Cali is the city of salsa. It is the only city in Colombia where salsa is still so alive and popular since it first entered the country in the 1980s. If you want to learn more about salsa or master salsa dancing, a visit to Cali is definitely recommended. What is there to do in Cali and how do you get there and back?
Cali is not known as the safest city in Colombia. Yet there are a number of neighborhoods and places where you can go. The best neighborhood to stay in Cali is San Antonio, but the Granada neighborhood next door is also safe. In San Antonio you will not only find the most ho(s)tels, but also many nice restaurants and bars. It is also where you will find most of Cali’s murals and graffiti. Most murals and graffiti can be found if you walk from Banca de la República to Carrera 4 (in San Antonio).
If you want a tasty sandwich, it is recommended to go to Sandwich Lovers. Note that they are only open in the evening.
One side of Cali is located against the mountains. This means that there are a number of vantage points so that you can view the city from a height. Viewpoint Las Tres Cruzes is one another, where the view is (allegedly) more beautiful, is Monumento Cristo Rey. If you want to go to Monumento Cristo Rey, get there by taxi/Uber. An Uber costs about 17,000 pesos/€4.25 one way and a yellow taxi 25,000 pesos/€6.25 one way, about 30 minutes. The monument is free to visit and you will find several souvenir stalls and opportunities to buy food and drinks.
From the monument you have a beautiful view over the city and the mountains. The environment is very beautiful. People also use the area to fly kites and you will probably see several kites hanging in the air.
Located in the Obrero district, is the Museo de la Salsa. A small building in between the houses, in a neighborhood you might not be the first to pick. Still, the Salsa museum is recommended if you want to learn more about (the history of) salsa. Originated in Cuba and then spread to Colombia, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. Did you know that salsa is originally not the dance, but the type of music? Salsa has multiple styles such as El Son, Bolero, Pachanga and Guaguanco, each with their own instruments and rhythms. And then the different dances arose, with the steps adapted to the rhythm of the music. Cali is called the city of salsa because it is the first place in Colombia where salsa became big and famous and it is still the most important and most popular style of music.
In the Salsa museum they tell you everything about salsa. The museum is no more than a room filled with framed photos of all the famous singers and artists who have made and performed salsa music over the years. You will hear several styles and you will also be told how the salsa originated and changed over the years.
You pay 10,000 pesos/€2.50 and for that you get a guided tour (in a small group). It takes about 1.5 hours. It is recommended to go to and from the museum by taxi (Uber).
Salsa dance and show
In Cali you can not ignore the salsa. If you want to learn more salsa, there are several hostels that offer lessons. Viajero Salsa school or Salsa Pura offer classes, among other things. Sometimes free, sometimes a small amount (around 12,000 pesos/€3.
If you want to go to a salsa show, shows are held in several places in and around the city. For example, in the Hotel Dann Carlton you can go to a show several times a week. Prices range from 140,000 – 200,000 pesos/€35 – €50 depending on your seat (rank) and the shows are in the evening. You can find online which shows are when.
If you just want to dance or have a drink with salsa music and dance around you, you can go to La Topa Tolondra Nightclub. There is an entrance fee of 10,000 pesos/€2.50, and a shot is included.
Cali has a beautiful and organized local market. Close to San Antonio is the Plaza de mercado Alameda. It is a covered market where you can find everything. Fresh fruits and vegetables, handmade baskets and made marmalades for example. A nice place to taste the local atmosphere and products.
How do you get there and back?
You arrive in Cali by bus from Salento (via a transfer in Armenia). This journey takes about 4.5 hours in total and costs a total of 40,500 pesos/€10.15. You can also go from Medellín to Cali, then it will take you about 10 hours. From Cali you can also go to Bogotá or to the border with Ecuador. Before the border you travel via Popayan and Pasto to Ipiales (where you can also stay for the Las Lajas Cathedral). There you take a taxi to the border. For more information about this border crossing, read on here. The journey from Cali to Ipiales takes more than 13 hours and costs about €13.