Travel Guide Cali - Capital of Salsa Dancing

Cali is different from Bogotá and Medellín. It’s a rather chaotic city with a tropical climate, known as the salsa capital of Colombia. It was founded in 1536 as a little town, until the sugar and coffee industries brought prosperity to the region.

Cali is all about lifestyle. Best things to do in Cali is to go out salsa dancing and enjoy Cali’s fine restaurants. We very much like the vibe in Cali. It is a great place to experience the cheerfulness of the Colombians.

If you want to learn salsa, Cali is the place to be. The quality of salsa dancing is impressive. Cali’s salsa dancing is characterized by its fast footwork. During the day you can take your salsa lessons and at night you can practice your new skills at one of the many salsa bars here. The nightlife of Cali is great with so many live music and salsa clubs playing salsa, merengue, bachata and reggaeton.

The best time to visit Cali is during the Feria de Cali. Every year between 25 and 30 December Cali fills up with tourists from all over the world for a five day long party. The Cali Fair is the most important cultural event in Colombia’s third largest city. The event kicks off with a five-hour salsa parade on Christmas Day, with more than a thousand dancers from Cali’s salsa schools dancing the so-called salsódromo.

Although Cali is primarily a destination for salsa lovers, it has a few interesting sights to offer such as the lovely colonial neighborhood of San Antonio and some stunning ancient churches.

Learn Salsa

We offer salsa classes at the Danza Latina dance academy owned by the 2007 and 2010 world champion salsa dancing Christian Montenegro. His foundation works with talented children from Cali’s most vulnerable areas to help young people stay out of gangs and improve their quality of life. Private classes start at COP $25,000 (€10/$14) per hour or COP $200,000 (€80/$110) for a bloc of 12 hours. Contact us for more details:

Getting there and around

Air - Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport is located in the municipality of Palmira, about a fifteen minute drive north of Cali. The airport serves domestic flights as well as flights to the United States, Spain, Ecuador, Peru and Panama. To get to your hotel take a taxi for about COP 50,000.

Mio Bus - Masivo Integrado de Occidente (Mio) is an efficient bus rapid transit system with own lanes and stations. Mio has seven routes and the large blue buses are supposed to only stop in designated bus stations. A one way trip costs COP $1,500.

Taxi – there are a lot of taxis and they are cheap. Taxis can be flagged down on the street, however it is strongly recommended to call a taxi service (local number: +5727777777). The operator will give you a code and the taxi drivers number and license number. When the taxi appears hand over the code number to the driver.

Things to see and do

Barrio San Antonio – a lovely colonial neighborhood to stroll around with colorful restaurants, bars and artists workshops. Salsa music perpetually pours from open windows onto the street. From Iglesia de San Antonio you can enjoy great views of the city. At night the locals come to this area to watch cuenteros (story tellers) or play music in the surrounding park.

Zoologico de Cali – although we are not a big fan of zoo’s, this zoo is well worth a visit. It is owned by a foundation which offers a unique experience to learn about the natural wealth of Colombia. It is nestled along the river rio Cali surrounded by the beautiful flora and fauna of Colombia.

Historic churches - Plaza del Caycedo square is considered the historic heart of the city. Start here and visit the gothic-style Iglesia de la Ermita, Parque de los Poetas, Catedral San Pedro, Iglesia de San Francisco and Iglesia de la Merced, Cali’s oldest church.

Statue Sebastián de Belalcázar - there is a statue of the founder of Cali in the nice residential Arboleda neighborhood, from where you have a good view over the city. In the evening the surrounding plaza fills up with locals. Join them and enjoy the fresh air and delicious snacks sold by the street vendors.

Cristo Rey - a 26-meter high religious statue, similar to the statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, situated atop one of the two large mountains overlooking the city. It offers great views of the city below.

Chipichape - this upscale mall is a great spot for watching Caleños. The building houses fashion boutiques, movie theaters, two food courts and much more. Drink a cold michelada (beer with lime juice, served in a salt-rimmed glass) in one of the courtyard bars.

Lago Calima – visit Lake Calima, an 1.5 hour drive from Cali. Many of Cali’s richer residents have a lake-side finca here. The lake is a peaceful place to relax and do water sports. There are nice restaurants with lake views. Because of its strong winds it is an ideal place for kite and wind surfing. Pescao Kite and Windsurf School offers courses and has wind- and kitesurfing gear for rent.

Food and Drink

Sancocho de gallina – enjoy a tasty sancocho de gallina for lunch, a popular chicken soup with potatoes, cassava, corn and green plantains.

Pandebono - baked rings of cheese bread. Tastes best fresh out of the oven in one of the many bakeries in Cali.

Mango Biche - a green mango eaten with lemon juice and salt. You can buy it anywhere on the street. A tasteful Mango Biche is sold from a stand in the Chipichape mall.

Cholados - made from shaved ice, exotic fruit and/or fruit syrup and sweet condensed milk. One popular place where it is sold is Cholados Gourmet (Cr 34 No. 3-47, Parque del Perro).


Cali Viejo – located in an old hacienda, this beautiful restaurant serves authentic dishes of Valle del Cauca and Colombia. It is within walking distance of the Zoo of Cali. Address: Casona Vieja, Bosque Municipal; +5728934927.

Platillos Voladores –Chef Vicky Acosta experiments with east-meet-west cuisine in dishes like ceviche, pasta and fish. Located just north of Granada, this restaurant is one of Cali’s best restaurants. Try their salmon maracuya in a spectacular artistic setting. Av. 3 Norte No. 7 – 19, Barrio Centenario; +5726687750.

Trattoria faro el solar – with its romantic furnishings, delicious food and live music, a good night out is assured in this restaurant. Couples will love the central patio from where you can see the stars at night. Calle 15 Norte No. 9N-62, Barrio Granada; +5726534628.

Bars and Clubs

Salsa is an integral part of life in Cali. Cali’s best known salsatecas are to be found in the Juanchito (east of the center) and Menga district (north of Cali). Both have a strip of late night clubs that remain open until 4am. Also La Sexta (Avenida 6) is known for its bars and discotecas.

Tin Tin Deo – popular salsa bar where you can enjoy classic salsa music and other Caribbean rhythms to the fullest. Calle 5 No 38-71, Barrio San Fernando.

Zaperoco – one of the most traditional salsa bars one block off La Sexta. Come on Thursday night for live music. Avenida 5N No. 16 – 46.

Kukaramakara - great club with excellent latin music and delicious cocktails. It is famous for its live music. You can either have your own table or look down from the interior balcony at the band below. Calle 28Nte No 2Bis-97.

Absenta Bar – comfortable bar with an outdoor terrace and music from Putumayo Records. Good cocktails and yes some with absinthe. Cra. 2 oeste No. 1-08, Barrio el Peñon.


Around 2 million inhabitants


Cali is located 1003 meters (3290 ft.) above sea level. You can expect a hot, humid climate with an average temperature of 26ºC (79ºF). The dry seasons run from December to March and from July to August; the rainy season runs from April to June.