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Travellers tend to visit Santiago de Cali for one thing and one thing only – salsa! Known as the capital city of salsa in Colombia, Cali is a fun city with a great climate and the perfect place to dance the night away! However, there’s a lot more to the Valle del Cauca region – of which Cali is the capital – than simply salsa, so here are some of the best day trips to enjoy when you visit.
San Cipriano is a small, riverside community in the jungles of the Pacific region on the road from Cali to Buenaventura: the truly unique part of visiting San Cipriano is the chance to ride on the brujitas, innovative motorbike-driven platforms which zip visitors through the jungle along the old rail tracks to get to the town. Aside from this fun method of transport, visitors to San Cipriano can enjoy tubing in crystal clear rivers, amazing birdwatching, and truly delectable Pacific food.
Less than 50 miles from Cali is one of Colombia’s prettiest small towns, and one that – compared to towns like Barichara or Villa de Leyva – is comparatively unknown by travellers. Buga is one of Colombia’s oldest cities, having been founded in 1555. Famous for its church, the Basilica of The Lord of the Miracles, which houses an image of Jesus which attracts almost 3 million pilgrims a year, Buga is generally a lovely place to spend a day, wandering its narrow colonial streets and enjoying the pleasant climate. Nearby Sonso Lagoon is also a top spot for visiting birders.
Calima Lake is the largest artificial lake in Colombia, and also one of the top places on the continent to enjoy wind-surfing and, in particular, kite-surfing. Located in the Darién municipality, close to Buga and not far from Cali, the lake is easily the best place to enjoy water-sports in Colombia, thanks to the strong and near-constant winds, which can reach over 30 knots! It’s a long day trip from Cali, but worth it if you’re into extreme sports for sure.
A great hiking excursion just a stone’s throw from the urban centre of Cali is the Farallones de Cali National Park. Pico Loro – or Parrot Peak, after its striking beak-like peak – is the iconic mountain at the heart of the park, which can be seen from Cali, and easily hiked on a day trip. The tropical forest trails – well-managed and maintained by the National Park service – are a real treat for outdoorsy types and nature-lovers, and you can spot myriad tropical birds, mammals and butterflies during the beautiful hike.
The old road from Cali to Buenaventura is collectively known as Anchicaya, with the cloud forests of the mountain section of the road known as ‘Alto Anchicaya’ – this road is a birder’s paradise and is world-famous for the incredible birding available there. In a day-trip you’ll only be able to access the upper section of the road, but you can hope to see a tonne of great species, beautiful views, and a fresh cup of coffee at the iconic Dona Dora’s house, where some of the rarest birds in Colombia stop by to eat fresh bananas and pose for the camera.
The natural reserve of the Yotoco Woods is located just west of Buga on the road to Calima Lake and is a perfect day-trip for any nature lovers or hikers looking to escape Cali for a day in the country. With a lovely visitor’s centre and a series of well-maintained intrepid trails through the Pacific jungle of the forest, Yotoco is a under-visited gem in Valle del Cauca. There are also regular sightings of families of Howler Monkeys there: always a treat!
If you find yourself in Cali on a Sunday then you could do a lot worse than spending the day at the Pance River, where you will be joined by – seemingly – half the people of Cali! This pretty river on the edge of the city is worth a visit anytime for the pleasant scenery and wildlife, but it comes to life on Sundays with locals arriving to swim, BBQ, drink, and generally celebrate in a way that only Colombians can!