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Cali pachanguero!” is a famous salsa song that will ring in your ears as you explore this sprawling, tropical metropolis in Colombia’s southeast. The song title literally means “Cali party city,” and has been adopted as the unofficial anthem of what is regarded as the South American capital of salsa. Cali is also an important industrial city built on commodities such as sugarcane and cotton, and is Colombia’s transport gateway to the Pacific.

Things to Do

The hilltop location of the tiny Iglesia de San Antonio chapel gives you a panoramic introduction to the city. Explore the many churches and museums around Plaza de Caycedo, then visit first class Cali Zoo, which showcases such local wildlife as capybaras, anteaters, and butterflies. Have a relaxing lunch in the old colonial San Antonio quarter before escaping the heat by catching some cool contemporary art at the Museo de Arte Moderno.

Nightlife and Entertainment

You can really let your hair down in fun-loving Cali. Start the evening sampling cocktails and mellow jazz at Caféy Chocolate and end with shimmying salsa dancers in superclub Chango. At Blues Bros the doormen escort you to your table, and ice buckets packed with bottles of aguardiente (anise flavored spirit) appear with alarming regularity.

Restaurants and Dining

In the evening this sweltering city is cooled by a mountain breeze that has everybody dining alfresco in the pleasant, leafy district of Granada. Fried calamari tapas are served up at Spanish style Barra de Mayolo, or you can enjoy expertly prepared Italian dishes in the lovely tropical courtyard of El Solar.

Active Pursuits

The fresh and cool mountain town of Pance offers lots of hiking opportunities, including some short treks to jungle waterfalls. It is also the gateway to Parque Nacional Natural Farallones de Cali, where the ambitious can undertake a 3-day hike to verdant peaks that offer views the whole way to Ecuador. Coffee connoisseurs can take a train tour to a finca in El Cumbre, and those seeking a more literal high can try kite surfing on Lago Calima, which is surrounded by lush, emerald landscapes.