Pasto, officially San Juan de Pasto, is the capital of the department of Nariño, located in southwestern Colombia. The city is located in the "Atriz Valley", on the Andes cordillera, at the foot of the Galeras volcano, at an altitude of 8,290 feet (2,527 m) above sea level. The city has a population of approximately 500,000 inhabitants.


Pasto was founded in 1537 by the Spanish conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar. In 1539 another Spanish conquistador Lorenzo de Aldana moved the city to its current location, and established it under the name "San Juan de Pasto". Pasto is a reference to the name of the indigenous people who inhabited the region at the arrival of the conquerors, the Pastos. However, the Atriz Valley was inhabited by the Quillacingas. A major contributor to the economy and expansion of Pasto was a man of Italian origin named Guido Bucheli.

It has been an administrative, cultural and religious center of the region since colonial times. Because of this, the city is known as the theological city of Colombia. During the Independence Wars against Spain Pasto was a royalist city, unlike the rest of the country. Partly due to this political stance, and because of its geographical location, after independence Pasto remained isolated for a long time from the rest of the Colombia.


In the municipality 11.1% of establishments are dedicated to industry; 56.0% to trade; 28.9% to services and 4.1% to other activities.

In urban areas, the main economic activities are trade and service industries with some small businesses, of which about 50% are craft manufacturing. The larger companies in Nariño are located in Pasto, and are largely involved with food, beverages and furniture production. For the development of trade, mainly with the neighboring country of Ecuador, there are several shopping centers. The Pasto Chamber of Commerce was established in 1918 and according to the 2008 yearbook had 14,066 commercial establishments of which 58.5% were engaged in trade and repair of vehicles. In the rural areas there is predominantly farming and cattle ranching, in addition there is a small-scale mining industry.


Galeras Volcano.

Panoramic, Galeras Volcano at sunset from the main square.

Water and sanitation

By means of the Pasto Sanitation Company the urban area has a 93% provision of water and sanitation. In the rural area 74% have mains water and 33% have plumbed sanitation.

Land access

Pasto is connected northwards by land with Popayán and south, 78 km away with Ipiales on the border with the Republic of Ecuador by the Pan-American Highway. The distance from Pasto to the capital of the republic, Bogotá, on the Panamerican Highway is 798km with a travel time of about 18 hours. To the west the city is connected to the port of Tumaco on the Pacific coast, by a paved road of 284 km, and to the east with Mocoa in Putumayo department with a road of about 145 km. For national intercity land transport there is a terminal used by the principal transport operating companies and which is used by approximately two million passengers a year.

Air access

Antonio Narino Airport is 35km from the city, in the nearby town of Chachagüí, it provides domestic air connections offered by Colombian airlines Avianca and Satena.


Telephone and internet: Various companies like Telmex, Movistar, Claro, Tigo, Avantel, and UNE-Orbitel provide telecommunication service in Pasto by means of Mobile phones, all companies providing UMTS cover and HSDPA. Broad band internet connection and terrestrial telephones are also provided.

Radio broadcasting: Within the city there are various FM radio broadcasting companies such as Radio University of Nariño, National Police Radio, community radio and commercial radio stations with a high musical content. There are also some AMstations available of which the oldest is Radio Nariño (founded in 1937) and Radio Pasto Echos, (1941).

Television: In Pasto there is full access to all the national TV stations such as Channel 1 (Canal Uno), Station Institutional, (Señal Institucional) and Station Columbia (Señal Colombia). In addition there are regional programmes like Telepacífico and TelePasto. There are also local private stations like Nariño TV, TV Telmex and CNC Global TV. and national private stations such as RCN Televisión y Caracol Televisión, and finally there are subscription stations through companies like Telmex, Movistar, Global TV and DirecTV.