Santiago de Cali

Located in the Cauca Valley, and sandwiched directly between the Western Mountain Range and the Cauca River, Santiago de Cali (or Cali, for short), is a large and busy city full of both history and modernization. It is the third largest city in Colombia, and although the climate is technically tropical, and the relatively low elevation of the city does no favors to temper the noon-day sun, Cali is actually well served by an almost constant breeze originating from the west. This breeze keeps the average temperature at about 88 degrees Fahrenheit year round, which many travelers find quite comfortable. Access to Cali may be had via the international airport in nearby Palmira; from there, a multitude of freeways provides access to the city. Once inside, the traveler may take advantage of the very reasonably priced and safe taxi cabs which buzz around the city, or the Masivo Integrado de Occidente (MIO), a brand new public transit system, comprised of articulated busses, which was just launched in 2009. Although the MIO is slightly more expensive than the older busses which still roam the city, travelers will enjoy breezing through the city center in air-conditioned comfort thanks to the dedicated MIO traffic lanes.

Cali is known as the sports capitol of Colombia, ever since it hosted the 1971 Pan American Games. Since then, Cali has maintained its moniker and dedicated much of its quickly growing industry and infrastructure to supporting world-class sporting events. The city has two football stadiums, and a multitude of other arenas, including roller rinks of global standard. Cali regularly hosts competitions from the World’s Roller Hockey Championships, to Speed-Track Championships, and in 2013, Cali will host the World Games. Basketball is also widely played, as are gymnastics in any of Cali’s many gyms, however both are overshadowed by Cali’s football clubs. In fact, many of the world’s best South American footballers got their start in one of Cali’s clubs. Any traveler visiting Cali should be prepared for an onslaught of sports fanaticism, Cali style.

Although Cali should definitely be on the top of any sports fan’s list of places to visit, there are other attractions offered by this bustling city. Like many of the cities in Colombia, Cali is over 500 years old, and the historic district offers many examples of beautiful old-world architecture and culture. La Plaza de Caicedo is located directly within the historic district, and is considered by many to be the heart of the city. Named for the city’s historical hero, Joaquin de Caicedo y Cuero, this beautiful plaza is surrounded by palaces and cathedrals, theaters and monuments. During holy week, thousands of individuals flock to this plaza on pilgrimage. The plaza is also adjacent to a number of other unique attractions, including the St. Francis Church, the municipal theater, and a number of fine dining restaurants.

Travelling through Cali, one must be sure not to miss:
  • The Cali River- This lazy river meanders through the west side of town, and is one of the most placid areas in Cali. Lined by great restaurants, shops, hotels, parks, and, even an art museum, one may easily spend a peaceful day on the banks of this river.
  • Juanchito- This urban suburb of the city is best left to the daring and adventurous. It houses the highest density of discotheques in the country thanks to the wild popularity of rumba and salsa, and travelers report that although it is imperative to visit in a group for safety, those who enjoy the night life will find this neighborhood to have no equal in all of South America.
  • Cali Zoo- This zoo has been ranked in the top 5 in all of South America, and upon first entering the premises, the reason becomes quite clear. Rather than simply a facility to exhibit wild animals, the Cali Zoo is of such quality and caliber as to host a variety of research projects year round.