It’s only been a few hours since I left Cali, but the big city feels far away as I arrive in Popayan on a quiet Sunday afternoon. I’ve reserved a quaint little hostel room that’s decorated in shades of blue and overlooks the main square of Popayan. It exemplifies simple perfection.

Room with a view in Popayan, Colombia

Street food in Popayan, Colombia

I settle in and go to the square where I bump into a traveler I met in Cali. He’s eating a kebab, and he shows me where I can buy food on a stick. I have dinner on a plaza bench.

Popayan, Colombia

When I leave the square and walk through town, I wonder where all the people are.

Aqueduct in Popayan, Colombia

Lion door knockers in Popayan, Colombia

Horse drawn cart on a street in Popayan, Colombia

Sure, there are kids here and there, there’s a motorcycle here and there, a horse drawn cart here and there, but the streets are almost empty.

Popayan, Colombia

Popayan, Colombia

Popayan, Colombia

I find the whole town of Popayan atop a hill. It’s where people come to watch the sun sink behind the mountains and illuminate the whitewashed buildings and red tile roofs as it leaves for the day. It’s a popular place to be on this pleasant Sunday evening in Popayan.

Overlooking Popayan, Colombia

Dogs playing in Popayan, Colombia

 There are families here, couples here, rebellious teenage cliques here, college kids here, a few travelers here, plenty of policemen here, and playful pets here.

Popayan, Colombia

Popayan, Colombia

Popayan, Colombia

This hill is not merely a hill, though. It’s a pre-Colombian burial pyramid that was abandoned when the Conquistadors arrived in this area. I’d like to know what’s below the Conquistador statue; what secrets are underneath the steep grass-covered slopes.

Overlooking Popayan, Colombia

A group of women with lovely voices sing a song as the sun goes down, laughing their way through the verses they can’t exactly remember. Their voices blend perfectly with light.

Plane in the distance in Popayan, Colombia

Twilight sky in Popayan, Colombia

The sun is too bright to watch as it goes down. But the best part is what happens at twilight, when the clouds and remnants of sun come together to make art in the sky.

Twilight view of Popayan, Colombia

Popayan, Colombia

The following morning, Popayan is back to its weekday grind. It’s moving much more quickly than it was on the lazy Sunday evening on the hill. There isn’t much to do in Popayan, but I stumble upon a little bakery where the owner is a Colombian who immigrated to the United States and is now semi-retired in Colombia. We spend half the day talking about everything, which is one of the best ways to spend a day of travel.

Popayan, Colombia

Popayan, Colombia

As the sun goes down later that day, the city resettles into the golden shadowy light.

A church in Popayan, Colombia

Popayan, Colombia

And the clouds loom over the hills to make evening magic with the setting sun.

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DSCN9095

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Tips for Exploring the Valle de Cocora, Colombia

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Town square in Salento, Colombia

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