National Parks
Tour Operators

Cali es Cali y lo demas es loma - Colombia

Cali ... after Bogota and Medellin, the 3rd largest city in Colombia. This city has really surprised me! I expected a dirty, noisy, dangerous city. But this was not so. Busy yes, but lively busy! I felt safe and well!

Let me explain the title: "Cali es Cali y lo demas es loma", it is very tough to translate. It comes from a song called Cali Pachanguero, and it says basically that Cali is the best city plus that they are in a plain valley. The other 2 big cities in Colombia are in mountains.

Cali was discovered in 1536 on the same day as the patron saint Santiago. This is why the correct name is still Santiago de Cali. Cali is best known for his salsa. Here are the best salsa dancers from. The salsa in Cali is different than in other parts of the country. This is because a local radio station once made the mistake of playing a record faster than intended. The people loved it and so the Salsa Caleño was born. Caleños* are dancing very fast and with more footwork.

Cali has a lot more to offer than just salsa. It is also the sports capital of Latin America and the city of the film. They even have a film museum: Caliwood! Cali has a fantastic atmosphere and Caleños are super friendly. The nicest neighborhoods for walking are: San Fernando, Granada, Peñón and San Antonio. In these areas you'll find the best hostels.

Today I discover San Antonio and downtown.

In this church National monument La Merced there is an archaeological museum. Everything inside the church comes from Spain. Only the altar is made of local materials. The white plaster is called Argamassa. The ingredients of this are egg, but also blood. This blood comes from the slaves who helped to build the church.

Close to La Merced you can find the cultural center of Cali, which seems an imitation of a medieval castle. Here there is something to do every Thursday: concerts, theater, exhibitions, ... Every last Friday of the month there is free film. Cali has some of the best filmmakers of Colombia. Most Colombian films therefor contain scenes in Cali. Here you can read more about Colombian Films.

Teatro Municipal (Municipal Theatre) is the symbol of unity of Cali.  Formerly the home of a wealthy family whose son had leprosy. They moved to Bogota to be close to the needed medication. Their home was sealed because people were afraid of getting the disease. Enrique Buenaventura wanted to use the house as a theater building and made a deal with 10 prisoners. If they wanted to demolish the house, they were declared free. Thus was born this magnificent building. Here the graduation ceremonies are given and there still play well-known theater companies.

This museum Museo de Oro (Gold Museum) is a lot smaller than that in Bogota but no less interesting. It is open from Tuesday to Friday till 5pm and on Saturdays till 12am. The entrance is free!

The Boulevard del Rio used to be a busy road. Now people can walk here pleasant because it became a pedestrian road. In December you can see the Alumbrado (=the whole of Christmas lighting event in town).

On Caicedo Square formerly came all the people after Sunday Mass together.  It lies in the heart of Cali, just next to the San Pedro Church. In the film Perro Come Perro you can see a scene of the square. In this scene you see a lot of things happen that are hidden to the untrained eye: prostitution, drugs, exploitation, ... However, I did not feel unsafe.

We walk along the courthouse. In the past, the prisoners were put into the spaces under the building. These areas had small barred windows facing the street. The idea was to make the prisoners lead by seeing the free action of people walking around.

 At the Parque de Poesía (Park of Poetry) you see men with old typewriters. Here are still documents and papers prepared for people who cannot read or write. Obviously there are a lot less than before modern technology took over, but these men still have work. Some statues of famous Colombian writers stand on this square.

Also is La Ermita Church a gem. Previously, the church was of wood, but in 1910 it was completely destroyed by a storm.  Michaela Castro wanted to reconstruct the church and worked her ass off for this. Until she got help from someone who had won the lottery. The church was rebuilt in Gothic style. No effort was too much: the clockwork is from Amsterdam, the bells from France and the doors are made of bronze.

I walk over the Ortis Bridge over the Rio Cali. This is the 1st bridge built in Cali. It leads to the 6th Avenue, where the nightlife takes place (restaurants, bars, nightclubs) in the district of Granada. You also have a nice view of Las 3 Cruzes. Many Caleños climb this hill on weekends. The tour lasts 1 hour. You have a beautiful view of Cali.

And last but not least, the nightlife in Cali.

On Mondays and Wednesdays you best go to La Topa. Till 8pm there is free entry, after that you pay 5.000 cop/pp. On Tuesday Caleños go to Las Brisas. On Thursday at Tintindeo and Mikasa Bar, on Friday to La Esquina de Eber and in the weekends they go to La Menga and La Central.

I go out in Zaperoca in the neighborhood Granada. A cozy antique salsa bar with life music and where people dance GREAT salsa. My personal tip if you are looking for a nice restaurant, go to the neighborhood PeñonMéli-Mélo has good food.

Cali is really a TOP city! 100% Sure I will return soon!


  1. * is the name of an inhabitant from Cali.
  2. Nice hostels in Cali? Check out here.
  3. You are in Cali, and like to travel to a beautiful more unknown town? Check out Buga.
  4. Here you can find information about how to get to Cali.

Written by Colombia Fácil Researcher Magali