Cali for us was a salsa infused blur alongside exploring a small amount of the city and seeing a football game! Unfortunately we only had a few days and we did not get to do some of the more ‘famous’ attractions of the city, however we more than made up for it by experiencing the “greatest hits” that were on offer.
So if you ever find yourself in Cali on a weekend as we did, here is what you should do, especially if you are interested in learning SALSA!
1. Stay at Colombian Home Hostel
Not only will you be in the thick of the action in the hip neighbourhood of San Fernando, you will also be right near some great restaurants that surround Parque del Perro and the football stadium!
In addition to this, most days there are free beginner salsa lessons on offer which are usually followed up by a few drinks and a group heading out to the great salsa bars of the city. This is exactly what we did whilst we were staying there, and the atmosphere that was created each night made for a great group of people to dance the night away with.
2. Go Out to La Topa Tolondra Salsa Club
If you only choose one place to go out (especially on a weekend), make sure it is this place. Absolutely filled with locals with semi-reasonable drink prices, you can really have a great time here doing salsa for most of the night.
Even if you do not know how to dance just yet, even watching the Colombians dance around you is a spectacle! They really do love to dance and the majority of them look like true professionals on the dance floor. If you are looking to learn, then there is no better place than this… though be careful, you may be ridiculed if you don’t know what you’re doing (so at least take a beginner class first)!
3. Move from La Topa Tolondra to Cafe Mi Tierra
Inevitably the crowd at Topa Tolondra will disperse, as they are not open to all hours of the night. But do not fret! Jump into an Uber or track down a taxi and make your way 10 minutes down the road to Cafe Mi Tierra.
Here you can be guaranteed that they will stay open until 8am every single day of the week. And if you weren’t the salsa type, you can now find here an infusion of salsa, alongside reggaeton and regular old house music to dance along to as well.
We spent the rest of our night here, dancing up a sweat and following it up with beer and water to rehydrate again. I believe we ended up getting into an Uber home at about 7:30 in the morning- not a bad night out!
4. Go and See a Football Game
People in Cali are just as passionate about football as the rest of Colombia (which is a lot). For this reason we dragged ourselves to the local stadium and picked up cheap tickets to an America de Cali game!
There are actually 2 teams that play in Cali, so if you’ve prepared earlier by buying a jersey be sure you’re going to the right fixture! There is definitely an intense rivalry between the 2 city based teams, which we found out after unexpectedly sitting with one of the main America de Cali fan groups when we watched the game!
The Colombians loved having the English speakers around, asking us many questions and cheering with us when their team scored (we even got posted on their Instagram after the game!). The atmosphere around the stadium was amazing, and America de Cali ended up coming away with the win which made everyone happy as well.
These are the activities we were able to do whilst in Cali, and even though it may seem like we could have done more (I guess we could have), we were happy to have come to the world capital of salsa and have truly experienced salsa.
If you do end up having a bit more time than us though, and can drag yourself out of bed before midday (oops!), here are a few options for you:
Las Tres Cruces
You can easily hike up to the 3 crosses you can see from most places in Cali, though finding the start of it may be troublesome. Check out maps.me to find the starting point, though you can also just hop into a cab and be asked to be dropped off close to the ‘sendero al Cerro de las Tres Cruces’ (path to the Three Crosses Hill).
The hike itself will take you around 1 hour, with it being quite a popular activity amongst Cali locals on the weekends. When you get to the top, make sure you splurge on a drink and take in the view (especially if it is clear)!
Yes, Cali has it’s own Christ statue (much like Rio) and it is worth visiting to get another nice view over the city. Unlike the tres cruces, the Cristo Rey statue is more easily visited by taking a taxi (or hiring a car) and spending some time at the top for the view and to see the statue close up.
Of course you can hike up, but you will eventually be hiking up the actual road which doesn’t really seem as fun to us! Walking up will take around an hour, saving you either 2,000 pesos (cost of public transport from Buena Vista) or around 10,000-15,000 pesos (cost of a taxi).
El Gato Rio
El Gato del Rio is a three-ton bronze sculpture by the late Colombian artist Hernando Tejada, donated 2 years before his death in 1998. The idea of having the sculpture came as the city attempted to improve the banks of the Cali river, with an expansion in 2006 to include further cats from other artists.
Whilst we did not have time to visit this spot, we heard great things about this kooky tourist attraction.
This neo-gothic church stands out in one of the central plazas of Cali as a massive structure befitting of this great city. Worth a visit for the photos alone (it’s on all the postcards), this isn’t a bad place to go after seeing El Gato Rio.
Once completing your visit of La Ermita, you can also check out Parque La Retreta behind it, which we have been told is also very nice.
We hope you can get to Cali to experience some of the great culture of this city. Of course if all you get to do and see is based on Salsa and football then we salute you. But if you also get out and about in the city during the day, we hope you have a great time exploring.