Calle 5 #6-19, Centro, Popayan, Cauca
+57 300.249.6240 (whatsapp/celular)
Overview: Parklife Hostel is a particularly attractive option because of its location. It is right on Parque Caldas, Popayan's main plaza, and, in fact, shares a wall with the city's cathedral. It's a medium sized hostel with a mix of private and shared accommodation, a great staff, and proximity to the cultural and historic attractions in Popayan. All in all, it is a great homebase as you explore Popayan and the department of Cauca.
Neighborhood: With its location on Parque Caldas, you are just a few minutes walk away from most of the main attractions in the city. Popayan has always thrived on its reputation as a historical, cultural, and architectural wonder. Museums such as the Museo de Arte Moderno, the Museo Guillermo Leon Valencia (in honor of the ex-Colombian president) and the Museo Guillermo Valencia (in honor of his father, the renowned statesman, poet, and diplomat), the Museo de Arte Religioso, and the Museo de Historia Natural should be at the top of your list. You'll also want to stroll across the charming Humilladero Bridge, which was built
Popayan has been such a success that UNESCO has declared it a city of both gastronomic and cultural heritage. It's a delightfully romantic city, where the main attractions are in the streets of the city itself. Indeed, Popayan, despite the tragic earthquake in 1983 that destroyed much of the city, is widely regarded as the second best preserved city in the country, second only to Cartagena. Plus, it's strong university population makes it a hotbed for artistic groups, music, yoga, local craftsmanship, and entertainment.
This is evident in the "rincon payanes" and the "pueblito patojo", when the city recreates its spectacular architecture in miniature. The first Friday of every month there are story-telling events, which keep alive the traditions of Cauca and its rich history.
Many restaurants offer live music, while the Universidad de Cauca, with its various campuses throughout the city, is a major cultural force: recitals and concerts are frequently held in the nearby Paraninfo Francisco Jose de Caldas.
How to Get There: Popayan is best accessible by either bus or plane. If you are arriving by plane at Guillermo Leon Valencia Airport, you are flying right into downtown Popayan. It's just 1.7km north of the hostel. Bear in mind that Popayan's airport is small and has rather infrequent flights. Avianca and EasyFly both offer flights to Bogota, and charter airline Transporte Aereo de Colombia offers flights to the tiny coastal town of Guapi.
You are likely better off flying into Cali, just three hours to the north, which offers dozens of weekly national and international flights.
If you are arriving by bus (either heading north from Pasto or south from Cali), Parklife Hostel is just a 5 minute $5.000 COP taxi ride from the bus terminal. Major destinations accessible from the Popayan bus terminal include Pasto (6 hours), Ipiales (8 hours), Cali (3 hours), Medellin (13 hours), and Bogota (14 hours).
Management/Staff: Parklife Hostel was founded in 2011 and has been run since then by Carlos, with the help of Mar and Cristian. The staff is a wealth of information about tourist activities, both in Popayan, and Cauca.
Rooms: The hostel has a capacity for 30 guests, in both private and shared accommodations
Shared Rooms: There are 3 dormitories, with space for 18 people: there are 8 bed, 6 bed, and 4 bed dormitories. The 8 and 6 bed dorms have their own private bathrooms. The 4 bed dorm is $27.000, and the 6 and 4 beds cost $25.000.
Private Rooms: There are six private rooms. One has a private bathroom, and the others are shared. For one person they range in price from $45.000 to $57.000. For two the prices range from $55.000 to $70.000
Breakfast: No. But there is free coffee all the time.
Kitchen: There is a kitchen available for guest use. It is open from 7am until 10:30pm. The nearest supermarket is Exito, two blocks to the south, and one block to the east, less than a five minute walk away.
Restaurant: No, but there are many restaurants close by.
Bar: There is no bar, but beer is available for purchase: Club Colombia costs $3.000, and Poker, Costena, and Aguila cost $2.500.
Terrace/Patio: There is a terrace on the third floor, that also doubles as a TV lounge.
TV Lounge: Yes
Computers: Yes. There is a computer for guest use in the reception.
Wifi: Yes. Both in the common areas and bedrooms.
Lockers: There are lockers in most of the dormitories (of various sizes), and additional locker service outside of the rooms. Guests must bring their own locks.
Credit Cards: No
Luggage Storage: Yes. This is a free service.
Check-in Time: Flexible, depending upon availability.
Check-out Time: 12pm
Restaurants: It is no surprise that UNESCO has designated Popayan a city of gastronomic heritage with the abundance of restaurants in the city.
La Cosecha is a romantic spot, with a great menu variety with entrees from $16.000 up to $50.000.
El Italiano serves up some of the best Italian food you'll find anywhere.
Escuela Taller features fusion gastronomy: Colombian food with French influences.
Carminia offers a mix of Colombian and Spanish food.
Los Quingos is reputed to offer the best empanadas de pipian in the city. They are a local specialty made of cornflour, potatoes, peanuts, and local spices, accompanied by a sweet peanut sauce.
Cauca is a region where corn, potatoe, and peanut play large roles, as well as the "guanabana" and "mora" from the Pacific Coast. Make sure to try a salpicon de baudilia, which features mora (blackberry), naranja (orange), and guanabana (soursop). And make sure to try caratanta con hogao: Cauca's own version of fried corn chips with a tomato and onion sauce.
Tourism in the City: September is the month of Popayan's famed Gastronomic Festival: Huila and Belgium were the invited guests last year.
In October the city sponsors a short film festival. The whole city lends its white walls to project short films to the public.
In April or March (depending on the year) there is a festival of "patrimonio de la humanidad", where traditional indigenous religions, as well as Catholic traditions, are celebrated.
Tourism Outside the City: Cauca is an impressive department because of its geographical diversity, stretching from steamy Pacific coasts to towering Andean peaks.
On the Pacific Coast, you can head to Timbiqui (home of the famous marimba group "Herencia de Timbiqui), Guapi, or la Jagua. Tourist facilities are basic. If you look around, you can often find deals for only $250.000 to fly into Guapi. Alternatively, you can also take boats from Buenaventura. June and July are prime months to see the humpback whales. While once a bit of a dodgy area, this region of the Pacific now is not a dangerous zone for tourism.
In the other direction, headin east, you will find the spectacular Parque Nacional Natural Purace: You can take public transportation from Popayan's main bus terminal. In the park you'll find waterfalls, frailejones, osos de anteojos (spectacled bears), and of course, the spectacular Purace Volcano itself, which towers over the region at 4,650m. The park, which is under the authority of a local indigenous council, currently charges $10.000 to enter, and $35.000 for local guide serices. One recommended local guide is Wilson Ospina, who can be reached at 313.606.0027. If you're planning on hiking, be prepared for a long day. It's roughly 2 hours to get to the base of the volcano, and then around 5 to 6 hours up and down.
Large parts of Cauca are inhabited by indigenous groups. Among the most prominent are the Guambiano, Nasa, and Coconuco.
An additional interesting offerings is a tour of the honey production region in the south of Cauca, centered around the municipality of la Sierra. Here you can see the "madrejea" or honey production. Parklife can help arrange these tours, where the "angelita" bee both produces honey, and helps to pollenize the coffee farms.
Conclusion: Popayan's Parklife Hostel is a great option to make your home base as you explore all that Popayan and Cauca have to offer.
Carrera 24A #2A-55, Miraflores, Cali, Valle del Cauca
+57 311.325.0578 (whatsapp/celular), (032) 556.8382 (landline)
Overview: The centrally located neighborhood of Miraflores is nestled into the western hills of Cali. It's a pleasant, safe, neighborhood, that is cooler than other parts of Cali due to afternoon breezes that blow in from the mountains. Casa Aguacanela is a great mid-budget option for tourists and travelers looking for a place to call home while they explore the city of Cali.
Neighborhood: Miraflores is a safe and tranquil area with spectacular views of the city of Cali. It's very close to all of the most interesting and important sights; it's just south of San Antonio, and just north of San Fernando Viejo. Just a short walk or taxi ride away you will find the Biblioteca Departamental, the Iglesia San Antonio, the Camino a Cristo Rey, the Teatro los Cristales, the Parque Panamericano, and the Estadio Olimpico Pascual Guerrero. Just a short block to the south, you will also find the famous Parque del Perro, packed with great dining options, bars, and nightlife.
How to Get There: Cali, like most Colombian cities, is best reached either by plane or bus. If you are arriving at Cali's Alfonso Bonilla Aragon Airport (CLO), located northeast of the city, in between Cali and Palmira, you are 23km from the hostel. A taxi will cost around $55.000 COP, and take around 35 minutes. Of course, try to avoid arriving between rush hour (5pm to 8pm) as this could significantly increase the cost and the time of your taxi.
Management/Staff: Casa Aguacanela is run by Esperanza, who lives on the premises. In addition to being a hostel owner, she is also a painter, and many of her own works are displayed in the hostel. She will be delighted to help you with anything you need, so that you can make the most of your time in Cali.
Rooms: Casa Aguacanela would best be described as a boutique hostel. It is a great place for couples or for business travelers, who are looking for mid-budget options.
Shared Rooms: Casa Aguacanela does not offer shared or dormitory accommodations.
Private Rooms: Casa Aguacanela offers three private rooms: "Blue Moon" is a double room with its own private balcony, and private bathroom. It goes for $100.000 per night. "New Moon" is also a private room with street view, and a private bath. It is also $100.000 per night. Finally, there is a room called "Full Moon", which features three single beds. It's a good option for groups. It includes a private bathroom in the hallway. This room goes for $90.000 per night.
Restaurants: The nearest place to head for fine dining options is the Parque del Perro. It's a pleasant ten minute walk away. You can either head up Carrera 24A and work your way through some windy streets (consult a map because the route is a little tricky), or you can head down to Calle Quinta, which is a much simpler route.
Here you will find two dozen restaurants, catering to every taste and price range. There are several Colombian options, several Peruvian restaurants serving up Ceviche. Particularly recommended is Llanera el Parque, which serves up typical Colombian veal, barbecued plains or "llanero" style. Primos is an excellent option for beef and poultry dishes, with a wide range of salads and soups, and it's a great late night option, as they are open until 1am on weekends. Sushi Green offers a range of Asian/South American fusion food, and is particularly recommendable for their causa (a Peruvian dish of potatoes, avocados, and seafood).
If you're in the mood for healthier fare, then a great option is Go Green. They serve up a wide variety of salads, sandwiches, and wraps, all at reasonable prices. Other more traditional options include Subway, the El Corral Colombian hamburger chain, and reliable Italian favorite Archie's which offers great pizza and pasta options.
Kitchen: There is a small kitchen for guest use, that includes a stove and refrigerator.
Restaurant: No. However, many excellent dining options are within walking range.
Terrace/Patio: There are two incredible terrace spaces...one on the second, and one on the third floors. They offer some of the best views of Cali, looking out across the city towards the east.
TV Lounge: No, but there is cable TV in the rooms.
Wifi: Yes. Both in the common areas and bedrooms.
Lockers: There is no need for lockers as their are only private rooms, each which lock with their own key.
Credit Cards: No
Luggage Storage: Yes. Same day service is free. Thereafter the cost is $3.000 per day.
Check-in Time: 2pm
Check-out Time: 12pm
Conclusion: Casa Aguacanela, in the strategically located Miraflores neighborhood is an excellent option for mid-budget travelers, especially couples and business travelers. You will feel right at home in the clean and comfortable rooms, and Esperanza will take good care of you.