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Introducing Pasto

Just two hours from Ecuador, Pasto is the capital of the department and the logical jumping-off point for the border. It's also a good base for visiting Laguna de la Cocha, Laguna Verde and, if it ever stops grumbling, Volcán Galeras.

It is a pleasant enough city with several fine colonial buildings as well as a bustling downtown area, but there is little here to hold most travelers' attention for more than an overnight stop.

The weather here is cool – so cool, in fact, you'll see helado de paíla advertised; it's ice cream made fresh in a copper tub sitting on a platform of ice.