Famous for its salsa dancing clubs, Cali is one of Colombia's great nightlife centers. It's more than that though, with fine churches, gorgeous artworks, and mouthwatering restaurants to explore during the day.
Salsa beats accompany you almost everywhere you go in Cali. Take classes or dive into the bars of Juanchito, and dance until dawn to the most infectious rhythm around.
Before you dance, dine in style at La Cocina, Roset, Platillos Voladores, or El Bochinche - home to some of the best pork dishes you'll ever taste.
Cali is a 500-year-old colonial city, and the Spanish left some stunning churches, including the neoclassical San Pedro Cathedral and La Ermita, an intricate gothic creation in the downtown area.
Cali is a party city, but it really comes alive during the fabulous Feria de Cali in late December, making the city a great New Year's destination.
The waterfalls of Pance and the famous pilgrimage site at Buga are both nearby, and Lake Calima is an excellent spot to try windsurfing or sailing.
Caicedo square is a landmark located in front of the cathedral of San Pedro, and it is the civic and commercial heartbeat of Cali. Unwind underneath the tall palm trees and experience the culture of Valle del Cauca. The alluring smell from the sale of fruits and the hustle and bustle of hawkers will awaken your senses to the vibrant urban activities afoot. Enjoy presentations from street performers or explore any of the eight trails that extend from the square's center.
Located two kilometers southwest of the center in Barrio Santa Terestia, Zoolologica de Cali stands out as being one of the best zoos in the country. Marvel at the scenic beauty and the spectacular array of species indigenous to Colombia and from around the world, including the capybaras, butterflies, Bengal tigers, and monkeys. Plus, the serene Cali River runs directly through the zoo's grounds. Due to its location, the zoo is best accessed by taxi.
The Ermita Church is known locally as the La Iglesia de la Ermita del Rio. This Roman Catholic church looks more like a small castle and can be found right at the center of the city and on the western side of Cali river. Admire the church's facade, which was greatly inspired by Gothic Cathedral of Cologne in Germany, and be mesmerized by the original interior architecture as well as the 18th-century carving of El Señor de la Caña (Lord of the Sugarcane) housed in the Neo-Gothic church. The carving is believed to be the source of many miracles by locals after it survived the earthquake of 1787 fully intact.
Located on Third Avenue in the El Centro neighborhood, the Metropolitan Cathedral is one of the largest and most important religious centers in the city of Cali, and its main Catholic church. It's also a national monument of Columbia and an Architectural Heritage site due to its beautiful neoclassical architecture. After exploring the historic church, relax and unwind at the Central Park Luis Alonso Barahona that is situated right opposite the Cathedral.
Museo de Arte Religioso La Merced or The Museum of Colonial and Religious Art houses some of Cali's best colonial art collections with some pieces dating back to the 16th century. It's also a national monument. Indulge in the unique ambiance of tranquility and walk through the olive doors past the pristine, white walls to the unpolished stone alters. Admire the Spanish pottery adorned with Arabic motifs, sculptures, furniture, silverware, ornaments, books, spectacular wall paintings, and other objects.
Try to avoid the rainy season in September and October. Instead, high season tends to stretch from November through March. If you plan to enjoy some whale watching on the Pacific Coast, July could also be a good (and dry) time to go.
Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport (CLO) is around 10 miles north of Cali. From there take a bus to the main bus station in downtown Cali (around COL$3,000, 30 minutes). Expect a taxi to cost about COL$30,000.
From Bogota, take highway 40 through the mountains to Cali. If you are coming from Medellin, take highway 25, then highway 23 at Cartago.
Buses run into Cali's Terminal de Transportes from all over Colombia. Expect to pay about COL$60,000 for the ticket from Bogota with Expreso Bolivariano.
Excellent upscale accommodation options include the Hotel Spiwak, the Four Points Sheraton, and the Cali Marriott Hotel - all downtown options with great amenities.
Centro - the heart of the city is where you'll discover the cathedral, beautiful churches like La Ermita, and great shopping opportunities around Plaza Caicedo.
Juanchito - located to the east of the city center, Juanchito is Cali's salsa district. It's packed with great bars like Zaperoco and La Topa Tolondra.
Ciudad Jardin - Cali's most upmarket neighborhood, Ciudad Jardin is full of green space and excellent restaurants like Mister Wings and Cuuc.
MIO run bus services across Cali. Single tickets cost COL$1,800 and you need to purchase a rechargeable MIO card before traveling.
Taxi fares start with a basic price of COL$4,200, followed by around COL$1,700 per mile.
You can rent a car from companies like Atlantis Renta Car, Elite, and Budget. Rates start at around COL$60,000 per day.
Plaza Caicedo is the main shopping area in the center of town, but much of Cali's commercial life revolves around malls like Centro Comercial Chipichape or Unicentro, which are a little out of town.
Supermarkets in Cali include La Gran Colombia and Makro, and prices should be low. Expect a gallon of milk to cost about COL$10,000.
Superb restaurants in Cali are easy to come by. Some favorites include Platillos Voladores, with its outdoor gardens; Mister Wings, which is a great place for chicken fans; and the seafood specialists Cali Viejo. Meals should come to around COL$40,000 per head.