Sweaty, sexy Cali is the salsa capital of Colombia—some say, of the world. Situated in the humid Valle de Cauca, near the country’s Pacific coast, it’s a city of tropical temperatures by day and cool breezes at night. When you go, you’ll instantly feel yourself swaying to the conga drums and brass from its salsatecas, the systole and diastole of its teeming nightlife.
The city’s energy effortlessly captivates. You’ll feel it in the barrio San Antonio, the old colonial center, as you visit its churches and public squares. You’ll hear it in Juanchito, home to some of Colombia’s most raucous late-night salsa parties. And you’ll smell and taste it while dining al fresco in the leafy Granada district, where strollers refresh themselves with empanadas and drinks made with lulo, a fruit typical of the region.
Colombia’s portal to the Pacific is also a city of festivals. If you really want to thrill to its vibe at its most infectious, head down right after Christmas, when the Feria de Cali draws hundreds of thousands of salseros to gawk at its street parades and hip-jiggling exhibitions. Or go during August, when the Pedro Álvarez Pacific Music Festival showcases the city’s African heritage, with Pacific musical genres like the chocuano and currulao.
Music, aguardiente, and la rumba: one night in Cali’s high-octane dance halls, and you too will find yourself shouting, in the words of the city’s unofficial song, “¡Mi Cali Bella!”
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