Colombia’s Salsa Capital Draws Tourists to its Lush Valleys
Despite having a great deal to keep the visitor occupied within its city limits; real treasures lay round about Colombia’s third city.
Salsa draws visitors to Cali keen on savouring the essential Latin beat. However when your dancing shoes are all worn out you can find alternative activities in the surrounding areas all within easy reach of the city. Whether you are inspired by religious architecture and motifs, sprawling national parks, adventure sports, colonial fincas or bird watching – the Valle del Cauca department has a slice of everything.
Guadalajara de Buga
40 minutes by van from the main bus Terminal – Guadalajara de Buga, also known as Cuidad Senora, is recognised for its colonial architecture and religious importance dating back to 1555 making it one of the oldest Spanish settlements in the country. The Senor de Los Milagros basilica is a major place of pilgrimage for Colombian Catholics and on public holidays and Sundays the building is packed to the rafters with devotees attending mass and lining up to ask for miracles from the Senor de Los Milagros.
Very close to Buga, Sonso Lake is a major migratory point for a great variety of species of bird as well as being home to various mammals, fish and reptiles. In 1978 the area was declared a Natural Reserve and therefore the river flow from the Cauca into the region measuring 2450 hectares is regulated by the state and local subsistence fishermen and nature can survive alongside one another.
Its full name is Calima El Darien, but do not confuse this with the more famous Darien Gap in the north of the country bordering Panama. With a rich indigenous history that in the past included the Calima, Ilama and Yotoco cultures what is now found here in the area is a vast artificial lake that resulted from the construction of the Calima dam. Adventure sports enthusiasts can take their pick from the following options available, waterskiing, rafting, canoeing, kite surfing, jet skiing, windsurfing, parapenting and zip lining.
Parque Nacional Natural los Farallones de Cali
This National Park, created in 1968 and comprising of more than 200,000 hectares of land ranging from altitudes of 200 metres above sea level to 4000m, contains humid forests, tropical jungle, cloud forest and paramo. Within this enormous territory there are many species of flora and fauna including bats, pumas, jaguars, foxes and spectacled bears as well as five types of primates, anteaters, armadillos, deer and peccary. There are trails to hike and spaces set aside for campsites making this an excellent weekend destination.
Tren Turistico Café y Azucar
Similar in the Sabana Steam Train that runs from Bogota, this train from Cali offers more in the way of destinations and options. The train runs from the central station – located alongside the Bus Terminal in Cali – to Buga, La Tebaida, Cumbre and also offers a “rumbero” option. This is literally a party train that leaves at 8pm and returns to the city at 3am having done a large loop with carriages full of liquored revellers.
In an elegant and well maintained colonial finca is housed a museum dedicated to everything to do with Sugarcane, the only one in the world. Located a mere 42km from downtown Cali between the towns of Palmira and El Cerrito in the heart of the region’s sugarcane zone.
Other options include, Pance Eco Park, San Cipriano and various other fincas of interest.