The area of southern Colombia leading off from the Cauca valley south of Cali and embracing the cultured city of Popayán and pre-Colombian archaeological sites was lamentably off limits for visitors during the recent era of guerrilla activity. Fortunately nowadays the security situation has improved and many of the highlights of this region of quiescent volcanoes, steep emerald green valleys, pastures, sugar plantations and attractive villages can be safely explored.
The Spanish colonial university town Popayán is a delightful stop, its lanes resonating with both salsa and classical music, while the mountain village of Silvia is famous for the striking costumes worn by the friendly Guambiano Indians. The UNESCO-listed archaeological site at San Agustín is the must see of the region, with its remarkable ‘Bosque de las Estatuas’ consisting of a number of enigmatic statues dating from 3,300BC.
Prosperous Cali is the second largest city in Colombia after Bogotá and is famed for being the country’s party capital: salsa really rules the roost here. It’s a tropical city with a tropical vibe, surrounded by a fertile agricultural land with plantations and cattle.