Pasto is a city of about 450,000 people and the capital of the department of Nariño, located in southwest Colombia. The city is located in the “Valle de Atriz”, in the Andes cordillera, near the volcano El Pasto, at a height of about 2527 metres.
It was founded in 1539 by the Spanish conquistador Lorenzo de Aldana and named “San Juan de Pasto”, after the name of the indigenous people (“Los Pastos”) which inhabited the place at the arrival of the conquistadores. It has been an administrative, cultural and religious center of the region since colonial times. During the Wars of Independence against Spain, it was a royalist city, so after gaining independence and because of its geographical location, it kept isolated from the rest of the country creating a traditionalist attitude and cultural absorption.
Popayán is the capital of the Colombian Department of Cauca, with a population of about 215,000 people. It was founded by Sebastián de Belalcázar on January 13, 1537. Located at an altitude of 1,737 meters, the city is well-known for its colonial architecture. Unfortunately, and earthquake in 1983 destroyed many buildings, though a significant number have survived. Nearby is Puracé National Park, a geothermal wonderland of hot springs, waterfalls, and a (currently) inactive volcano from which the park derives its name. The nearest large city is Cali, in the neighboring Department of Valle del Cauca, to the north.
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