nordfriisk: Popayán (Steed)
norsk: Popayán
پنجابی: پوپایان
polski: Popayán
português: Popayán
română: Popayán
Runa Simi: Popayán
русский: Попаян
српски / srpski: Попајан
suomi: Popayán
svenska: Popayán
Tagalog: Popayán
татарча/tatarça: Попаян
Türkçe: Popayán
українська: Попаян
اردو: پوپایان
Tiếng Việt: Popayán
Volapük: Popayán
Winaray: Popayán
中文: 波帕扬