With so many other places to visit in Colombia, you may wonder if Cali is worth visiting.
Indeed, Colombia has many stunning places to visit, from bustling cities to breathtaking nature. Yet, there are cities like Cali which are not always on the travellers’ radar. Let’s find out if Cali is worth visiting while touching on other aspects such as safety, affordability and weather.
While Cali is not exactly the most exciting city you can visit in Colombia, it definitely has its charm. You should definitely come to Cali to experience the International Salsa Festival. You can however skip Cali if you are tight on time.
A few facts about Cali (to decide whether the city is worth visiting or not)
Cali is the 3rd largest city in Colombia, after Bogota and Medellin. With a population of over 2 million people, Cali has earned the title of one of the largest cities in Colombia.
However, it was not its size that made Cali one of the most famous cities in Colombia. It was rather its links to the Cali drug cartel.
One of the most famous drug cartels in Colombia has claimed Cali as their headquarters. For years, the Cali drug cartel has been in an open conflict for supremacy over the drug market in Colombia with the next most famous Colombian drug cartel, the Medellin cartel (ruled by its even more famous leader, Pablo Escobar).
Having said that, the days when Cali was ruled by the drug cartel have come to an end. Nowadays, the city still has issues to resolve regarding the safety of its residents and cocaine consumption. Yet, in the meantime, Cali has also become a bustling city visited by more and more tourists.
When it comes to attracting more international tourists, Cali still has a lot to catch up on. Compared to its rivals Bogota and Medellin, Cali welcomes significantly fewer international tourists. Therefore, is Cali worth visiting at all?
Where is Cali located?
Before we dive into whether Cali is worth visiting or not, let’s see where is Cali located.
Cali is located in the Southwest of Colombia. The city is served by a local airport which operates domestic and international flights, making Cali an attractive city to fly to/from.
By road, the city has good connections with other major Colombian cities. You can book direct buses to Bogota and Medellin from Cali. But you can also travel elsewhere. I found it extremely convenient to travel to the Tatacoa Desert from Cali.
How far is Cali from other major Colombian cities?
As I previously mentioned, Cali has good road and flight connections with Medellin, Bogota and other major cities in Colombia.
Below, I pulled some data to show you how far is Cali from other major Colombian cities. The table shows how long it takes by bus and plane to travel from Cali to the other major Colombian cities.
If bought last minute, flight ticket prices are considerably higher than bus ticket prices.
However, if you buy your flight tickets 1 month in advance, they are significantly more budget and time-friendly than bus tickets.
I suggest using Skyscanner to monitor flight tickets and decide when it is the best time to purchase them.
|Cali to Bogota (travel time and price were looked at 1 month before departure)
|Cali to Medellin
|By plane 1h/50$
|By plane 1h/50$
|By bus 10h/ 31$
|By bus 9h/25$
|Cali to Barranquilla
|Cali to Cartagena
|By plane 1h30/60$
|By plane 1h30/65$
|By bus 23h/44$
|By bus 24h/50$
How much time should you spend in Cali?
If you plan to visit the city only, you won’t need more than 2 to 3 days. The city centre is compact and all tourist attractions are within walking distance.
You will need to extend your stay in Cali if you plan to venture outside the city and perhaps visit nearby villages or do anything nature-related.
Top places to visit in Cali
As I mentioned above, tourist attractions in Cali are mostly concentrated in the same area. Plus, there is not a lot to cover either.
Below I put together a list of what I visited and would suggest you go check out when in Cali.
1.Plaza de Caicedo is the main square where the cathedral is located too. Here, you can admire the colonial architecture and walk your way to
2.Parque de los Poetas and 3.Iglesia La Ermita. I liked more Iglesia de La Ermita, than the Cathedral, but that’s my personal preference. The park is an excellent addition to the central area of the city as it provides a large space to cool down during the day (Cali has hot and humid weather). Next, make a stop on
4.Puente Peatonal Ortiz for some pictures. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful bridges in the city. As you walk your way through
5.Parque Simon Bolivar, you will come across several bridges that will take you to the other side of the city. Take the path called
6.Boulevard del Rio and walk towards 7.El Gato del Rio. This is an area filled with colourful cat sculptures and is perfect for another session of pictures. Finally, don’t forget to check out
8.El Parque Artesanal Loma de la Cruz, where you can buy handicrafts. Make sure you check the opening hours beforehand because most of the stalls were closed when I went. Nearby you will find 9.Monumento a Jovita Feijo which is a reminder that Cali is the international capital of salsa.
Below, you have a map with the places I mentioned above.
Is Cali safe for solo female travellers?
I know Cali doesn’t have a good reputation when it comes to safety. But, based on my experience there, I found the city quite safe. I did say in this blog post that I found Cali to be safer than Medellin, but perhaps my opinion is a bit biased because I only stayed in Cali for a few days.
Nevertheless, I found the area I stayed in Cali extremely safe by Colombian standards. To the point where children on my street were still playing outside long after dark, which is not something I saw anywhere else in Colombia (at least not in any of the big cities I stayed in).
SAFE ACCOMMODATION OPTION I RECOMMEND IN CALI
If you are interested in the flat I stayed in Cali, I will leave here the link to my accommodation. Given how little I paid, the conditions were excellent. The host was very welcoming and always willing to help and the flat was close to all amenities like supermarkets, fruit & vegetable markets, bakeries etc. On top of that, as I already mentioned, the area felt super safe, even after dark.
Venturing out after dark in the area I stayed in Cali felt perfectly safe. I cannot have an opinion on other areas of the city as I did not venture past my neighbourhood after dark.
During the daytime, the city centre also felt quieter than other cities like Bogota or Medellin. Yet, you should always be cautious and not expose your valuables too much.
All in all, although I did not go out in Cali and did not venture past the area where I lived too much after dark, I found Cali to be safer than expected.
Is Cali expensive?
No, Cali is not expensive. I found Cali to be far more affordable than Medellin and Bogota. Indeed, it is less animated and fewer tourists come here, but if you are looking for an affordable place to visit in Colombia, then Cali is your place.
When it comes to accommodation prices, Cali can be up to 40% less expensive than Medellin. I compared the price I paid for my private accommodation in Medellin with the price I paid for my private accommodation in Cali, and the difference was significant (in Cali, I paid almost half the price I paid in Medellin for more or less the same service). Not to mention that the area in Cali was way safer than where my private accommodation was located in Medellin.
Therefore, if you are a budget traveller, Cali can definitely make your money last longer than other major cities in Colombia.
Has Cali a pleasant weather?
Cali weather was way too humid and hot for my taste (I visited Cali in September). If you enjoy hot, summery weather, then Cali might be the perfect place for you. I found Cali to have the same tropical weather I found on the Colombian Caribbean Coast, which I decided was way too much for me.
Compared to Bogota and Medellin, Cali had the hottest weather. While in Bogota I even experienced nights where the temperature would drop to a 1 digit value. In Medellin, the weather has the perfect spring temperature and the humidity is at a more acceptable level.
Cali in turn was hot, and humid, with less shade across some areas of the city, despite having quite a few green areas scattered throughout the city center.
What I did not like about Cali
I did not like Cali that much because it felt less animated than other major Colombian cities, with fewer activities to do. That’s why I did not stay too many days in Cali and preferred to travel somewhere else. But I cannot say I regretted travelling to Cali. Not at all.
What did I like the most about Cali?
I liked Cali because it was way more affordable than Medellin or Bogota. Cali is also a walkable city, which is something I always appreciate about a place.
I never like places that are not pedestrian-friendly. I cannot say this about Cali as I could walk pretty much everywhere.
In conclusion, is Cali worth visiting?
Cali is for sure worth visiting during the International Salsa Festival.
During the rest of the year, visit Cali if you have extra time to spend in Colombia and you have nowhere else to go. Otherwise, I would always choose Medellin, Cartagena, Bogota etc. over Cali because I felt these cities were prettier and had much more to offer than Cali.