Leaving the snowy white caps of the “Coffee Zone” behind, the Cauca River Valley descends south and widens until you reach Cali, gateway to Colombia’s southwest and the self-proclaimed world capital of salsa music. A knuckle-whitening detour from Cali takes you to the tiny town of San Cipriano. Further south, the Panamerican Highway stretches past steamy fields of sugar cane to the serene, colonial town of Popayán, known for its blindingly white Rococo colonial architecture. The verdant rolling countryside around San Agustín is some of Colombia’s finest, and would be worth a visit even without the enigmatic stone statues – remnants of a mysterious civilization – that pepper the hillsides. Tierradentro’s ancient tombs are less well known but no less fascinating. Heading further south from the overlooked town of Pasto, you ascend a ridge dominated by volcanoes all the way to Ecuador.

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