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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
It started as a small house and today is one of the biggest nightclubs on Calle Quinta. Its dance floor is never empty, and couples go there to show their best moves. On Wednesdays the party is preceded by a cinema forum, and on Thursdays there are live music shows.
This club is special for its live shows and its Big Band, which makes people dance their shoes off. The band is led by musician Jaime Henao, who has collaborated with artists such as Grupo Niche. The best day to visit is on Wednesday, when the biggest party of the week is held.
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”.
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.
This complex was built in 1971 for the VI Pan American Games. Directors Luis Ospina and Carlos Mayolo filmed Oiga vea!, a documentary about Cali seen through the framework of this event. Today the film is a classic of national cinema.
This museum is a monument to Cali’s cinematic myth and to Colombia’s cinematographic production. There you can find 200 old projectors, 100 vintage video cameras, 220 original movie posters and other relics of the industry. Its guided tours can be taken in Spanish or English.
Located in front of a church with the same name, the house was the stage of the first part of the film Carne de tu carne (1983) by Cali director Carlos Mayolo. The film’s topics make it a rarity of national cinema and one of the clearest examples of what was called “tropical gothic.”
The first color film produced in Colombia was La gran obsession: a psychological thriller about a woman who seeks to make her way in society. The train and this place (an old railway station) play an important role in the film, since those are the first things the protagonist sees when she arrives in the city and they represent both her great dream and the beginning of her misfortunes. La Estación became a national monument in 1994.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
At the center of the park we can see the statue of Teddy, a dog that was poisoned. According to the locals, their owners built the monument as a reminder of the love they felt for him. In its surroundings you can eat typical dishes from Cali at La Comitiva or try the Asian menu from Sushi Green.
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.
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.
San Antonio offers, on the one hand, traditional preparations, and on the other, samples of international food. "The gastronomic offer is very varied," says chef Vicky Acosta, from the restaurant Platillos Voladores, which, although is not located in the neighborhood, is another emblem of Cali cuisine.
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.
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.
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.
According to chef Catalina Valencia, the menu at Domingo does not only respond to the taste of its clients but also to the cycles imposed by nature. Her cuisine seeks to be environmentally responsible and uses every part of its ingredients. As a result, her dishes surprise: the January menu will not be the same as the one in June or the one in December. "If the earth is not providing something, then we do not use it and we adapt. There are farmers who bring us beans or sesame seeds every three, four months and then we use them in our recipes," says Catalina.
One of the few yearlong dishes is the slow-cooked lamb, served in its juice in a raw lemon sauce fermented for one year with roasted sweet potato. As chef Catalina says: "We want to promote the figure of the culinary artisan: the one who sows, cares for, cultivates and sells his products with his hands, from the seed.”
Unlike lulo juice, lulada is not liquefied or blended, but macerated. Lemon, sugar or panela (raw cane sugar) are also part of this preparation.
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.
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.
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
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.
An invitation to experiment: add an ingredient, try a sauce, gather some leaves and sauté them ... little by little, an unforgettable flavor is achieved.
Maura Hermencia Orjuela de Caldas, better known as Maura Caldas, believed in experimentation when she invented a main dish called 'Arrechera', consisting of fish, shrimp, squid, lobster (among other seafood), coconut milk and a typical stir-fry from the Colombian Pacific coast, prepared with tomato, onion, garlic, sweet pepper, paprika and 'rooftop herbs', so called because they are planted on high platforms to protect them from flooding.
The result: a filling dish, with the ability to 'raise people from the grave', as it is commonly said in the region.
Its name, which can be translated as 'heat', is no coincidence: "It is clear that, in Valle, the dish produces an erotic euphoria," as chef Juan Carlos Quintero, from the restaurant La Comitiva in Cali, explains.
Indigenous, black and Spanish influence: a fusion that arises and becomes evident in the kitchen. This is the case of the 'arroz atollado', a dish whose historical roots resulted from the collaboration of black and Spanish hands, according to chef Catalina Vélez (Kiva restaurant in Cali). This rice can be combined with meats, vegetables and other ingredients.
On the one hand, there is the rice planted by the black people on the floodplains, to which they began to add ingredients they could hunt such as iguaza or wild duck meat. On the other hand, there is the preparation of broth rice, which evokes the Spanish tradition.
Today, the arroz atollado from Valle del Cauca allows a wide range of possible ingredients: chorizo, wiener, pork meat, chicken, peas, creole potato, hogao (tomato and onion stir-fry), saffron, pepper, cilantro, parsley or boiled eggs.
The indigenous roots are present in Cali’s cuisine: the Valle del Cauca tamal is an evidence of it. It is a ground corn dough that mixes chicken, pork, potatoes, boiled egg and, in some cases, carrots. As chef Juan Carlos Quintero explains, all the ingredients are wrapped in bijao leaves (a small variety of plantain with large leaves).
Envueltos (corn wraps) also have indigenous roots. These are usually accompanied with sweet or cheese and they are eaten in the afternoon or at breakfast.
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.
Although the Petronio is a festival that was originally conceived to promote Pacific music, nowadays it’s also one of the most important gastronomic events in Colombia, if you want to have a real and honest approach to all the flavors of the Afro cuisine of the country’s west and southwest. Get ready for a blast of flavors that will enchant you, in a space where more than 70 traditional cooks of the region converge.
The Cali runners’ club, United Runners Team, organizes this seven-kilometer race that starts at Chipi Chape and ends at Cerro de las Tres Cruces, located on the northwest of the city and known for a monument built 80 years ago.
The most important party in the city turns 61 years old. The celebration has events such as the Salsodromo with 1,500 professional dancers who dance through 1,5 kilometers (little under a mile) along the southeast highway, the parade of classic and old cars or the Super-concert, which will have stars such as Marc Anthony, Ana Gabriel, Víctor Manuelle, Sebastián Yatra, Daniel Calderón and Willy García at the Pascual Guerrero Olympic Stadium.
From December 25th to 30th
This traditional sports circuit takes place on Calle de la Feria with athletes participating in three competitions: wheelchair athletics (half marathon), women's skating (where Valeria Gonzalez, from the Colombian National Team, will participate) and cycling (in which cyclist Jarlinson Pantano will be present).
During the fifth version of the international fair, birdwatchers can attend 20 conferences, participate in 39 field trips and watch some of the 800 species of birds that live the department of Valle. One of the speakers will be the biologist and writer George Schaller, winner of five international awards in the field of conservation, among which the Lifetime Achievement Award, granted by the National Geographic Adventure magazine, stands out.
February 15th, 16th and 17th
The flight date is outside of our promotion.
Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport
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)
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