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Ultimate Travel Guide: Cali, Colombia
Ultimate Travel Guide: Cali, Colombia

Ultimate Travel Guide: Cali, Colombia

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Welcome to Cali, the vibrant and lively city known as the salsa capital of the world! Located in southwestern Colombia, Cali offers a rich cultural heritage, energetic nightlife, and stunning natural landscapes. Whether you’re interested in exploring historical sites, dancing the night away, or indulging in delicious Colombian cuisine, Cali has something for everyone. Here’s a travel guide to help you make the most of your visit:

Best Time to Visit: Cali enjoys a tropical climate, with warm temperatures year-round. The dry season, from December to March, is generally considered the best time to visit, as you’ll experience less rainfall and pleasant weather. However, if you’re interested in experiencing the city’s vibrant salsa culture, consider visiting during the Feria de Cali, a week-long celebration held in December. I have personally experienced Carnival in Cali during the holidays in December through middle of January. It is an incredible experience, I highly suggest someone visiting during carnival time.

Top Activities and Attractions:

  1. Salsa Dancing: Cali is renowned for its salsa music and dancing. Immerse yourself in the local culture by taking a salsa lesson or visiting one of the many salsa clubs in the city. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to witness the mesmerizing dance performances at the nightclubs and during the Feria de Cali.
  2. San Antonio Neighborhood: Explore the historic San Antonio neighborhood, characterized by its colorful colonial architecture. Take a stroll along the picturesque streets, visit the San Antonio Church, and enjoy panoramic views of the city from the top of the hill.
  3. Cristo Rey: Climb to the top of Cerro de los Cristales and visit the iconic Cristo Rey statue, which overlooks the city. The statue is a symbol of faith and offers breathtaking views of Cali and its surroundings.
  4. Cali Zoo: Spend a day at the Cali Zoo, home to a diverse range of animals, including exotic species from Colombia and around the world. The zoo focuses on conservation efforts and offers educational experiences for visitors of all ages.
  5. Gato de Tejada Park: Relax in this charming park, named after its famous sculpture of a cat. Admire the local artwork, enjoy a picnic, or simply soak up the vibrant atmosphere.

Best Places to Stay:

  1. Granada: This upscale neighborhood is known for its boutique hotels, trendy bars, and excellent restaurants. It’s centrally located and offers easy access to many attractions. There are many modern airbnbs with good security in this area. I have stayed here mutiple months in a few different studios and apartments. This is considered the safest area in Cali.
  2. San Antonio: For a more bohemian atmosphere, consider staying in San Antonio. This neighborhood is filled with charming guesthouses, art galleries, and cafes. It’s an ideal location for exploring the historic center of Cali.
  3. Ciudad Jardin: Located in the southern part of the city, Ciudad Jardin is a tranquil and upscale residential area. It offers luxurious hotels, beautiful parks, and easy access to shopping centers.

Best Places to Eat:

  1. La Cocina de Pepina: Experience traditional Colombian cuisine at this popular restaurant. Try local specialties such as bandeja paisa (a hearty platter with beans, rice, plantains, meat, and more) or sancocho (a delicious soup).
  2. Platillos Voladores: Located in the Granada neighborhood, this restaurant offers a fusion of Colombian and international flavors. Enjoy creative dishes in a stylish and vibrant setting.
  3. Hacienda El Paraiso: For a unique dining experience, visit this restaurant situated in a restored hacienda. Enjoy delicious food while surrounded by beautiful gardens and a peaceful atmosphere.
  4. Pacifico: Indulge in fresh seafood and traditional dishes from the Pacific coast of Colombia at this popular restaurant. The ceviche and fish dishes are highly recommended.
  5. La Comitiva: Located in San Antonio, this cozy restaurant serves Colombian cuisine with a contemporary twist. Try their tasting menu for a culinary adventure.
  6. Hotel Obelisco: Cali is also famous for its fried foods – Obelisco has some of the best empanadas and empanitas (smaller version of empanadas) and chicharron. A local spot in the nice area of the city.
  7. Storia D’Amore: A very famous local Italian cuisine spot, there are a few different locations throughout the city. My favorite location is in Granada or the Unicentro Mall. The parmesan pasta with shrimp, octopus appetizer, and their pizza are fan favorites. For desserts, they have a strawberry tiramisu to die for. Their Sangria is also a go to for group dining.
  8. Cantina La 15 Granada – Some of the best food I have had in Cali. Its Mexicana cuisine with a live mariachi band. Originally from Southern California, Mexican cuisine is my favorite and also the only cuisine I would consider myself a expert in. Growing up eating at local taco shops and trucks – from visiting TJ, Tulum, Playa, and Mexico City looking for Mexican cuisine – I have experienced more Mexican cuisine then most do in a lifetime. There ceviche, tacos, and margaritas rank very high on my all time list. Hands down the best Mexican food I have had outside of Mexico or Southwest USA.
  9. Hoi An Cocina Vietnamita: Now you might be thinking, why asian food in Colombia? I have traveled extensively in Vietnam and most of SE Asia and lived in Thailand for almost a year full time. This is the best Vietnamese food I have had outside of Vietnam and some bigger cities in America and Canada like Vancouver and LA. A newer addition to Cali, but well worth the viist.

Remember to try the local fruit juices and street food stalls for an authentic taste of Cali’s culinary scene. I recommend going to the main market in El Centro with a group of people, preferably with someone fluent in spanish. However, do not bring watches or jewelry or use your iphone on main roads or entrances. Cali and especially el centro even during the day has issues with petty robbery. Realize as a foreigner that you are in a third world company, so use common sense and try not to be flashy with money, iphones, or jewelry.

Cali offers an exciting blend of culture, music, and gastronomy. Prepare to dance, explore, and indulge in the vibrant rhythms of this Colombian city. Enjoy your visit to Cali!

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