When the Spanish conquistadores founded Popayan in 1537, they could hardly believe their good fortune. The area was blessed with perfect spring-like weather, there were gold mines nearby and they were on the path between the flow of riches from Peru and Ecuador to the waiting galleons for the sea voyages from Cartagena to Spain. They laid out a city just like the ones they had left in Spain, and Popayan grew around a central plaza with its requisite cathedral and impressive public buildings. Today that beauty remains in the old part of town and the whitewashed buildings have earned Popayan a place on Unesco's heritage list and the moniker of La Ciudad Blanca (The White City).
The Clock Tower
A typical Colonial patio
We left the coffee farm early in morning eager to explore the "big city." Downtown Popayan is world's away from the tranquility we are finding in the very nearby countryside. After our 15-minute adventure ride on the rocky farm roads, we emerged onto the traffic congested main road to the old city. Right on the beautiful main square we found the Juan Valdez coffee shop - the perfect spot to relax and plan our next adventures.