Because of its bad reputation, many travelers decide not to go to Cali. What a mistake!
The city, also known as the salsa capital, is a must if you want to discover this aspect of Colombian culture.
The city has its own rhythm and its people are known to love to party. I like to think that this is linked to the climate of Cali. Indeed, it’s pretty hot during the day, but fortunately, every day around 5 pm, a cool breeze starts to blow.
It’s the daily signal that tells the inhabitants that it’s time to take a walk in the streets. Then, in the evening, people go to salsa bars to dance and have a good time.
From a historical point of view, you won’t have many places to visit. There are a few churches and museums scattered between the old center and the San Antonio district but not much more.
However, it is a fantastic place to learn salsa and an excellent base for exploring the South of Colombia. Indeed, the Pacific coast is only 3 hours away, the coffee region is only 3-4 hours away and Popayan is also 3-4 hours away.
In addition, the mountains and rivers surrounding Cali offer many opportunities for activities such as hiking, canyoning, bird watching, and paragliding.
As with all large cities in South America, I advise you to take a taxi at night and not to bring valuables into view.
Food in Cali
I’ve been eating my way around the city, and my pants are slowly getting tighter. Is that why everyone dances so much here? To work the kilos off, perhaps? Probably not, but here’s some of the food I’ve tried so far in Cali!
- Pandebono: Deliciously soft cheese bread. These are sold everywhere around the city and are mostly eaten for breakfast. There are a couple of stories about how Pandebono got its name – some say it was because of an Italian who used to call them Pan de Buono or the good bread. But however it got its name, you know a bread has got to be good when it features in a classic Salsa song! ¡Esto es cuestión de pandebono!
- Aborrajado: Sweet plantain stuffed with cheese. Two of my favorite things: could food really get much better? Well, yes, ok, it could, but these round cheese-filled morsels really hit the spot.
- Marranito: The little pig! Another plantain-filled snack, but this time, the plantain is savory, and it is filled with chicharrón or fried pork rinds.
- Champus: Champus seems to be one of those drinks you love or hate. It’s a mix of corn and fruits like lulo and pineapple. It’s both a drink and a snack – you eat it with a spoon. I love it, but it’s not for everyone!
- Lulada: This is one of the most traditional drinks from the Valle de Cauca region. It’s made by mixing the fruit lulo with water, ice and sugar. Apparently, it makes for a pretty good cocktail too—just add alcohol.
Articles you must read before coming to Cali
Getting to Cali? (+)
- Bus at the main terminal (Salitre). I recommend a night bus | Bolivariano & Expreso Palmira | 12 hours
- Many direct flights from the airport | Avianca & Latam | 1 hour |
- Only a few direct flights from the airport | Avianca & Latam | 1h30 |
From Santa Marta:
- Flights from the airport with 1 stopover | Latam & Avianca | 4 h |
From San Agustin:
- Bus at the terminal | Cootrans Laboyana | 8h
- Bus at the main terminal | Transporte Puerto Tejada & Coomotor | 4 hours
- Bus at the main terminal. I recommend a night bus. Schedule – Double-check with the bus company| Flota Magdalena & Coomotor & Bolivariano | 11 hours
- Bus at the main terminal | Expreso Palmira & Expreso Trejos | 3h30
- Bus at the main terminal | Expreso Palmira & Expreso Trejos | 4h30
- Bus at the main terminal | Expreso Palmira & Expreso Trejos | 5h30
Cali's bus terminal? (+)
The bus terminal is 15 min away from Granada and San Antonio. Take a taxi.
Cali's airport? (+)
The Cali’s airport is outside of the city. You can take a taxi or a bus. It takes 1 h.