CALI is a large, warm and jovial village that will fascinate salsa lovers, but not only. With its many palm trees, it looks like a big seaside resort, which makes it pleasant and summery. If you want to visit a city that is not very touristy, to party until the end of the night with the Caleños and to spend an authentic and typical Colombian moment, Cali is the place to go!
In this article we will share with you all the information you need to know before you arrive in Cali. Our main advice: try to come for the International Fair of Cali in December!
Cali in a few words
Capital of the department of Valle del Cauca and 3rd largest city in the country, Cali was founded in 1536 on the western bank of the Cauca River, at an altitude of 1000 meters. While the city has many pre-Columbian remains including Gorrones, today the indigenous people represent only 0.5% of the population.
Cali is in fact one of the cities in Latin America with a majority of Afro-Colombians and mestizos, due to its proximity to the Pacific coast. This diversity is particularly expressed in the Caleña culture, especially in music, since Cali is the capital of salsa!
Cali : Un peu d´histoire
Cali, officially called Santiago de Cali, was founded in 1536 and is today one of the main economic and industrial centers of the country and the main urban and cultural center of Western Colombia. It is one of the oldest cities in the country and has preserved many vestiges of the pre-Columbian era. In the surroundings of Cali, there are archaeological sites from the Calima culture. When the Spaniards arrived, this region was inhabited by the Gorrones Indians. The central point of this civilization was on the banks of the Pescador River, where they traded with the Quimbaya, who lived in the northern part of the current department of Valle de Cauca. During the colonization, Cali played a key role in the trade thanks to its strategic position between the mining regions and Popayán. It was at this time that the first road between Buenaventura and Cali was created.
Climate in Cali
Thanks to its climate, its relief and the affluence of several rivers, Cali and its region hasgreat natural wealth, both agricultural with the sugar cane, and mining with the coal. It is a very pleasant city despite the heat, which makes the atmosphere very warm by the way!
When to visit Cali and its surroundings?
The best time to visit Cali is during the dry season, from December to February and from July to August. But Cali remains a city that you can visit all year round, because you go there for the atmosphere and the party! Are you a salsa lover? You have to come the last week of December to participate in the International Salsa Fair! An exceptional event that you should not miss!
Health and equipment needed to get to Cali and surrounding areas
Pack light shoes and clothes for the city and also an outfit for the evening, to go dancing! Tennis shoes, sandals, raincoat and umbrella if it rains, sunscreen, sunglasses and umbrella are the things you should pack.
What are the cultural events in Cali?
One of the things that makes Cali so charming is that every last Friday of the month is a cultural day with a lot of events and shows going on in all the streets of the city!
- May 21: Day of Afrocolombianidad
- Holy Week: Holy Week Procession.
- End of June: Gender and Diversity Week.
- July 25: celebration of Independence and anniversary of the founding of Santiago de Cali
- Late September: World Salsa Festival.
- December 25-30: Feria de Cali, carnival festival in the streets of the city. This is the event of the year to attend.
Cali : Safety
As in the other major cities of the country, one must remain vigilant in Cali. Cali may be less safe than Medellin, but it is also a city that has been largely pacified following the fall of the Cali Cartel. The problem is still petty crime, so common sense is required.
We advise you to be careful to blend in, not to be noticed unnecessarily and to go to ATMs inside shopping centers (avoid those on the street).
How to get to Cali?
BY PLANE: Cali has one of the main airports in Colombia. The Alfonso Bonilla Aragon International Airport located in Palmira, just 15 minutes from the city, has connections to the rest of Colombia and the rest of the World (Miami, Guayaquil, New York, Madrid, Panama city, Esmeraldas and Quito). Main companies for domestic flights: LATAM, CopaAirlines, American Airlines, Satena. Avianca offers some direct flights, but some may include a stopover in Bogotá.
BY BUS: There are land bus connections between Cali and most major Colombian cities. This page allows you to see the existing routes for bus transportation.
Urban Transportation: Public transportation is run by private organizations. Cabs are yellow in color and their minimum fare is about $5400COP. The bus network, named MOI (Massivo Integrado de Occidente) is rather well organized.