The sprawling city of Cali is the third biggest city in Colombia, but with little of interest for tourists it’s not really on the tourist trail. The historic city center and all of the major museums plus the world-class zoo can be seen in just two days. For lovers of salsa music and dancing, however, it might be worth a stop. Many consider it the “Salsa Capital of the World”. Cali also has some very good hotels, excellent restaurants, and great nightlife. It can be uncomfortably hot during the day but a fun city at night.
Getting There by Bus
It’s possible to get to Cali by bus from several major cities. From the bus terminal in Pereira, we used Tax Central. They had two options, by bus and by Kia. The Kia costs COP$30,000 per seat and only takes three hours, while the bus is just a bit cheaper and is a much longer ride. Expreso Palmira, Tax Belalcázar, and Expreso Trejos also make the trip. To and from Popayán, it cost us COP$25,000. Cali is also a major gateway to the south and Ecuador, with overnight trips to the border at Ipiales (11-12 hours).
The airport, Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport, is located outside of the city. It serves mostly domestic destinations. Internationally, it’s possible to go direct from Ecuador, Peru, Spain, the U.S., and Panama. A taxi there will cost up to COP$60,000. You can also take a bus from the bus terminal for COP$6,000 as of May 2016.
Cali has a few good shopping malls. There’s Chipichape in the north and Jardín Plaza in the south, among others. My preferred mall is Jardín Plaza.
A note on safety – many parts of Cali are still considered dangerous but you should be fine in the historic city center during the day. Take normal precautions and don’t wander outside the touristy area. At night, it’s better to take a taxi, even if it’s just a couple blocks.
We didn’t have any problems during any time of day in the upscale area of Barrio Granada, where many of the city’s best restaurants, bars, and hotels are located as well as many shops, or around Colina de San Antonio.