Santiago de Cali has been worldwide recognized as the capital of Salsa Music for many years. In this tropical metropolis the joy, musical talent, civility and the warmth of its habitants have become motivators for development social and international recognition. For four decades, Santiago de Cali Colombia has created one of the most important cultural event on the Pacific Coast.
Its traditional fair is the perfect time to experience the cultural, artistic and musical diversity of Cali, and also, to catch a good trace about Colombia. This fair has the whole package. Great dancing shows, music concerts and parades. Most of them held in traditional touristic places which you could also visit while attending to events.
The Cali’s Fair
The fair is a massive year-end celebration. It is held every year from December 25th to December 30th, a holiday celebrated since 1957. You will find many activities, but personally I recommend six that I consider the main charms of it:
- If you ask me, the No. 1 and one of most incredible events is the salsa show organized by DELIRIO . This is an exceptional and original show based on the Cali popular culture for all to enjoy. It has become a symbol usually called “Made in Cali for the World”. Its production is based on Dance, Circus and Orchestra with the most outstanding world salseros (professional salsa dancers). This combination puts unique scenes with a rigorous collective work of art. I have been in their shows for 3 straight years and every time it amazes me. Definitely a MUST! Tip: You must buy your tickets in advanced. They run put of the pretty fast!
- The Superconcert is the biggest musical event. This traditional event takes place each December 27th and where the best national and international artists top ranked in dance music are presented. Marc Anthony, Gilberto Santarosa, Sergio Vargas, Vicente Fernandez, Don Omar, Grupo niche, among others, have participated in this event. If you like to dance and immerse yourself into Latinamerican music, here you will find the main genres music in a live show (salsa, merengue, vallenato, reggaeton…).
- The “Salsodromo” is a street carnival with music shows and salsa performances of dancers of all ages. This event is the opening ceremony of the Fair on December 25th. The public appreciates the world’s largest salsa parade from the stands located along the route. It lasts five hours and takes six months of preparation.
- Classic and Antique Car Parade: This parade usually takes place on December 29th. The owners of the most luxurious and classic cars of decades ago exhibit their cars on where the public can appreciate not only for the beauty of the cars but also the creativity of the participants who decorate them.
- Bullfights are certainly one of the most characteristic of the Cali’s Fair. This activity makes part of the culture and tradition brought by the Spanish during the colonial time. They are held in the Plaza de Cañaverlejo from December 26 until early January. If you have the time and the adequate mood, you should attend and have this experience. Although they are not well appreciated by the animal rights defenders (included me), we have to recognized that it is an intrinsic part of the history and culture.
- The food has its own stage. “Las Tascas” are other of the main attractions of the fair. It is a place where all the gastronomy and tastes are united. You can enjoy a good time tasting different flavors and typical meals and desserts of Colombia while hearing international and local music orchestras of tropical music.
Additional Advice!! (Food)
Next you will find some of Colombia’s most recognized traditional dishes I highly recommend you to give a try (for sure you will find a lot more, this is just to name a few and the most traditional ones):
- Bandeja Paisa: Principal dish of the city of Medellin although it is It is arguably the national dish most recognized by travelers. It is a mixture of food on one plate: grilled steak, fried pork rind, chorizo sausages, rice and red beans usually topped with a fried egg and a side of sliced avocado.
- Ajiaco: Chicken soup with two kinds of potatoes, corn, sour cream, guasca and served with rice and avocado. This combination gives the soup its distinct flavour.
- Arepa: Bread made from cornmeal eaten with butter or cheese. The principal side of Colombian dishes.
- Empanadas: It is a stuffed fried pastry filled with beef/chicken and potatoes, there are many kinds but this combination is the most common.
- Hogao: This typical Colombian side dish is widely used for meats, arepas, rice and other dishes. It is a sauce made with onions and tomatoes partially fried.
- Patacones: Fried green plantains sliced or squashed into pancakes. Commonly eaten with hogao.
Cali’s traditional dishes:
- Pandebono: A type of bread made from corn flour, cheese and eggs. It is a type or bread often eaten warm as soon as it come out of the oven. You will find them in every bakery, “La Casa del Pandebono” it’s one of the most well-known
- Sancocho: It is a common soup that includes chicken, plantains, yucca, cilantro, corn, and potatoes. Eaten with rice, avocado or banana.
- Manjar Blanco: Similar to caramel though definitely not the same. It is a mixture of milk and sugar which is stirred continuously and watched carefully as it cooks. Absolutely try it! Personally I recommend the “Cortado”. It’s a type of Manjar Blanco with crunchy lumps and some times cheese.
Colombian drinks you must try:
- Cholado: Icy fruit cocktail that mixes different types of fresh fruit probably not been tried or seen by most of the people outside the tropics. It is made with chopped bannana, papaya, apple, pineapple, lulo, passion fruit and strawberries, topped with shaved ice, condensed milk and fruit syrup… and Voila! Enjoy! You can find them near “Las canchas Panamericanas” where some of the music concerts are being held.
- Lulada: Fruit cocktail made with sweetened lulo, condensed milk + ice. This drink has a combination of acid and sweet flavors. Great for sunny days.
- Champús: This beverage is mainly made on sweetened corn with panela (a sweet brown product made from sugar cane), pineapple, lulo, orange tree leaves, cloves and cinnamon.
- Alcoholic beverages: Aguardiente (fermented sugar cane with anise), unquestionably Colombia’s national drink. Rum with soda and lime, a top choice in Colombia. Canelazo made with aguapanela (water with melted sugar cane) and aguardiente.
- Coffe: Off course we can not forget the Colombian coffee. It is one of the most recognized worldwide. You must definitely try the incredibly high quality coffee harvested and manufactured in Colombia.
Touristic places you should go
Most of the activities are held in some of the most touristic places of the city such as “Plaza de toros Cañaveralejo” (Bullfights), “Estadio pascual guerrero” (music concerts), “Canchas panamericanas” (music concerts and to try the Cholados), and the principal road “Autopista” (parades). But also there are other touristic attractions I would recommend you to visit:
- Pathway of “Rio Cali” and “El gato de Tejada” (the cat of the river)
- Hills and scenic overlook: Artisanal Park “Loma de la cruz” (traditional crafts and souvenirs), “Sebastian de Belalcazar” (statue of its founder), Statue of “Cristo Rey”
- Cali’s Zoo
- Churches: “San Antonio”, “La Ermita”
- Museums and Theatres: “Jorge Isaac’s Theatre”, “La Merced”, “Enrique Buenaventura’s Municipal Theater”, “La Tertulia Modern Museum of Art”, “Museo del Oro Calima”,
Weather: No seasons!! You don’t need to think about the weather or month. In spite that you are traveling on December you will always find a tropical climate, although some times with too much heat to take.
Airports: The main Airport is located near the city. Alfonso Bonilla Airport is situated in Palmira which is just 20-30min away.
Transportation: You will find regular cabs (yellow taxis – EasyTaxi app or Tappsi app) or Uber. Also, the city has a massive transportation system named MIO. You will need a card to ride it. It costs around 1 US and each ride is about 50 cents (depends on the exchange).