Cali used to be Colombia's exemplary city,
but over the last decade it has fallen into decline. Roads are pot
holed and the drivers are maniacs (as they are throughout Colombia, but
especially so in Cali). The hot, rather muggy city has a few
interesting old buildings and churches, but nothing of any real note.
The only real reason to visit Cali is as a launch pad for travel to
other destinations in Southern Colombia. That, plus the nightlife,
which is the best in all of Colombia. Cali's claim to fame is as such -
and the vibrant 7 day a week nightlife is based on salsa clubs, and
some of the most beautiful women in the country (& continent).
Stag nights haven't come to Cali just yet (at least not like in Dublin,
Prague, Riga etc.) but if they ever do, hands down this will be the
stag night capital of the world.
Things to do in Cali
I can't make a list here as there isn't
really much to do, other than experience Colombia. It is a great place
to experience Colombian city life, and meet Colombians. It's a rather
chaotic city recovering from the crazy drug baron years of the 80's.
While Medellin has since surged forward to be one of Latin America's
most exemplary modern cities, Cali has lingered behind mainly due to
bad governance. Things to do in Cali? Go out salsa dancing, or eat in
some fine restaurants (some of the best in Colombia). Cali is all about
lifestyle - and you wouldn't bother taking your granny on holiday here.
Family vacation? Don't bother. Lads backpacking around Colombia
- you'd be mad not to visit.
One of the best times to visit Cali is
during the Feria de Cali, which is essentially a
five day long party lasting from 25 to 30 December.
Cali Hotels &
Hotel - a new, modern, boutique hotel
Hostel - a hostel with
attached salsa school. If you're a backpacker who wants
tolearn a bit of Salsa on your vacation to Colombia, this is proably
the place to do so!
- the good hostal / guest house for backpackers or those on a budget.
It's Swiss owned.
Jardin Azul - a pleasant small
hotel with garden and pool.
Cali Plaza -
very good value, nothing fancy, well located and it gets fantastic
online reviews also.
Toscana Plaza - modern and stylish
with 40 rooms.
San Antonio - a good value, pleasant posada.
Aristi - a smart, modern hotel with swimming pool, reasonably
priced at about 100,000 Colombian pesos for a double.
Obelisco - rooms from US $150 for a double.
There's various other chain hotels in
addition, such as the Four Points by Sheraton, the Radisson and the
In the 90's and early 00's Cali,
and most of it's surrounding countryside, was a no-go zone for tourists
as the area was full of paramilitaries and guerillas. Thankfully times
have changed, and all of these areas noted below are now safe to visit.
Nearest to Cali (just 15km away, into the
cooler mountains) is the village of Dapa,
a countryside retreat that's popular (with Caleños) for outdoor
activities at the weekends.
Two hours travel from Cali on the road
towards Buenaventura, one encounters the man made Lago
Calima. The lake is a very peaceful place to relax, go
on hikes, go fishing or do watersports / take boat trips on the lake (kitesurfing is
particularly popular). Lago Calima is becoming an increasingly popular
place for Cali's richer residents to buy lake-side holiday homes. The
most peaceful place to stay, is the excellent Hosteria Los Veleros (no
website - advise me if you
know of it), which has beautiful lake views and a lovely swimming pool
- if you visit mid week it's likely to be almost empty.
Other interesting places to visit near Cali
include the town of Buga, which is one of
the oldest towns in Colombia dating back to 1555 (or 1650, depending
upon who you ask). Most people visit Buga to see the town's famous
church (Basilica del Senor de los Milagros). The nearby natural reserve
of Sonso Lake is a great spot for
birdwatching and wildlife viewing.
(Spanish language website) is a small private nature reserve not far
from the small holiday town of Pance, a town which is thriving over the weekends but almost dead mid-week.
Various hikes can be arranged from here. Nearby is the Parque
Nacional Natural los Farallones de Cali is an immensely
biodiverse region whose landscape varies from lowland tropical
rainforest to highland paramo, and has various nature trails and
wildlife viewing possibilities (this beautiful National Parks' security
situation should be checked locally).
In addition, there are nearby haciendas
that can be visited, such as Hacienda Piedechinche which has a
sugarcane museum, and also the riverside town of San Cipriano.