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Flights to Cali

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Cali: A Musical City

If love could be measured by the amount of songs dedicated, Cali would be one of the most beloved cities in Latin America. Located in western Colombia, between the Pacific and the Andes, Cali has inspired salseros such as Óscar d'León, Richie Ray, Ray Barreto and orchestras such as Guayacán, La Mamba Negra or Fruko y sus Tesos with places like Calle Quinta, Parque de los Poetas or even just its fresh climate.

Vista diagonal de La Ermita en Cali

The most important song dedicated to the 'Capital of Salsa' is the 'hymn' of caleñidad, Cali Pachanguero, by Grupo Niche: “… todos los caminos conducen a ti / si supieras la pena que un día sentí / cuando en frente de mí tus montañas no vi.

Composed by Jairo Varela in 1984, the song is played in all 249 neighborhoods of the city, by its 2,445,281 citizens, in bars and dance halls. Every December, the song is the main anthem at an event that brings together 30 professional dance schools and about 600 thousand attendees: the Cali Fair.

Yet, Cali is not only the land of Salsa, nor its streets are only for dancing: Olympic medalists like María Isabel Urrutia, Óscar Figueroa and Jackeline Rentería were born here, and world-class sporting events, such as the VI Pan-American Games in 1971 or the IX World Games in 2013, are held.

Cali is also a city fit for the big screen, as it has given rise to hundreds of movies since 1922, as well as renowned directors such as Luis Ospina or Carlos Mayolo. As writer Andrés Caicedo said in one of his letters to Ospina, his friend and brother: "I have not been able to watch movies with the same intensity as I do in Cali." For Caicedo, who died 41 years ago, this was Cali’s essence: cinema, salsa, freedom.

Cali for Beginners: Eight Things to do

1. Buy a Maceta (and Give it Away)

vista de macetas en Cali

This is a timeless tradition. It was done in the past, it’s still done today, and it will, surely, still be done in the next century: godfathers should give Macetas to their godchildren on their day on every June 29th.

The Maceta is a kind of tree whose stem is made of maguey and it is decorated with a water, sugar and lemon syrup. After being boiled and set to rest, the syrup is whipped with a 'Y' shaped guava stick. These sweets have different shapes and are decorated with colored papers, the flags of Cali and Colombia, and a pinwheel on the top that spins with the wind.

2. Go to the Show Delirio

A frenzied dance of never-ending rhythm and intensity, Delirio is one of the most recognized salsa shows in Colombia. The numbers back it up: during its first ten years, they made 350 performances in 19 countries for a total of 400,000 spectators.

3. Listen to Rock at Martyn’s

Founded in 1983 by John Martyn Smith, a Welsh tequila lover who has taught several generations of 'Caleños' the importance of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The place preserves the aesthetics of a British pub and has never gone unnoticed. In 1992, David Gilmour, the guitarist of the British band Pink Floyd, visited the place after a concert at the Pascual Guerrero stadium.

4. Climb up to "Cristo Rey"

This is one of Cali’s icons. From the height of this statue, which recalls the famous “Christ the Redeemer” of Rio de Janeiro, you can look over the city from the Cerro Los Cristales. Climbing this hill is a typical local outing, whether for exercise or just as a family walk to reach the summit and enjoy a fantastic view of the Sultana del Valle. This viewpoint is open from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening. Best bet is to climb it early, when it’s calmer and the sun still isn’t at its height.

5. Dive into the Pance River

Only 20 minutes from Cali is this marvelous river, which is usually visited by locals on weekends as a family recreational site. A dive in the Pance will make you feel a little closer to the valley, and after a walk in the woods surrounding the river, it’s very possible that some family will invite you to join their lunch trip called Paseo de olla with them, and you’ll officially become a local.

6. Go to the Jairo Varela Museum

This museum was created to honor one of the great figures of salsa, founder and director of Grupo Niche, who is remembered for songs like Sin sentimiento, Busca por dentro, Gotas de lluvia, Una aventura or Cali pachanguero. Here you can find, among other things, a dress worn by Celia Cruz, the musical scores of the song Llorarás by Oscar D'León, the maracas used by Caíto Díaz (from La Sonora Matancera) and the 24-channel Sony recording machine Grupo Niche used to record its best hits.

7. Walk Along Bulevar del Río

The weather is very hot during the day, so it is better to visit at 5 in the afternoon and feel the famous Cali breeze.

This avenue is 2.900 meters (8,390 square feet) wide and was inaugurated in 2013. It welcomes about 6,000 people every day. In 2014, during the XXIV Colombian Architecture Biennial, Bulevar del Río received an award from the Colombian Architect Association (Sociedad Colombiana de Arquitectos) for being the best urban design in the country.

 

8. Climb up to Pico de Loro

The climb, about 2,900 meters above sea level, is intense and complicated, but the view at the top—with the right weather—is worth it: to the south you can see the Cauca river valley, Cali and the Central Mountain Range; to the southeast, the Nevado del Huila; and to the north, the Farallones de Cali, the youngest rock formations of the Andean Western Mountain Range.

Essential plans in Cali

Salsa Itinerary

The love story between Cali and salsa music started five decades ago when Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz played there for the first time. Though before it was shyly played in popular neighborhoods, after 1968 the salsa spirit took over the city. Today, the mandatory pilgrimage sites for its fans are Sexta Avenida and Calle Quinta; however; these are not the only ones in Cali, since here the party knows no boundaries.

Next, find recommended places to vibrate at this rhythm

La Matraca

Vista de uno de los bares importantes en Cali, Matraca

This club was a pioneer of its kind. People have been enjoying salsa and tango here for over 54 years. Its oldest clients go there every weekend with sequin dresses and dance shoes.

MalaMaña

Vista de bar en Cali, Mala maña

This bar used to be an abandoned basement, but it became a party place three years ago. MalaMaña’s bet is simple: to make people dance 'salsa brava', that is, the one that is not played on the radio and whose tempo seems to 'break' the speed of sound. It is also an effort to revive the party scene in down town Cali.

Tin Tin Deo

Vista de uno de los bares importantes en Cali, Tintindeo

Its decoration, tables and essence are all inspired in Cali during the 70s. Its walls are filled with portraits of salsa legends such as Hector Lavoe, Cheo Feliciano and Celia Cruz; however, this club is also famous for its dancing, as some salsa schools frequently visit it to show their acrobatic dance steps.

Caliwood: Cinema Route

Visita al Museo Caliwood en Cali

The first film that was ever made in Colombia, called María, was rolled in Cali in 1922. Since then, the city has witnessed the evolution of cinema in the country. Because of the experimentation of cinematographic genres and the large number of directors born here, the city was named “Caliwood”.

Jorge Isaacs Theater

Teatro Jorge Isaacs en Cali

Built 86 years ago, here is where the first color film made in Colombia was premiered. After being abandoned in the 1960s, in 1984 the theater was restored and declared a national monument for its French-inspired neoclassical architecture, its historical legacy and its 33-meter tall acoustic box, the second highest in Latin America, after the one at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires.

Cali Through its Parks

Mexican writer Elmer Mendoza once wrote: "Parks are the eyes with which big cities look at the world." If this is true, Cali, a city with 2,450,998 square meters (little under one square mile) of public parks is a great sentinel.

Parque de los poetas

Parque de los poetas en Cali

This small square pays tribute to great figures of Valle del Cauca’s literature, including Jorge Isaacs, Carlos Villafañe, Octavio Gamboa, Ricardo Nieto and Antonio Llanos: writers who marked the history of the region. Nearby you can enjoy a cup of coffee with a pandebono (a cheese-stuffed bun made with cornmeal and yuca starch) or a muffin at Panaletto Bakery.

El Gato del Río and his Girlfriends

Parque del gato en Cali

On the banks of Cali River we can find the sculptures of a Cat and his girlfriends: around 20 cats of intense colors and set in different positions have turned the place into an open-air museum. The cat is the work of Hernando Tejada, and his girlfriends were made by various sculptors such as Ómar Rayo, Diego Pombo, Ángela Villegas and Lorena Espitia.

Parque Panamericano

Parque panamericano en Cali

Also known as Parque de las Banderas, it is one of the best-known parks in Cali. On Sundays you can visit the fruit stalls and try a lulada (a drink made with lulo pulp, crushed ice and sugar), a cholado (fruit salad with shaved ice and condensed milk) or a champús (a corn-based drink with panela and fruits such as pineapple or lulo).

Ecoparque de las Garzas

Lago en el Parque de las Garzas en Cali

This Eco Park is located in the south of Cali, in an environmental corridor known as Bajo Pance. While walking or cycling, you can see birds such as kingfishers, woodpeckers, ducks and herons, which give the park its name. It is recommended to bring bug repellent.

Three Sides of San Antonio Neighborhood

Architecture

Fachada de una casa en El Barrio San Antonio de Cali

It's like travelling back in time. The neighborhood was founded in the 18th century, with the chapel—consecrated to San Antonio de Padua—, whose construction began in 1746, as a founding point.

The neighborhood’s architecture has characteristics of the colonial era: houses of one or two floors, built in adobe, with clay tiles and 'aleros', as they call the edge of the protruding roofs. Houses here usually have large gardens.

Additionally, some buildings reveal neoclassical or Art Deco influences from the 20s and 30s.

Art and Tradition

Fachada de la capilla San Antonio en Cali

There are always places to meet, excuses to go out, walk and talk with the neighbors. One example is the annual celebration of traditions such as the day of godchildren on June 29th, or the commemoration of the Virgin, which is celebrated with candles, lights and lanterns every 7th and 8th of December.

Many artists, craftsmen and cultural managers live in this sector. Theatrical and storytelling spaces are common.

"I fell in love with the stone theater where the storytellers work. It is outdoors, the acoustics are perfect, and the Cali audience is always ready to have a good time, to have fun. I live in San Antonio; I've known painters, sculptors, and actors. It is a magical neighborhood," explains Christian Maturana, a Chilean artist, storyteller and clown.

La Tertulia Museum

Vista del Muse la Tertulia de Cali

The museum first opened during the 1950s military dictatorship: as a reaction to censorship, several intellectuals (like Clara Inés Suárez and Maritza Uribe de Urdinola) responded with artistic gatherings. However, it was only until 1968 that La Tertulia became what it is: a modern art museum, the first of its kind in Colombia, with one of the largest paper graphic collections in Latin America (1774 works).

La Tertulia is a meeting point with six rooms dedicated to plastic arts, photography and cinema. In 2018, the museum chose the installation (El otro lado de la) Carretera al mar: an exploration of the imaginaries that exist in Cali about Buenaventura, a port city located 116 kilometers (72 miles) away, through videos, photos and sculptures.

Where to Eat

El Peñón, San Antonio, Granada and Parque del Corazón are neighborhoods recognized as the four gastronomic areas of the city, with 420 restaurants in total.

Restaurants

La Comitiva

Restaurante la Comitiva en Cali

A house built in the early twentieth century on the typical San Fernando Viejo neighborhood where you can find local flavors and ingredients of small producers from the Colombian Pacific region. As Juan Carlos Quintero, its executive chef, explains: "Our fish, squid and shellfish come from the town of Charambira, in the department of Chocó, and they are caught with fishing hooks, not using aggressive methods that harm the environment."

Vegetables are purchased from farmers near the Farallones National Park, which strive for environmental preservation.

Among the dishes you can find in the menu, the seafood casserole with Pacific stir-fry sauce (made with onion, tomatoes, peppers and coconut milk) and the atollado rice are highly recommended. "Despite serving traditional dishes, we see the Pacific as a global region, so we learn about the spices of Vietnam or Thailand and use them in our recipes," Quintero adds.

Typical Dishes

Lulada

Vista de una deliciosa Lulada, jugo típico de Cali

Unlike lulo juice, lulada is not liquefied or blended, but macerated. Lemon, sugar or panela (raw cane sugar) are also part of this preparation.

Pandebono

Pan de Bono comida típica de Cali

dough made with corn flour, yuca starch, cheese and egg. It can be stuffed with bocadillo (guava paste) and can be easily found in the vast majority of bakeries in the city.

Sancocho

Sancocho, comida típica Cali

Prepared with local and seasonal ingredients, the sancocho soup is a mirror of the geographical variety of southern and western Colombia: on the one hand, to the north of Cali, in the vicinity of the so-called Eje Cafetero (in the regions of Caldas, Quindío and Risaralda), people frequently resort to plantain and the combination of chicken, beef or pork. On the other hand, the tendency to choose free-range chicken and herbs such as long coriander comes from the south of the city.

"The sancocho vallecaucano is green," explains Catalina Vélez, chef at Kiva restaurant in Cali.

According to Juan Carlos Quintero, chef at La Comitiva restaurant (also in Cali), sancocho can also include potatoes, a typical ingredient in the southern departments of Cauca and Nariño.

Una receta

Aborrajados

The sweetness of the ripe banana, combined with the cheese and bocadillo (guava paste), makes it a local delicacy. This iconic dish from Valle del Cauca is about a century old.

For 4 Servings
Ingredients:

  • 2 well-ripe plantains
  • Vegetable oil
  • 4 Tablespoons of wheat flour
  • 2 Tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons of milk
  • 2 Eggs
  • 4 Thick slices of mozzarella cheese
  • Salt

Preparation:

  1. Peel the plantains and cut them into 8 even pieces.
  2. Heat the oil on high heat and fry the plantain pieces for 3 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Mix flour, sugar and salt. Add the egg little by little and the milk until you get a smooth and homogeneous paste. Cover with plastic and let it rest.
  4. Flatten the plantain pieces and put a slice of cheese over half of them. Cover with the other pieces of plantain to form a kind of sandwich.
  5. Submerge each plantain sandwich in the flour mixture and fry for a minute or until golden brown and crispy on the outside.
  6. Place them on absorbent paper to remove excess fat and serve.

Three Flavors From Valle

The cultural diversity of the Valle del Cauca region and its capital, Cali, is reflected in its cuisine. Each flavor has a story to tell.

Un cocinero

Vicky Acosta

Recognized several times as the best chef in Cali (Platillos Voladores restaurant), Vicky Acosta is one of the people responsible for the consolidation of the gastronomic scene in 'Sultana del Valle' (one of the names with which people refer to Cali). Its culinary offer delves into the flavors of the Valle del Cauca region, but reinterprets them based on her experience as a chef and on a more global perspective on cooking.

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Relevant data

Airport

Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport

Language

Spanish

Currency

Colombian peso

Average temperature

75.2ºF

Transport

Monday to Saturday: 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Sundays and Bank Holidays: 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (Some routes do not operate Saturdays, Sundays or Bank Holidays)