Visiting Cali, Colombia-2nd Impressions of the Salsa Capital

Visiting Cali, Colombia certainly got better on day 2.  If you haven’t read part one of my visit to Cali the click here to read it.  On the 2nd day I contracted the coolest taxi driver in the city to drive us around to all the main sites including Cristo Rey and the historical sites.  On the way up we ran into an artist that creates murals of clay just off the side of the road.

We stopped to talk to him and to take pictures and it   turns out he does the murals for free to give something back to the tourists that visit the city.  He accepted tips so I told him to always wear protection.  One of the best pictures that I took was when his dog came over and sat right in front of the mural he was working on.  With over 11 weeks of work already put in the mural, the dog came over and sat right in front of his clay twin.  Take a look at the picture below.

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Pose for the picture!

After we were done we went to the Chipi Chape mall to say hi to my friend Juan Valdez and get an iced coffee as well as lunch.  My hostel reservation was unfortunately cancelled that day so I booked a room at a hotel near the hostel.  Roughly 3pm we decided to do what Latin’s normally do and take our siesta to get ready for the night.  When in Rome do as the Romans do, when in Cali hope it doesn’t rain.

I was able to see the real side of Cali once we headed out that night.  The city seems to be on a different schedule than the rest of the world where they hide during the day and come out at night.  You know what they say about people that only go out at night right?  I had an absolutely excellent night out and realized that Cali isn’t about the city and the things to see, Cali is about the people.

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The Artist working on his Murals

If I had to describe it I would have to say that the people of Cali are Paisas with much more passion.  Paisas are the people from not only Medellin, but the Antoquia province of Colombia.  The passion can be seen how Cali is known as the salsa capital of Colombia.  Everyone is very gracious and open and always up for a conversation.  The city is considered a bit more dangerous than Medellin but I never felt threatened at any point in the city.  So in the end I would have to say that Cali actually doesn’t suck.

Cali is just a different kind of city that you enjoy in a unique way.  It’s not like Rome where you can walk around and see things for hours and hours.  Most people aren’t going to like Cali for that very reason because it’s not a traditional city.  To really feel the passion you have to go out and interact with the people of the city.  Now that I have my salsa moves down I definitely plan on returning to Cali.


  1. I gotta say, i never go to the mall in Cali except when i’m gonna buy clothes or things like that, some times to eat and some others to watch a movie, but still i guess i could say i never go to a mall in Cali. Any way, for the record, there are many malls in Cali not just chipi chape which its name comes from the sound of a train moving (chipichape chipichape chipichape) since the mall is located where the former train garage repair was. 
    So in Cali everything comes with its own story, a story it’s not labeled in the walls for anyone can see it because in Cali tourism is completely unexploited! It’s a city more for the locals and i could say, even locals spend years to find and discover things about the city. There are lots of restaurants throughout the city, pubs, discotheques, perhaps not so much museums and world cultural places, but there are also a lot of local cultural events all year long, movie festivals, the cali fair, the book fair, ajazzgo (jazz & blues festival), 2 or 3 rock festivals, hip hop and reggae festival, of course one the world wide salsa dancers championship, also got two salsa dancing companies which produces a show every 3 or 4 months with the best salsa dancers in the world, winners not only from the Cali competition but also form las vegas ESPN championship. This is a show very few cities in the world could say proudly produce because very few cities or countries have the best dancers for a specific genre, in latin america perhaps tango dancers in buenos aires but there is no other city that could claim such a spectacle of this category! 

    Eating in Cali arepa or Mc Donalds is missing the 50% of the trip because food in Cali is marvelous. We like arepa, but arepa is a paisa food. In Cali you ought to eat pandebono which some people say  derives from italian pan del buonno, (goodone bread) But it’s quite different than bread. Also empanada, Pandeyuca, aborrajado, Sancocho de Gallina, lechona, tamal, cholado, champus, kind of fish and many more. Most likely you are not gonna find this in a mall because the food in malls are express food, Mc Donalds like.

    I hope next time you do some of this things, experiencing Cali is more a weeks o month trip rather than 2 days. Still, you got the right felling, it’s not about the city it self, it’s about the people, the warmth of night, the energy in the air when it’s the right time, you can sleep the rest of it or go to the swimming pool. I recommend instead of the pool, go to the river Pance and forget everything you find about tourism in Cali in brochures! Also remember, as in any other place of the world, the good secrets remain hidden for tourists and you have to join a group of locals so you can find the right places and Cali have a really good secret life!

    1. I know about the malls but everyone WANTS you to go to Chipi Chapi.. I actually did try the Pandebono it was delicious! I do disagree with you though that there are that many things to do in Cali.. If you are talking about the region of cali I would agree with you but the actual city doesn’t have that many things to do. I think you can really delve into the cultlure pretty easily in a few days like I did with one of the local taxi drivers. thanks for the comment!

  2. Man.. You missed a lot of places in Valle del Cauca… You could go skydiving just 45 min away from Cali in the town of Palmira (Miravalle Hill) or you could go to Buenaventura (1 hour ago from Cali) to go canoeing and kayaking in the ocean and even better see the whales jumping playing with their babies.. It’s an awesome natural show… You shoulg go back and next time look for a tourist guide that is gonna take you to a beautiful paradise.

    1. I did know about those locations Andres thanks for the note… I haven’t heard of too many people actually doing that in Cali though which is why I didn’t mention them

  3. Carlinhosway was just right in every single expression…. #YoSoyCaleñaVe and I have to say, I feel sorry that you didn’t give yourself the time to enjoy our city, I love arepas because my background is Paisa, but you missed the real and delicious food from Cali, like empanadas (the real ones) pandebono, chotaduro, and if you didn’t have cholado… ohhh no!!! And you know what… Cali is recognized as one of the cities with the most diverse gastronome in Colombia, best restaurants and chefs, not cheap food at the mall, I don’t know what kind of friends did you find in Cali, that had no idea about Cali and where the fun starts.. “your friends” WERE COMPLETELY WRONG… Chipichape Mall is not the way to go, unless you wanna go shopping… You missed all the fun… Cali is not about historical things, because our history is about memories, is about people, is about what grandma and grandpa told us when we were kids, Our city is nocturnal and we enjoy it very much… Because there is no city like Cali, not just for the Salsa (music), not just because we are beautiful women, many of us with no surgeries (BTW) But because there is no place is the world where you find human beings with our quality, always able to help… We are truly givers and lovers!!! I really hope you go back, just make sure you do a bit more research before… Ahhh, and two days??? Come on… We got the perfect weather, it’s so weird that the city welcomed you with rain!! lol <3

  4. Ohhh.. I’m sorry I forgot Andres was also right… The Whales are one of the most beautiful spectacles in the world, and is just 1 hour driving from Cali, you also could’ve gone to Lago Calima, which is an artificial lake where people also do windsurf, is a town with a wonderful weather, warm and sunny during the day, and cool and breeze at night just hour and a half from Cali, but if you don’t wanna go out of Cali, you don’t have to, you can stay and go horseback riding, which is one of the coolest things ever with the company of a burroteca (donkey carrying music) You can definitely find the most beautiful horses species in Colombia worth millions and millions, and I assure you they’ll take you to see the most wonderful landscapes and you will have the trip of your life! Enjoy Cali next time … <3

  5. Of course locals are proud of their city – it is there home – this is about fresh eyes without any attachments looking into the city for a few days (7) – I am a day time person and report about the day – if Cali only comes alive at night – do be it – but the hoards of homeless men and women roam the streeets at night and a foreigner sticks out like a sore thumb to them – or more like a flashing ATM machine – it is dangerous without doubt for foreigners. Perhaps it is all about dancing but perhaps there is also more to life than dancing – and Cali offers very little for tourists to engage with – unless you want to go to tacky malls or empty high end ones – the gold museum is disappointing – certainly compared to the one in Bogota which is world class – as are the galleries and other museums there too -but Cali does offer very little attention for international tourists who don’t want to get down and sweaty all night in grimy dance holes. All this talk on such amazing beauty – well I must have been wearing goggles because this ‘beauty ‘ is rare to find – unless the comments are about all the tight asses walking around – big deal ! Generally unfriendly with little eye contact – most seem bogged down and weary of the world. India and Asia are many many times more exhilarating and fun for travellers !

  6. I have to disagree with you. Maybe you didn’t have people who guided you through the awesome places in Cali. Actually, I’d say one of the things I like about this city is that you can walk around and see awesome places, people and art. From Centenario and Bellas Artes to San Antonio neighborhood and the Boulevard del Río (where they have pacific music, alt rock and salsa bands performing for free- it’s paid by the governor) walking past the Ortiz bridge heading to La Ermita, the Jorge Isaacs theatre, the Poets’ Park, the Plaza de Caycedo and the Colseguros building. There’s a variety of options depending on the tourist’s choice (you can walk around La Universidad del Valle for free cultural shows, a huge library and a pretty awesome lake- you can go to the 18th km for a colder weather and a nice view of the city plus hot agua de panela and goat milk – or you can head outta town for la Hacienda El Paraíso, a beautiful country house/ museum, that tells the history of La María, a book written by the guy from the old 50.000 pesos bill Jorge Isaacs) El parque de la Uva, La Tertulia, Cali Zoo, Pance, Farallones, Las Tres Cruces, and the list goes on and on.
    One more thing: the food. AHH the food. Empanadas vallunas, tamales vallunos, marranitas, lechona valluna, cholado, lulada, champús, amongst many other cheap tasty options for a meal in Cali.
    Only a true caleño could guide you through this wonderful city ’cause sadly there aren’t many advertised touristic brochures.

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