Located in southwestern Colombia and capital of the Cauca Valley, Cali is a warm, high-altitude city just off the coast of the Pacific ocean. But what does Cali stand for? It is short for Santiago de Cali, but the locals know it simply as Cali!
A city filled with churches and museums, parks and theatres and an abundance of restaurants, bars and cafes, there are plenty of places to see in Cali to entertain you during your trip.
Is Cali, Colombia safe?
You’re probably aware of Colombia’s past reputation for crime, but in the past decade the country as a whole has become a lot safer and much more popular as a tourist destination. This includes Cali, which is generally considered a safe place to visit!
As with any major city anywhere in the world, there are good and bad neighborhoods. Do some research before you arrive and make sure you book accommodation in a reputable district. As always, limit the valuables in your possession where possible, and be aware of what’s going on around you. Don’t be alarmed by the police on the streets – your safety is their interest, after all!
All in all, Cali is a great city with a thriving tourism industry, so we recommend visiting during your Colombian adventure!
So what is Cali known for?
Vibrant Cali is known as the “Rumba Capital of Colombia” and, more impressively, the “Salsa Capital of the World”. An energetic city with an infectious buzzing culture, the warm people of Cali are famed for their devotion to dance in a place where there’s music playing on every corner you turn, from shops and grocery stores to the rural suburbs of the Cauca Valley.
Cali locals live and breathe dance, so it should be no surprise that the night scene is lively and flamboyant with some of the top clubs and discos in all of Colombia.
Where to go in Cali for dancing
If you’ve come to Cali to dance the night away with the salsa-fanatic locals, look no further than the Juanchito neighborhood, a dance district filled with discos and contagious beats. You’ll be sure to have a memorable experience in the area where clubs are busy even on a Sunday afternoon, as you party with like-minded people from complete novices to Salsa-savants until your feet can dance no longer.
And if you’re visiting in September, you will be just in time for the annual World Salsa Festival, which is held in Cali in the middle of the month. National and international Salsa stars perform at the festival alongside bands and musical artists as the city comes together to celebrate the dance that makes it famous. More than 5,000 performers take to the stage for the 45,000 plus attendees over the course of four days. Expect flamboyant costumes, passionate performances and wonderful workshops throughout the event, and unleash your inner dancer in an experience like no other!
Where to go in Cali for history and culture
The Centro district in the heart of Cali is the place to be if you’re looking to explore the historical importance of the city. Revolving around Plaza Caicedo, the city’s central square, Centro is Cali’s business district and also home to some of the key historical sights of the city. Cathedrals, churches, theatres and museums can all be found in Centro, amongst an array of bars and restaurants that are at their liveliest during the day.
Where to go in Cali for good gastronomy
The top spots in Cali for Colombian cuisine include Granada and San Antonio. Both popular with locals and tourists alike, the streets are filled with independent bars and cafes that are sure to satisfy your cravings. With food markets and street vendors there are plenty of casual dining options (not to mention cheap!) but these neighborhoods also offer more upscale options too. The traditional cuisine in Cali is a blend of Spanish, indigenous, and African flavours and each dish is unique. Local delicacies such as empanadas vallunas and tamales will be sure to tantalise your taste buds!
The most popular tourist attractions in Cali
If you’re wondering what to do in Cali, you won’t be short on options. We’ve listed some of the best things to do in Cali to help you plan your trip:
When you’re wondering what to see in Cali, make sure that Zoológico de Cali is on your list, named frequently as the best zoo in Colombia! Perfect for adults, or parents travelling with families, the zoo was founded in 1970 and is home to around 1,000 animals, most of which are native to Colombia. Some of the highlights include the monkey enclosures, and you can even spot a native Colombian Spectacled Bear!
Fly, fly, fly away to the Andoke Butterfly Center in Cali! The butterfly farm is an environmental project with a focus on education, offering visitors the opportunity to learn about our impact on the environment, conservation and how to protect the world around us. The garden is set across 300 square metres and is home to over 15 native species of butterfly who live on their native flora. You can also spot hummingbirds as you trek the ecological trails that navigate through the park, and relax at the end of your visit by grabbing a bite to eat in the onsite cafe.
A Cali must see! Standing 26 metres tall atop the Cerro de los Cristales, or Hill of the Crystals in English, this statue of Christ the King can be viewed from all over Cali. Better still, ascend the hill to observe the spectacular 360 views of the whole city from the top. The statue was built to commemorate 50 years since the end of the Colombian civil war, the War of a Thousand Days, and as you climb the road to the top you can view the works of sculptor Carlos Andrés Gómez, who has carved sculptures into the side of the hill.
Capilla La Ermita
Without doubt one of the most beautiful churches in Colombia and architecturally striking, the neo-Gothic Capilla La Ermita is one of the most visited sites in Cali. It is bright white in colour and stands out from its neighbouring buildings for its unique style that simply cannot be missed. Influenced by architecture from Holland, France and Germany, this is a stunning church well worth a visit!
Farallones de Cali National Natural Park
For an outdoorsy adventure don’t miss the 1,500 square km Los Farallones Natural Park just outside of the city. The reserve is the perfect spot for hiking and birdwatching and offers extraordinary views of the misty valley. With many trekking trails available this is the ideal spot to be at one with nature and enjoy all the Colombian landscape has to offer!