What to do in CaliCali is a vibrant city that will definitely pique your interest, as it does for many travelers, considering that it is the Colombian capital of the Salsa dance style. (read about tourism in Cali, plus the history of Salsa in Cali).
Have you heard about what there is to do in Cali?
Let me tell you a bit about what to do in Cali. Because this city is more than just Salsa, there are a bunch of different things to do and places to see (you can find them on our map). I’m going to highlight a few of the best things here, although of course which you enjoy most will depend on your tastes.
Visit the Cristo Rey Statue
The Cristo Rey is a statue of Cristo Redentor which is an amazing 26 meters high, and this statue is located by a panoramic view of the whole city. It’s located to the south-west of Cali, at 1474 meters above sea level. Speaking from personal experience, try to bring something warm to wear for the top, as it’s surprisingly cold up there!
What to do in Cali - Cristo Rey: breath-taking look-out with statue of Cristo rey that measures 26 meters in height.
Iglesia Ermita (Hermitage Church)
The Hermitage Church (or, “La Iglesia la Ermita”, in Spanish) is quite imposing with its gothic architectural style, and is found in the center of the city near the river Cali, in front of the La Retreta (or, “The Retreat”) park. In the past, this church was a much simpler construction, but it was destroyed by a strong earthquake in 1925. In 1942 the new Iglesia Ermita was built, a church that definitely deserves a spot on the list of places to see in Cali.
What to do in Cali - Iglesia Ermita: Beautiful, gothic-style church in the center of Cali.
The Three Crosses, or “Tres Cruces”, can be found on the peak of a nearby mountain to the north-west of Cali. The middle cross stands an impressive 26 meters high, while the two lateral crosses reach 22 meters. These crosses are made of bamboo, and were placed on top of this peak with the intention of saving the city of Cali from evil spells of a demon (called the “buziraco”) that cursed Cali all the way from Spain. From this peak, you’ll be able to see a spectacular view of the city. Although this is a tourist hot-spot, it’s not the safest place to go alone – I suggest you go in a group. Don’t forget to bring water or other liquids to hydrate, and to wear comfortable clothing for walking.
What to do in Cali - Three Crosses: Popular viewing point with 3 tall crosses on the top of a mountain.
Jairo Varela Museum
If you are a Salsa-lover, this is really the best thing you can do in Cali. This museum was founded under the leadership of Cristina Varela , the daughter of Jairo Varela, a deceased singer in the famous Colombian group called “Niche.” This museum tells the story of the musical group and you will see various objects that have been donated to the museum by some of the best Salsa singers in the world. The entrance fee is free!
Sebastián de Belalcazar Statue
This statue can be found to the west of Cali, in yet another beautiful look-out that gives you a great perspective of the city. This look-out is surrounded by vegetation, and the statue at its center pays homage to the city’s founder, Sebastián de Belalcazar. The statue is made of cast bronze and presents the city’s founder pointing to the west of Cali. This really is a must-see on the Cali list.
Parks of Cali
Park of the Aqueduct
This park can be found in the north-west part of Cali behind the San Antonio neighbourhood. It is a beautiful and expansive park that is worth a visit if you feel like spending time in the greenest part of Cali. While you’re at it, you can take a walk near the park through San Antonio, which is a pleasant and colourful neighbourhood.
Park of the Poets
Very close to the Hermitage Church (Iglesia La Ermita) in the center of Cali, you can find this other gorgeous park. The park celebrates the most important and famous poets from the department of Valle del Cauca, in which Cali is located, including Jorge Isaac, Ricardo Nieto, and Antonio Llanos, among others.
What to do in Cali - Simón Bolívar Park: Park with sculptures of the most important poets of Cali and the surrounding Valle del Cauca area.
Simón Bolívar Park
Right beside the La Retreta Park, which is just in front of the Hermitage Church, you will also find this pretty park in which, as in many cities in the world, you will find a statue of the national hero and liberator Simón Bolívar. It’s a beautiful and fresh park where you can also try the most typical foods and flavours of Cali by trying a lulada, a cholado, champús, and many other little delicacies.
What to do in Cali - Simón Bolívar Park: Park with the statue of the liberator of Colombia, Simón Bolívar, near the river Cali
What to do just outside of Cali?
If you find the city of Cali to be beautiful, its surrounding areas are truly gorgeous, thanks to the location of Cali in the Cauca Valley (or, “Valle del Cauca”), where the natural splendour delights the eyes.
Let me tell you about some of the best places to visit just outside of Cali.
San Cipriano is around 3 hours away from Cali. The tourist attraction here is the ecological park San Cipriano, where you can enjoy a collection of lakes with crystalline water, waterfalls, and where you can catch a glimpse of toucans, turtles, sloths, and many other species. To get to San Cipriano park, you should take a bus from the transportation terminal that will take you towards Buenaventura for about 9 USD; get off the bus in Córdoba, and from there take a “brujita” (literally, a “little witch”), which is a fun mode of transportation that costs about 6 USD for a return trip. The “brujitas” (pronounced “broo-hee-ta”) are little cars that run on railroad tracks.
Just 20 minutes south from the center of Cali, you’ll find this precious little town. You can spend an entire day here just marveling at Pance – to start, it is home to the national park Farallones, which is located on the western arm of the cordillera of Colombia where over 30 rivers begin, among them the river Pance, which is one of the most important rivers of Colombia. You can also visit the water-park Comfadi in Pance, which of course offers numerous pools and aquatic attractions. In short, Pance is just too beautiful to leave it off your list of things to see and do in Cali.
When folks from Cali want to escape the heat of the city and relax, there’s not doubt that the first place they think of is the artificial Calima Lake. They say that this lake is one of the windiest places in South America, which makes it an excellent place to practice windsurfing and kite-surfing. To get to this lake, which will definitely figure among your favourite experiences in Cali, bring warm clothing since it will allow you to take advantage of all the things you can do there: walks, horseback riding, mountain biking, and motor-boat rides. Close to the lake, you’ll find “Calima of the Darién”. To get there, take a bus for less than 6 USD from the transportation terminal of Cali and in 2 hours you’ll be enjoying this sweet spot.
What to do in Cali at night?
The answer is simple: dance, and dance, and dance some more. Cali is the place to enjoy the art of dancing, especially Salsa, and the most famous place to go dancing is called Juanchito. Juanchito is a neighbourhood of Cali located close to the river Cauca where all the best dance clubs can be found. You’ll lose yourself there in the world of motion, music, enjoyment and the coming together of all the socio-economic classes of Cali; dance brings people together, here.
To get to Juanchito, in the center of the city and by the banks of the river Cali, that is to say, close to the Hermitage Church, every Friday and Saturday that are party buses called “chivas rumberas” that start up between 7:30 and 8:00 P.M., heading for Juanchito. These chivas will take you aroudn Cali for three hours and finally drop you off in Juanchito, where the party goes on for the rest of the night.
After reading all of my recommendations for what to do in Cali, do you want to visit the city?