Cali is Colombia's third largest city. Founded in 1536 by Sebastian de Belalcazar, it was a sleepy little mountain town until the sugar and coffee industries brought prosperity to the region. They aren't the only commodities, however. After drug lord Pablo Escobar was killed in Medellín in 1993 and the Medellín Cartel fell apart, the remaining drug traffickers moved to Cali and formed the Cali Cartel. However, this too dissolved when the treasurer of the cartel fled to the US.
Cali is located in Colombia’s southwestern region, about 995 meters above sea level. A diverse region of coast, foothills and the Andean cordillera. Cali is a rich archaeological area, as well as culturally diverse.
When to Go
Colombia’s climate varies little throughout the year. You can expect a hot, humid climate, but there is a drier season called summer, as opposed to the wet season called winter. The Andean highlands, where Cali is located, has two dry seasons, from December to March and again in July and August. Cali's average temperature is 23° C (73.4°F)
Although the Cali Cartel officially is no longer a threat, drug trafficking still continues. The usual safety measures apply, and it is wise to take caution after dark.
Things to Do and See
- Iglesia de la Merced is a beautiful colonial cathedral on the Plaza Caycedo in the historic district. It is Cali’s oldest church.
- Museo de Arte Colonial, in the monastery adjoining the cathedral, displays mainly colonial religious art.
- Museo Arqueológico displays pre-Colombian pottery and artifacts from the various indigenous groups of the area.
- Museo de Oro exhibits gold items from the Calima culture.
- Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia displays modern art, sculpture, and photography.
- Iglesia de San Antonio, located atop a hill near the city center, offers a fine view of Cali.
- Teatro Experimental de Cali (TEC) began Colombia’s national theater.
- Sugar Cane Museum
- Plaza de Toros de Cañaveralejo bullfighting ring
- Zoológico de Cali
- Federico Carlos Lehmann Valencia Natural Science Museum with exhibits of fauna, ethnological samples, and insects of the region.
- Salsotecas abound on the northern side of the river, particularly in the Juanchito suburb. Night tours in Chivas last about five hours and will get you into a number of hot salsa spots.
- The Feria de Cali from December 25 through New Years with parades, bullfights, salsa events, and a beauty contest.
- Monumento de las Tres Cruces are the three crosses on the mountaintop, a pilgrimage during Semana Santa.
- Parque Nacional Farallones de Cali is a mountain park with diverse vegetation and wildlife offers day excursions or hiking to Reserva Natural Hato Viejo where you’ll find lodging, food, and guides to the park.
- Haciendas, belonging to the sugar barons, and now open as museums to see sugar cultivation and process. Hacienda Cañas Gordas is on the southern border of the city. It is considered the most beautiful of colonial homes and here you'll see period furnishings and objects. Two are about 40 km northeast of Cali:
- Hacienda El Paraiso
- Hacienda Piedechinche
- Two don't miss sights are the archaeological sites of pre-Columbian civilizations at Parque Arqueológico De Tierradentro and Parque Arqueológico De San Agustín. Both are considered sacred sites and contain ancient monuments, statuary, tombs, and burial mounds. Check into the state of the roads from Cali; they can be in poor shape. Whenever you go to Cali, enjoy yourself and Buen Viaje!