Cali Colombia, the capital of the Valle del Cauca, is the country’s third biggest city. It boasts tourist attractions with authentic history, active cultural life, and mystical music that magnetizes people from all over the globe. It was founded in the early 16th century, and is one of the oldest colonial settlements in Latin America.
Besides the rich history, Cali is best-known today for its animated nightlife. The local residents are highly proficient dancers, and take pride in rightfully earning the unofficial title as the world’s capital of salsa music. Thanks to its rich ethnic diversity, music can be heard from the currulao of the Pacific coast, to the famous “salsa”. This contagious, rapid rhythm is deeply rooted in the country’s culture.
Cali is also called the “Rumba Capital” by fellow Colombians, and by the rest of the world it is more commonly known as the “Salsa” capital. Either way, Cali promises a festive, booty-shaking experience that you will not forget easily. Keep reading if you would like to know our top reasons to visit Cali, the city of Salsa in Colombia.
1. The Salsa Capital of the World
In the clubs and bars of south-west Colombia, Cali became the local hub for local residents to explore and fall in love with this dance from Brazil, where it took strong roots and flourished. Today Cali is known as the salsa capital of the world.
Everywhere you walk in the streets of Cali, the clubs and bars are packed with dancers – professional and amateur. The local residents take pride in their salsa, and you are guaranteed to hear the uplifting beats of this frenetic dance-style all over town.
Do not worry if you are a beginner! There are many dance schools like El Manicero, Son de Luz, and Swing Latino, where you can learn the basics to this exciting practice. The suburb of Juanchito is very popular for its all-night salsa parties, where you can find tourists, locals and professionals who are friendly and more than willing to help you find your steps in your salsa dancing journey.
One of the most special times to visit Cali is during the annual La Feria de Cali, a festival held every Christmas and New Year. You can expect wonderful salsa parades, people dancing in the streets and many salsa concerts by big legends in the style. The World Salsa Festival is another special time of the year to visit Cali, held every September boasting over 5000 dancers and stunning displays of Colombian dance and culture.
2. Pumping Nightlife
Even though Salsa music did not originate in Cali, it has been taken up by many of the locals who take pride in their practice. A variety of nightlife spots can be found here, and most of the places play salsa music. Tin Tin Deo Salsa Bar is one of the best-known spots, located near La Sexta – La Sexta is an area with many restaurants, stylish bars and nightclubs.
Menga is another popular spot for nightlife expeditions. It is located in the north of the city. This part of the city boasts a variety of places which offer both salsa and a mixture of different Latin music styles. In southern Cali you can find Carrera 66, a lively center of restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
For older crowds there are “Viejotecas”, which are clubs that play classic “salsa vieja” in the day and nighttime. They are very popular with the older generation, and some of these clubs attract huge crowds of elderly couples on Sundays.
The Juanchito district, right across the bridge over the Cauca River, is more suited for serious salsa dancers. It is highly recognized as the center of salsa music in Cali, and offers a big number of salsa clubs. This area is a less polished, but more genuine place, to experience Cali nightlife compared to Menga and La Sexta. The most popular club here is Chango, which also has live music nights and other special events.
3. Street art of San Antonio
San Antonio is a neighborhood of Cali, where the bright houses line up the hills while graffiti on the empty walls aids to the artistic ambience of this hidden gem. This is a colorful, creative haven, where artists sell their work on the streets and musicians share salsa pieces in the park.
San Antonio is also known as “Old Cali”, even though it has a somewhat modern feel. People ride their bicycles on the sidewalks, the streets are clean and there are even some English-speaking residents. San Antonio hosts some of the best street artists in the world, and their vibrant murals can be viewed all over the neighborhood.
San Antonio is southeast of Parque San Antonio, and boasts artisans, restaurants, salsa schools, and provides beautiful scenery with its colorful homes. It is a magical place to visit, especially for travelers who have a soft spot for street art.
4. Eat your way through Cali
Cali is not only popular for its dancing scene, it is also known for its traditional cuisine which includes Spanish, indigenous, and African roots. Every dish has its own unique flavor. Expect to indulge in fresh empanadas, tamales, rich chicken soups, fritters and a variety of desserts.
Carbo-load for your all-night dance sessions, and prepare for your salsa lessons by properly fueling your body. It is a wonderful way to immerse yourself into the local culture, and to connect with the traditions through the art of cooking and serving their food.
Whether you prefer sweet or salty, Cali offers diverse food options and a lovely family atmosphere as they embrace their cooking heritages that come from different cultures. Making time to explore the gastronomy in Cali will definitely speak for itself.
5. For nature lovers, don’t miss San Antonio Cloud Forest
The cloud forest of San Antonio and the areas surrounding it, better known as “kilometro 18”, are located between 14 to 23 kilometers of the Cail – Buenaventura road. This area is incredibly rich in lush vegetation, animal- and bird species. It is an absolute paradise for nature lovers, and thus a definite “must-see” during your trip through Cali
There are over 180 registered bird species to be found in San Antonio Cloud Forest. It is possible to view many threatened species like the Multicolored Tanager, and the Cloud-forest pygmy owl. These gems and many other reasons mark Cali as one of the best spots for birdwatching in Colombia.
The Asociación Río Cali is a private non-profit organization that was created by the local community due to their interest in conserving the forests. The organization promotes and supports the maintenance of biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources by involving the local human communities of the Cali district as well as the Aguacatal river basin, where the San Antonio Cloud Forest is located.
Witness here how the community supports biodiversity initiatives by helping small rural farms through proper planning and management of agroecosystems, and providing employment through production of primary goods and environmental services. The community also strives to protect the birds and their natural habitat through nature tourism focused on birdwatching. This provides income for the rural communities that in turn helps to put back into the project.
6. How to visit with Kuoda
Visiting Cali, The City of Salsa, can be a very memorable experience. Whether you are a beginner at salsa, or a dedicated practitioner – this is a city that offers great moves, beats, food and culture. We at Kuoda understand the frustrations and struggles that go into planning a cohesive trip like this one, especially when you want to include a visit to Cali with other trips to top destinations in Colombia. Kuoda specializes in custom-made travel experiences that include everything that you need for you and your family. Contact us today and talk to one of our trip designers to discuss your personal requirements.
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