Colombia's third largest city may not be the most attractive in the country, but there are some good reasons to visit.
Of those reasons nightlife is probably the biggest. Cali is Colombia's salsa capital and at the weekend the caleños (Cali inhabitants) head out to the numerous discotekas to strut their stuff on the dancefloor. And since Cali's girls are known as the most beautiful in the country (along with those from Medellin) there is plenty of motivation (at least for the men) to learn a few salsa steps.
The city is not exactly overflowing with tourist attractions, but Cali is a good 'jumping off point' for trips to nearby towns and especially Calima Lake.
Guides in this section
Cali's principal sights can be comfortably seen in a day. Many of the city's hotels are located north of the river on or around Avenida Sexta (16th Avenue) so assuming you're starting from there the best thing to do is to stroll south down Avenida Sexta, along which you might spot a good venue for some dining and dancing for later in the evening.
As Avenida Sexta swings around to the left and finishes, you'll see a park on the opposite side of the street known as El Centenario. A broad walkway called Paseo Bolívar takes you past the Centro Administrativo Municipal (CAM) on your right. At the end of the walkway you come to Puente Ortiz (Ortiz Bridge) which crosses Cali River. It is from here that you'll get your first glimse of the distinctive Iglesia Ermita, a church built in the neo-gothic style.
From the cathedral corner walk one block down Carrera 5 and then turn right one block up Calle 10 to arrive at Iglesia de San Francisco and next to it the Capilla de la Inmaculada. Opposite is the tall Gobernación building.
From Capilla de la Inmaculada walk two blocks down Calle 9 and then left for two blocks, passing the large Banco de Occidente building, into La Merced district. On the corner of Carrera 4 and Calle 7 are the Iglesia de la Merced (photo, below right) and the Museo Arqueológico La Merced featuring pre-Columbian artifacts from the old indigenous peoples of southern Colombia.
Continuing west along Carrera 4 takes you over the busy Calle 5 and on into San Antonio district. Several blocks further along you'll come to a small hill with Iglesia de San Antonio perched at the top. After a couple of hours of walking it's a nice opportunity to sit and relax in the shade under the trees and admire the view over the centre of the city from where you've come.
There are two lookout points on the ridge of the mountains which flank the city to the north and west. The first, called El Monumento Las Tres Cruces is situated at 1,450m. To start the climb head to the intersection of Avenida 9AN with Calle 12D and follow the trail up. Initially you walk along a stony road. Keep an eye out for the path that leads upwards into the woods after about ten minutes. If you do happen to miss it (as I did!) you'll come to a dead end a minute further along and will have to turn back anyway. At a reasonable pace it's do-able in about 45 minutes. The final part involves walking up some rocks which can get slippery after rain so bring some decent footwear. Three large crosses decorate the peak.
Another great vantange point is from atop the 45 story Torre de Cali on Avenida de Las Americas in the north of the city.
Cali Zoo (Zoológico de Cali) is an impressive maze of exotic wildlife. It's easy to lose your bearings in the 10 hectare area and just as you think you must be back near the entrance a whole new zone of wildlife opens up before youand you realise that you're still down the other end of the place.
Aswell as the numerous animal enclosures there are 8 special sections each dedicated to a different section of the animal kingdom:
- amphibians - ant auditorium- primates - aquarium - aviary - butterfly enclosure - primates - reptiles - turtles
You could very easily spend all day here, but three hours is probably the minimum time necessary to get around all of the attractions.
(Open mon - fr:i: 9am - 4:30pm, sat & sun: 9am - 5:30pm; Prices: Adults $9,000, children $6,300; website)
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