Three Days in Cali, Colombia
When I booked this trip, I had no idea what to do in Cali or if I would even enjoy going there. I figured, third largest city in Colombia has to have something to offer. And after finishing Narcos Season 3, I was intrigued by the city and it's history.
As with most of my trips, I book the flight and accommodations and do very little planning of activities till I arrive or shortly before. This trip was no different. I knew there were a few things I wanted to see and do, but the rest I left up to spontaneity.
November 16, Day 1
The flight from Bogoto to Cali on LATAM was a fairly uneventful 40 minutes. Landed in Cali around 12:05 pm. The airport is a bit small but is a modern facility. The Airbnb host who I was staying with suggested that he set up a driver for me so that they could then coordinate with his aunt who was checking me in. She didn't speak any English, so he figured that would be easiest. He probably got a kickback or the driver was a relative he was helping out, because it clearly was not a registered car service. The guy had a sign with the name "Scott Morry" on it. Close enough, I thought. He had to be waiting for me.
The ride from the airport to the Airbnb was a good 30 minutes (about as long as the flight to Cali). The driver didn't get the memo that I didn't speak Spanish very well and I didn't feel like being rude and telling him I understood very little of what he was saying. So I mainly just nodded and said "ok" whenever he would point something out and act like I understood (and was interested).
The person checking me in also missed the memo and launched into a monologue in Spanish. Again I pretended like I understood and was interested. One thing I did get from what she said was that I should only take a taxi at night (i.e. not safe to walk around area). I made sure to note that.
By the time I had settled in and taken a quick nap, I decided to venture out and explore. I walked into the Iglesia San Francisco, which is the church above that was visible from my window. I then walked around the Plaza de Cayzedo which is full of beautiful palm trees. After that, I decided to go visit "La Ermita" Church which is one of the most iconic buildings in Cali. Unfortunately, it was closed so I could not go inside.
The church is beautiful as is the surrounding area. Across from the church is a river and a walkway to Parque Simon Bolivar Cali. The park was full of people and you could tell that it had been decorated for Christmas with lights hanging from trees.
Centro Commerical Centenario, a mall, was my next stop for a Juan Valdez coffee and a burrito from a Mexican restaurant in the food court. Once I finished my late lunch (it was probably around 5 by this time), I decided to walk up the river to see the famous Gato de Tejada. By the time I had finished walking around and taking pictures, it was starting to get a bit dark so I decided to head back to my apartment.
The rest of the evening consisted of UberEats, Netflix, reading and planning my next 2 days.
November 17, Day 2
The day started pretty slow. I was having issues with the internet and the power outlets. So I ended up staying in the apartment longer than I would have liked, but such is life. I made my way over to the Archaeological Museum (La Merced Archaeological Museum) which was a small but interesting museum with a entrance fee of around $1 USD. It is a part of the former Merced Church. There is also a Religious Art museum attached. Unfortunately, the Religious Art Museum was closing 10 minutes after I tried to enter and the staff didn't seem inclined to let me in.
It was around time to grab lunch, so I headed to the San Antonio area of Cali. This is the colonial part of town with many beautiful old homes that have been restored into restaurants, hostels, cafes and private residences. While walking around I stumbled upon this interesting looking restaurant called Pao Bakery and Cafe and decided to have lunch there. I had an iced coffee with a Caprese Salad and then a nice warm brownie for dessert. Food was amazing!
After lunch, I want to visit the San Antonio chapel which is on top of a hill overlooking the city. The church was built in the mid 1700's in the Baroque style. You can get great views of the city from the hill in which the chapel was built.
About this time, it started to rain which made it not as much fun to walk around to the various sites. Fortunately, it wasn't too bad so I continued on with my self-guided tour of Cali. Next up was the statue of the founder of the city, Sebastian de Belalcazar. This statue is on another hill overlooking the city of Cali. Because it was raining, I didn't stick around too long.
Up next was the Modern Art Museum (Museo la Tertulia) which was a short walk from the statue. Entrance fee was about $3.50 USD. The museum is housed in a modern building but the exhibition is rather small. There were some interesting pieces, but you could easily see everything in around 30 - 45 minutes (or less).
From there, I walked to the Zoo of Cali (Zoologico de Cali). This is one of the most popular and visited attractions in Cali. The cost to get in for an adult was around $7 USD. The park is rather large and has many different exhibits and areas. Luckily the rain had stopped, so it was a nice walk around the park and into the various exhibits. By far one of the highlights of this trip. Once I had seen all I could, I decided to Uber it back to my apartment.
After relaxing a bit at home from all the walking around and getting wet, I decided to venture out again to have some dinner. I wanted to go back to the San Antonio area in which I had lunch because it seemed as if there were some nice restaurants in the area. It seemed like most the places were closed so my options were somewhat limited. There is no Yelp down here and the reviews on google seemed sparse and suspect.
I walked past this place that seemed nice, so I decided to go back and see if they were open. Unlike many restaurants in the USA or even in other parts of Colombia, this place had a closed gate at the front door so it almost appeared closed. My luck, the restaurant was open. I had no idea what kinda food they served or what was on the menu but the place looked nice so I figured it would hopefully at least be palatable.
The place was called Waunana Restauranta. The server unfortunately didn't speak much English so she called over the manager who went through great detail about the restaurant history, the chef and the kind of food that the place serves. The restaurant is upscale modern Colombian cuisine from the region using local ingredients only. She made some recommendations and they all sounded delicious so I agreed to let her pick what I hate. I was not disappointed. The chef brought out every dish and explained to me what it was (in English thankfully). I had an appetizer, entree, dessert, coffee and a refreshing fruit drink all for around $33 USD. The food and level of service was well worth the price tag.
After dinner, I went back to my hotel to read and watch some Netflix and plan on my next and final day in Cali.
November 18, Day 3
Another not so early start to the day. I may have stayed up later than I had anticipated due to watching a new series on Netflix. Today, my goal was to go to the Cristo Rey statue overlooking the city and then try to see a few other museums and sites. I also had a friend in town from Ecuador who I wanted to see.
I ordered an Uber to take me to the Cristo Rey statue. The only way to get there is by car. The ride took about 30 minutes and cost about $3.50. They have a small restaurant there that serves baked goods and sandwiches. So after taking some pics, I had some food and enjoyed the scenery from on top of the hill.
Due to it's distance from the city, requesting an Uber to take me back down took a while. I think I waited about 25 minutes for the driver to arrive. This allowed me more time to take more pics, walk around and have an ice cream.
Next on the agenda was the Gold Museum (Museo del Oro Calima). The museum is run by the Banco de la Republica which also runs the much larger Museo Oro in Bogota. I had tried to visit this the day before, but there was a line of kids wrapped around the block to enter, so I decided it best I try another time. The museum was rather small and only consisted of one large room inside of what appeared to be a vault. Not sure if that was just for decoration or was a legitimate vault. Entrance was free, so that is always great.
I tried to go to the Religious Art museum after this; however, it was closed already. So I decided to head home and meet up with my friend from Ecuador.
We walked around the Simon Bolivar park and then went to the Centro Comercial Centenario to have a coffee and watch a movie. After the movie we walked to the Juananbu area to look for a place to eat. Found this interesting area called Container Park which consisted of a bunch of small food stands inside shipping containers with seating in the middle for people to eat.
In the mood for a burrito, we tried this place called La Santa Taqueria. The food took a little longer than I was expecting, but was delicious nonetheless. We both got chicket burritos, a Postobon manzana soda and split a cheese quesedilla. I polished the meal off with a limonada de coco from one of the other food stands.
Because of my early flight the next day, I decided to call it an early night and Ubered back to my apartment.
I really enjoyed my time in Cali. There was certainly more that I could have done, but overall I think I got to see a nice part of the city and hit most if not all of the big things. I am not sure what I was thinking when I booked a flight at 7:40 am.
Cali is known as the Salsa Capital of the world. Unfortunately, I did not make it to any Salsa clubs or take any Salsa classes as is customary for many tourists visiting the city. I doubt I would have enjoyed doing it very much, but who knows. I didn't go out at all to any local bars or clubs. I heard that there was a sister club to a club I visited in Medellin called Industry. It was a bit out of the city and I had no one to go with.
I had wanted to do a coffee tour while in the region due to their proximity to coffee growing areas, but time did not permit it. One of these days, I'll go on a coffee tour here in Colombia. In the meantime, I'll just enjoy drinking the coffee.
There was a football (soccer) match Saturday night that had I have known about, would have been fun to go to, This goes back to my lack of planning. I try not to be so rigid in what I do and let things happen as they may. While this has served me well in the past, it does sometimes lead to unfortunate oversights.
Estimated Trip Costs in USD:
Airline Tickets: $90 on LATAM
Accommodations: $90 on Airbnb
Transportation: $60 on Uber and driver from airport to apartment.. couldn't walk around here
Food: $60... higher than it could have been but I treated myself and bought friend dinner
Entrances to Museums and Park: $15
Miscellaneous: $20 (movie ticket and other things)
Total: $335 for 3 days or about $112 per day