Bordered by Panama to the north and Ecuador to the south, the Pacific region forms the western slice of Colombia along the Pacific Ocean. This beautiful jewel is amongst the most biodiverse and rainy regions in the world. It has beautiful colonial and historic cities like Popayan, virgin beaches along the coast, natural parks like the Gorgona Island and "Cali", the Salsa´s capital of the world.
The humpback whales are some of the recurrent visitors to this region. They usually come from the Antarctic between July and September to mate, raise their young, swimming quietly in the depths of the Pacific and then raise to the surface to blow streams of water.
It rains a lot in this area. The average temperature is 28°C, but it often feels cooler because of the rain. In some cities like Popayan and Pasto the average temperature is 12°C as they are located in the Andes mountains.
Its people, traditions and culture:
This region is inhabited by a mix of wonderful people, most of them are Afro-Colombian who still preserve their traditions influenced by their African roots. There are also some indigenous communities like the Emberas in Chocó, and the Guambianos and the Paeces in the Cauca.
In Nariño, next to the border with Ecuador, "Pastusos" is the name given to the people from this area, they are excellent hostess and have tons of jokes about themselves, you will laugh of all the time with them. The Vallunos, in Valle del Cauca department where the Salsa capital is located, are the best salsa dancers in the country.
Its traditional Food:
As the other regions in Colombia, the pacific region also has a variety of dishes and flavours. Along the beach, the fish and shrimp ceviche are the popular meals. In the Colonial city of Popayan the carantanta (a local version of tortilla soup with locally-grown potatoes) and empanadas de pipian are the most traditional dishes.
In the Nariño, the hervido (a drink made of acid fruits and anise flavoured liquor) and roosted cuy (a mild tasting guinea pig) are very common. And in Cali the sancochos (type of soup) and atollados(a type of risotto), lulada, aborrajados(ripe sweet plantain).
What to do:
The Pacific coast is also the ideal place for nature fanatics because of the variety of wildlife and the possibility on seeing dolphins and whales swimming on a stone’s throw distance from the beach
There is also good for nautical sports like diving and surfing, ecologic walks and relaxing at the beautiful virgin beaches along the coast.
And off course take salsa classes in Cali.
Where to go:
There are many places to visit in these region, these are some of the highlights:
Cities and towns:
- Cali: The biggest city is this region and the Salsa´s capital of the world.
- Popayan: A small colonial city famous for its white facades and for its holy week celebrations
- Pasto: Built at the foot of the Volcan Galeras, it has several colonial buildings and it is the base for visiting the Laguna de Cocha.
- Ipiales: A commercial town just less than 30 minutes away from the Santuario de las Lajas.
- Utria National Park
- Gorgona Island Natural Park
- Malpelo Natural park
- Isla de la Corota in the Laguna de Cocha
- Purace National Park.
- Nuquí and Bahía Solano
When to go:
Any time of the year is good to visit this region. However, if you want to see the humpback whales the right time is from July to September.
If you also want to learn more about the traditions and culture of this region a good opportunity is during some of their most popular carnivals, like:
- January: The Blacks and Whites Carnival, held in Pasto. It is a great festival where people get painted of black and white. It was originated during the Spanish rule, when the slaves were allowed to celebrate and their masters joined in the festivities by painting their faces black.
- December: The Cali Fair. This is a cultural festival where food, music, dancing and other cultural activities are shown.