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Popayan

Popayan is the capital of Colombia's southwestern Cauca state, just 3 hours south of Cali, and around 7 hours north of Pasto. At 1760m above sea level, it enjoys a temperate climate. It's located in between the western and central cordilleras and has a population of slightly over 250,000. Popayan is known for its architectural and cultural sophistication; in fact, in the 19th century, many of the most prominent families of Bogota moved there with the intention of relocating Colombia's capital. While this did not come to pass, Popayan still retains a great deal of influence, and resurrected from a devestating earthquake in 1983 that nearly destroyed the city, and was memorialized by Fernando Botero.

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Founded in 1537, Popayan soon rose to prominence due to its location between the silver-producing regions of Lima and Quito, and Cartagena, the Spanish Empire's principal port in the new world. It originally was incorporated into the Spanish Empire, falling under the jurisdiction of the royal audience of Quito. Today Popayan is experiencing a small but growing tourism presence, and its becoming a regular stop for those traveling by land between Ecuador and Colombia. Its a charming change from the concrete jungles that characterize much of Colombia architecturally, and offers more by way of attractions than its southern neighbor Pasto.

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If you're short on time in Popayan, head to the main plaza, and bring your camera. While the city was devestated by the 1983 earthquake, it went to great pains to rebuild the city. Colombia also introduced seismic regulations into its building codes as a response to the Popayan earthquake.

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