Book the best bus journey from Cali to Popayan


on: 2023-02-27

by: Lisa Gembrini

Quick Facts

  • Duration

    03 hours 40 minutes

  • Rating

  • Experience

    culture, history, hiking

  • Best Price

    USD $ 13

  • Maximum comfort or class


  • Departures

    Multiple departures daily

  • Recommended by

    77 travelers

Price may fluctuate due to seasonal demand and other market-driven and regulatory events.

Cali to Popayan Bus Travel Guide

Templo de la Encarnacion, Popayán, Colombia

Are you looking for one of Colombia's hidden gems? Then I invite you to discover Popayán, a colonial city just a few hours away from Cali by bus.

If you clicked on this article you probably want to visit Colombia. Not just the most touristic cities and places but the best secrets this awesome country has to offer when it comes to its history and culture. 

Popayán is a stately city renowned for its colonial architecture, antiquities, and a history of intellectual foundations, being the home to almost twenty past presidents and many of Colombia's fine artists and thinkers. It's also a city for foodies, in that it not only has great sights, but it has taken upon itself the obligation to preserve the knowledge of local cuisine traditions. I especially love Carantatas soup, named so for its crunchy corn.

If you don’t need further convincing and just want to get your tickets to Popayán from Cali to see authentic Colombia, just click the Reserve Now button. But if you’re still in research mode and need some more context or ideas, read on.

What are the buses in Colombia like?

In the land of the chiva bus, you should know there are actually many other types of buses too. It all depends on the route you are taking, how far you’re going, and how much you’re spending.

On the whole, buses in Colombia are pretty decent and affordable, falling in the mid-range of experience compared to bus service in other Latin American countries. You won’t be getting the rolling palaces you experience in Argentina and Brazil, but neither will you likely encounter leaking jaloppies that are common in the poorer countries in Central and South America.  

As far as those chivas or open-air “chicken buses”, they are mostly used for party events, parades, and out in rural areas between small villages.  So, most likely you won’t be boarding a chiva, and certainly not between major cities like Cali and Popayán.

How long is the bus ride from Cali to Popayán?

The ride from Cali to Popayán is 138 km (86 miles). In just three and a half hours, this short inter-urban route goes through many satellite towns between the two cities like Jamunid, Santander de Quilichao, and Piendamo. Much of the time, therefore, is just traffic getting out of the metropolitan sprawl, with buses, cars, and motorcycles everywhere. 

You will still get some beautiful nature during this bus ride to watch from your window. Cali is the entrance to the Farallones de Cali National Park, and Popayán is located in a valley equidistant between the two other national parks:  Parque Nacional Natural Munchique on its western flank, and Parque Nacional Natura de Puracé to the east. Can you imagine how beautiful this road is?

What is the cost of traveling by bus from Cali to Popayán?

The bus ticket from Cali to Popayán is around $9 to $15. Check more of the itinerary choices by clicking the Reserve Now button.

Several factors can influence the price:

When you go

Weekends, as usual, are more expensive. A ticket from Cali to Popayán will cost you a few more pesos if you are going on Friday or Sunday. 

When you book

Listen to me when I say this: book in advance! Don't wait until the last minute, because the earlier you make your reservation, the more availability of seats you will have at your disposal.

Which bus carrier you choose

For this route, I strongly recommend booking your bus ticket with Tax Belalcazar. You can get them online by clicking the Reserve Now button, and then receive your ticket by email. You will be thankful you did so when you get to Cali’s bus station because it can be very chaotic like the floor of a stock exchange.

What are the bus schedules from Cali to Popayán?

Popayán is definitely a hidden gem of Colombia, so it's really under-visited compared to the overexposed gems like Cartagena and Salento. Compared to Cali, Popayán is not a big city, but that doesn’t prevent it from having several different departures going there from Cali throughout the day. Go in the morning or the afternoon, it’s up to you!

Colombia's schedules are very reliable, rarely delayed or canceled, so don’t be afraid of taking a bus to Popayán and getting back. But also remember not all of the online booking systems have up-to-date schedules, and a lot of tickets do not come with all the information you need to get to your bus.

At AndesTransit you will find a professional bilingual team working 24/7 to help you. We are not robots reading off a screen from someplace on the opposite side of the planet, but real expert travelers with deep experience in the region who are invested in your trip and will update you with all the contextual help you need for your trip. 

We communicate with all our carriers and know what they’re talking about in the backroom about roads and traffic. So you will always get up-to-date bus schedules and a personal assistant checking with the bus carriers on your behalf to get the word of any rapidly changing conditions.

Where can I book bus tickets from Cali to Popayán?

You have two options:


In this digital age, I don't have to explain to you all the benefits of buying your tickets online. This method of booking a bus in Colombia is easily available when you just click on the Reserve Now button above and get your trip started!


This is, by all means, possible, but many travelers don’t recommend it. The Cali bus terminal can be overcrowded and full of pushing and shoving where personal space or honoring places in line gets discarded all the time, and then competing carriers will tell you only what you want to hear in order to steal you from one line to get into theirs. Then by the time you wrestle your way up to get your ticket, you find out then it’s been sold out or they give you the wrong ticket because they don’t have the time to listen to the nuances of what you want.

Remember this advice: Book Online!

What is the best bus from Cali to Popayán?

As I mentioned earlier, the carrier we recommend the most for this route is Tax Belalcazar.  Their buses have everything you need for this short trip and at a great price. They are a smaller and humbler company so they have more time for personal attention, and they know the route better than anyone else, so they’re both efficient and safe.

In only three and a half hours you don’t need much accommodation, so be ready to get to your destination ASAP. Don’t expect luxury, but it’s fair to expect comfortable seats and on-board entertainment like music or movies.

What to see in Popayán

Cascada La Torre, Popayán

Tucked between the mountains of Colombia you will find this colonial-era jewel. Traditional food, music, history, religion, and museums are part of the culture of Popayán and they are proud to boast of it all.  Their official website is a good starting point.

Visiting Popayán can be a rich experience. Let me help with just a few recommendations:

#1 - Caldas Park and gastronomic market

In the center of the city you will find this antique and historic park, surrounded by the Cathedral, the famous Clock Tower, the city hall, and only one block away from the grand Guillermo Valencia Theater! The park used to be a place for commerce, but it has since become popular for leisure activities, getting your shoes shined, licking some ice cream, or shopping for souvenirs.

After a day visiting the city you should taste some of the local food. I recommend the Alfonso Lopez market, where you can find delicacies like Tamal de Pipian and fried peanut empanadas.

#2 - The hills of Morro del Tulcan and Cerro de las Cruces

The highest point of the area, and the best place to see the sunset in the so-named "White City" is Morro del Tulcan. This is also a significant archeological site where you can learn a lot about the foundation of Popayán, the ancient pre-Columbian pyramid, and how the Spaniards used it for gold mining.

The opposite hill known as Cerro de Las Cruces is also a worthwhile trek. The M-shaped hill leaning against the Central mountain range hearkens to the days of the colonies and their earnest efforts to convert native people. Perhaps for that reason, they decided to locate the central Plaza of the city in front of it so a view of the crosses standing on top of the hill could not be avoided. The hill is populated with primary forest and makes for a good excuse to go hiking to the top to catch some incredible views.

#3 - Tour of churches

Some time ago, Popayán was a pretty important city to Spain’s religious campaign and so they built many churches to evangelize people. Whether you subscribe or not to their mission, the level and degree of architecture they applied to a relatively small city makes for a nice walk and itinerary of visits.  Start at the La Ermita Cathedral (constructed in 1546) and proceed to the Templo de la Encarnacion, San Agustin church, San Francisco church, and end at La Milagrosa parish, which is some blocks away. 

#4 - La Torre Waterfall

Just outside the skirts of downtown Popayán, you can begin a wonderfully popular hike to Cascada La Torre, a beautiful natural waterfall that you can swim into refresh your feet and back. The trail goes on to explore other smaller falls and canyons if you want to go further.  If you are limited for time and want to just do the swimming or bathing, you could ask a taxi in town to help you get there by street 42N, although that will likely still involve a little bit of hiking as it’s on the steep side of the canyon. 


This is one of those places that one day in the future you will be proud to say you’ve gone where few have gone before, and the stories you will tell will be numerous. You can find in Popayán some excellent preserved history, incredible landscapes, and world-famous food.

Route Map

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is it worth stopping in Popayán?
Yes, the city has played an oversized role in Colombian history, politics, and culture. While in the under-visited southern region of Colombia, Popayán can be argued to be Colombia’s intellectual taproot, as many leaders of the country, from poets to presidents, hail from here.
Can we go to Popayán on a day trip from Cali and come back?
Easily, as it’s only three hours away. But Popayán has so much to offer by itself, that you should plan on at least spending one night and either go back to Cali the next day or continue south toward Ecuador.
Can I connect from Popayán to San Agustin by bus?
While technically possible via Route 20 and it seems the shortest route, buses rarely service this route if at all. Most travelers get to San Agustin by starting in Bogota or Armenia and going down to Neiva and Pitalito, then west to San Agustin.
What are the ticket policies?
It depends on the carrier you choose, but their specific policies can be previewed during checkout or in the summaries printed on your ticket email. For a general overview, see the Ticket Policy page.

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