Hometowns: Cali, Colombia

By December 22, 2017 No Comments

For the launch of The Sundial Press’ “Hometowns” series, the Travel Section catches up with Lina Tafur to hear what she has to share about her hometown Cali. This Colombiana is a second year student in the Euro-American programme and like her city, is warm and vibrant. Keep reading to find out what this local has to say about the “city of Salsa.”  Sara Sanabria interviewed Tafur for this article. 

Tafur on campus. Photo: Sara Sanabria//The Sundial Press

Where is Cali?

Cali is in western Colombia, near the pacific coast. It is officially called ‘Santiago de Cali’ but it is mainly known as just ‘Cali’ and it is the capital of the ‘Valle del Cauca’ district.


What are your favorite things to do in Cali?

One of the best things the city has to offer is its party culture. It is seen as the salsa capital of the world. Our salsa dancing teams have been winning international competitions for more than 10 years straight. Of course bachata and merengue are in the mix too. Aside from dancing, it is a great place for foodies, because it is cheap and really good. Street food in particular is special and quite different from the European perception of street food. It is always made with great care and vendors specialize in the food they make. Interestingly enough, certain streets specialize in the street food they sell, for example, there is a whole street that sells corn on the cob.


What restaurants cannot be missed?

I can’t really think of specific restaurants but I would say there are certain ‘restaurant zones’ in the city that have  a lot restaurants that cannot be missed. One area is called El Peñón,  it has great restaurants like Tortelli, an Italian restaurant, or Salerno which has a more mixed menu. You also have the another zone called San Antonio, it’s the old part of the city and has nice colonial architecture. It has  many restaurants in these old colonial houses, like Azul or  La Cocina.  Finally, towards the west, in the mountains, there is a zone where you will find all types of traditional Colombian dishes. The best bakery is La Fina, it was founded in the 1900’s. There you will find pandebono, rosquillas, ponche de huevo and more!


Photo: Lina Tafur

If I want to go out for a drink, where is a good area for nightlife?

Again you have zones, like Granada, which is the most prominent bar zone. It is a great place for bar-hopping. As well, there is El Peñón again. That is where my favorite club, called Sagsa, is located. There is also great clubbing just outside the city, about a five minute drive. The thing to keep in mind is that the club you go to depends on the music you want to listen to you. Sagsa, for example, has good salsa. Another thing to know is that some bars are 21 and over. Drinking is legal after 18 but some bars and clubs want an older crowd.


What are some sites that must be seen?

Definitely the Three Crosses. It is up a mountain, so expect a hard hike. You probably should not wear nice clothes, rather you should be dressed for the challenge. Once at the top you have a great view of the city. Another great site is the statue of Belalcazar. The city is in a valley but people live in the surrounding mountains. The statue itself is also in the mountains, so when you sit there you get  the full view of the city. It is most popular at night. I would also recommending checking out the Old Town to learn about the colonial era. Finally, in  December there is a festival, la feria de Cali, where you have various salsa celebrations, a lot of parties. There is also bull-fighting during the festival in which  toreros from all over the world compete.


Where should tourists stay away from?

Not a specific place, but you should avoid the eastern part, Agua Blanca, where most of the displaced people are. It is not very safe.


Thanks to pop-culture portrayals of drug-trafficking and “narcos” cali now has a reputation. What are your thoughts on that?

It is not false but it is the past. What I don’t like about it is that it perpetuates a stereotype. With the peace treaty, we are in a time of change but these portrayals hold us back. For example, Medellin is one of the most developed cities in the Latin America but people associate it with Pablo Escobar. That is not our current reality and things are a lot more safe. If you go as a tourist you will definitely see the best face that Cali can give you.


Photo: Linda Tafur

What do you miss most about it?

The people, Colombia itself. People are so kind and warm and you can make friends whenever and wherever. I also miss the food. We have a bread called “pan de bono” and “empanadas” that you just can’t find here. And, of course, the partying. There is nothing quite like a colombian party.


Sara Sanabria is a second year student at Sciences Po Campus of Reims and co-editor of the Travel section.


An excerpt of this article appeared in the November print edition of The Sundial Press under the title “Hometowns Cali and Sydney” on Page 7.

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