A little taste of heaven, salsa and rhythm.
Discover Cali, a warm and balmy city that will dazzle you with its celebratory spirit, its colorful streets, world class salsa.
Cali is a warm and revitalizing place. Palm trees dot its colorful streets and its people are always in the mood to party. Cali is known for its delicious, Pacific coast-inspired food and its world-beating salsa moves. It’s easy to see why the joyous capital of the Valle de Cauca is the ideal place to feel the rhythm of Colombia.
The city is the global capital of salsa. This tropical rhythm sounds in all its bars, nightclubs, fairs and parties all year round and every self-respecting caleño has known how to dance salsa since childhood. The residents of this city in the valley never say no to a chance to dance and celebrate. That’s why their annual Cali Fair is one of the most well-known and popular Colombian festivals and celebrations across the world.
Don’t worry if you’ve never danced before. Cali is the ideal place to learn to dance salsa. Besides having excellent dance schools, the city’s vibrant nightlife offers the best place to learn, practice and perfect your moves. You’ll get caught up in the joy and self-confidence of the people of Cali. They put their best foot forward, day after day.
Colombia: Feel the Rhythm Blog
by Shane Knuth
This trip was hosted by Cali Colombia and took place from August 12-19. The theme was “Colombia, Feel the Rhythm” and the trip centered around music. We experienced surprising activities that include rhythms with roots in the Pacific of Colombia as well as salsa, the emblematic musical genre of Cali. It was an amazing journey, and I want to thank the folks at ProColombia and the Secretary of Tourism for having me!
I couldn’t put down the camera, there was so much to see that I wanted to share! SO many more fantastic images and videos on our Instagram– go check out our account, and follow us for all of our amazing journies and destinations!
08/11 – Flights There
I was extremely nervous and excited as this is my first time really leaving the country (I went to Canada once, but growing up in Michigan, that barely counts as travel, lol). First time in a foreign country, and I don’t speak Spanish. Comforted that I was able to find refuge in my first layover in Panama City at a Dunkin Donuts.
Flights: SF -> Panama City -> Bogotá -> Popayán
08/12 – Arrive in Popayán – First Dinner
I’ve heard of culture shock before, but never truly felt it until arriving in Popayán. The first thing I experienced after leaving the airport was how intense and precise the driving is in Colombia. The traffic is all compact hatchbacks and motorcycles with buses and mass-transport vehicles peppered in. They move so quickly and lanes are more of a suggestion- a truly terrifying and mesmerizing orchestration of humans and machines.
I arrived at the St. Martin hotel in Popayán. It isn’t a huge city, but our hotel was located in an intense area alive with hustle and bustle. The city has both a modern and a very traditional historical section.
Initially, I was incredibly anxious and overwhelmed—not speaking the language—but after a shower and a nap I felt better. I met the group at dinner and was instantly at ease. There were 4 of us in the main group, and everyone spoke English. Another person didn’t speak Spanish so I wasn’t completely alone. We had a great dinner, got to know each other, and tried some of the local food and drink. We were introduced to the fruit that would permeate the entire rest of the trip–Lulo. We had Lulada (refreshing fruit juice drink made from the lulo) and empanadas which are staples of the region.
FAM Group (from left, Hortensia Jimeno – Spain/Bogota Colombia; Shane Knuth – Sacramento CA; Octavio Luna – Mexico City, MX; Sharon Chan– New York, NY;)
08/13 – Popayan Walking Tour
We explored the historical side of town today. Popayán is known as the ‘White City’ because all the buildings in this part of town are white. There are 5 Unesco World Heritage sites in Popayán.
- City Square – Park in the historical/colonial section with big pink trees, famous in the area.
- The Clock Tower
- Bishop’s Palace
- Catedral Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Asunción– Cathedral with a large dome. Rebuilt after a huge earthquake in 1983. One of 5 churches in Popayán
- A couple of historical family homes
- The building/museum where floats are stored and repaired for the important Holy Week parade
- The old bridge that was the only way into the city back in the day – met with local musical group La Jagua, who put on a traditional Pacific music display for us. La Jagua was the winner of Patronio Alvarez the previous year, and are a very talented group comprised of people from many different regions of Colombia. They play a lot of traditional rhythms as well as their own modern fusions. Petronio Alvarez is the largest Pacific Music festival, and we attended it at the end of the trip.
- The University – visited the local university and explored the grounds.
- Stopped for fruits from a street vendor and tasted the 2 fruits we would see everywhere for the rest of the trip – Chontaduro and Lulo.
08/13 – Popayán Lunch
Had a quick break from the heat, stopping for a refreshing fruit and shaved ice drink, then to a local restaurant for lunch.
08/13 – La Jagua Morning
Met up with La Jagua members again. They put on a presentation explaining the importance of music and different rhythms around Colombia. We were guided through a kind of meditation/centering exercise to put our bodies and minds in tune and present to fully experience the music. We then did some fun rhythmic group exercises to get us in a musical mood and working together. After that we picked up some instruments and were shown how to play a standard rhythm. Using the quick tutorial we were able to play a few songs together with all of the group and La Jagua.
08/13 – Instrument Workshop
Three generations run this workshop—a man, his son and grandson. They showed us how they make instruments and spoke about the importance of music, and how teaching kids music gives them a stronger purpose and keeps them on the right path in life. The ‘Maestro’ teaches a lot of kids how to play.
08/13 – Night Parade
After the workshop we were surprised with a demonstration by the Maestro’s students with a musical parade around the city center, starting at a nearby church, playing music though the streets. The parade was a demonstration of the kind they do a lot, spontaneously, around Christmas time. They are typically accompanied by a person in a devil mask trying to inspire the crowd to dance and donate money. The devils in their mythology are not necessarily evil, but more playful and influential. I volunteered to don el diablo’s mask and dance through the streets leading the parade around the square, trying to get onlookers to join the parade and dance and sing with us (awesome video of me making fool of myself on our Instagram).
08/13 – La Jagua Evening
After the parade, we went back to see a musical performance by the fully assembled La Jagua. They put on a great show.
08/14 – Popayán to Cali
Drove from Popayán to Cali, about 3 hours. 2 hours on the road to the edge of Cali, another hour just getting through the busy city to the hotel.
Arrived at the Dann Carlton in Cali. Great hotel.
08_14 – 01 Ringlette Restaurant –
Great local restaurant. Chef/owner lead us on a journey through Cali history in food, introducing lots of local dishes and telling us where they came from. Ringlette is an awesome place!
Lulo and Lulada
08/14 – Cali Cable Car Mural Tour
Cable cars are part of Cali’s public transit system. They depart from a main terminal and go through the town and up into the mountains, with 4 stops at cable car stations. Each station displays art and murals around a theme. The main station depicts Cali history and culture, and the other stops show Birds, Music, and Mythology/Lore (awesome video on our Instagram).
08/14 – 5 Sento Coffee Tasting – Colonial District – San Antonio
Went to a room in a restaurant where a coffee sommelier has a shop. He shared the history of coffee with us, and how complex and varied coffee can be. We were then given a sheet with 30 empty lines and tiny numbered bottles. Each little bottle contained a distilled version of a certain scent. We were to guess each smell, write down our answers and compare them, before learning the actual scents. Then we did similar tasting tests to determine other characteristics like salty/sweet/bitter/sour/umami, and textures like thick/medium/creamy. After that we finally tasted some coffee, exploring how different kinds of beans, roasts, and manufacturing processes change the flavor of coffee. It was about 3 hours in total.
08/14 – Torre De Calle Plaza Hotel Dinner
Had dinner at the top of Torre De Calle, the tallest building in the city, with a full 360° view, including tres cruxes (three big crosses at the top of a mountain that defines one edge of Cali).
08/15 – Salsa Photography Museum
Cali is the ‘Salsa capitol of the world,’ boasting more than 130 salsa schools. We went to a salsa history photography museum that presented thousands of images of salsa performers covering some 50 years of salsa history and featuring salsa musicians from all different countries—the photographs all taken by the museum’s owner who is a very prolific photographer!
08/15 – Open-air Market
Big market of fresh fruit, veggies, meats, flowers, all sorts of stuff, mostly food and perishables—like a huge farmer’s market.
08/15 – Handcrafts Store
Visited a large handcrafted goods store near the market.
08_15 – El Bochinche Restaurant
Ate at a local favorite, Bochinche, where people go after a long night of dancing and drinking, at like 2am. Huge, can’t-eat-alone sized portions. Had chicken foot for the first time!
08/15 – Chelado Oasis
Stopped for a local delicacy, Chelado—a fruit and shaved-ice drink with condensed milk. Yummy! Everything here involves SO MUCH FRUIT. All meals are served with fruit juice or a fruity dessert and all the food is sweet and fruity or fried and bready, or both.
08/15 – Mall Music Presentation
Stopped at a large mall to watch a group make music and dance in a big indoor courtyard.
08/15 – Jairo Varela Museum
Local music legend Jairo Varela has a museum in the heart of Cali. There is a huge sculpture there honoring him and his musical group, Grupo Noche. Learned a lot about Jairo and his ties to the music scene and promoting Cali. There is an incredibly popular song called Cali Pachanguero that is like the local anthem. Jairo also worked with Colombia to promote awareness and growth of the country in his career.
08/15 – Handcrafts Market
Went to a cool outdoor handcraft market with kiosks filled with people making and selling their goods.
08/15 – San Antonio Church
Visited San Antonio Church. Some nuns who live there have never ventured to the outside world, and only a couple are designated representatives who communicate with people outside the convent. We were lucky to witness a nun ringing the bells of the church (awesome video on our Instagram).
08/15 – Salsa School I
Visited a salsa school. We watched a presentation and participated in a class to learn the basics. This is the first time I’ve ever taken a dance class. I guess if you want to learn salsa, the world capital is the best place to learn.
08/15 – Beer Tasting – Colonial District – San Antonio
Visited a small brewery and bar. Tasted a few of the craft beers they brew and a handful from the area. Cali has a budding craft beer scene.
08/15 – Trilogia Restaurant – Colonial District – San Antonio
Ate dinner at a popular restaurant- Trilogia. The chef cooked for Good Morning America before starting a restaurant.
08/15 – Cafe Macondo
Very cool coffee shop in the colonial district. Guy who runs it gave us another presentation on coffee and its history. Showed us a few brewing methods. Tasted a coffee/Lulo/vodka cocktail. The coffee shop was movie themed, and had a very cool small theater built in.
08/15 – Zaperoco Salsa Bar
Salsa bar and live music. Put the salsa lesson to the test. Cali didn’t save me- I’m still terrible at dancing (aguardiente helped though, cheers!).
08/16 – Demadera Marimba Workshop
Fantastic instrument workshop. Learned about the history of the Marimba (wooden percussion instrument, like a xylophone). Learned about how it’s made, classical verses modern, and the basics of how to play. Ran through a couple basics and how to play together. Tasted local viche liquor.
08/16 – 02 Lunch Sharon B Day
Had a fun lunch at a Pacific-themed restaurant. It was Sharon’s birthday and the hosts surprised her with a little dessert and we all sang happy birthday.
08/16 – Patronio Alvarez I
Patronio Alvarez is a huge, multi-day Pacific Music Festival celebrated in Cali. We attended during the day, when it’s more subdued and checked out the many fantastic vendor booths selling food, arts, crafts and an incredible amount of viche. Many booths had people out in front passing out shots of viche as samples. Everyone was having a blast. Music and dancing around every turn. An entire arena was devoted to younger kids.
08/16 – enSalsate
Went to an incredibly epic dance show called enSalsate with a huge stage and live bands in the wings. The show was divided into 3 sections with an intermission in between. It featured classic salsa/rumba/South American hits, then fun 50s-now USA music stuff (like Greece and Total Eclipse of the Heart), and ending with traditional Salsa and Pacific music.
08/17 – Business Roundtable
We sat down with local entrepreneurs and DMCs and discussed Colombia tourism and working together. We broke off into individual rooms, then each DMC/Tour operator had time to sit down with us and talk business.
08/17 – Cali Walking Tour
Sightseeing around Cali.
- Lots of really good street art
- A couple churches
- Secretary of Tourism office
- La Ermita Church – gothic architecture
- La Merced Church – Baby Jesus statue holding a chontaduro
- Ant sculpture – about the strength of workers
- Visited a place that used to be a popular hangout for writers. They could have their documents or poems typed, and lots of writers would bring typewriters and make a living. There are only 2 of them left. Statues to famous writers from the area reside here.
- City square
08/17 – Valle Pacifico Restaurant
Tasty restaurant, owned by a woman entrepreneur who created the business plan for the restaurant as a college project and followed through to make it a reality. All the food is Pacific/African food. We had shark empanadas!
08/17 – Salsa School II
Visited another salsa school. More dancing instruction. Learned a few new moves, and some scarf dancing techniques.
08/17 – Ice Cream Guy
Guy near the salsa school selling handmade ice cream. Spinning a copper bowl in a bucket of ice and salt, he’d mix in cream and spin until it was ice cream. Very cool to watch (awesome slo-mo video on our Instagram).
08/17 – Christo Del Rey
Drove to the outskirts of the city to visit the giant Jesus statue on the top of a mountain. It’s just a bit shorter than the statue of Christ in Brazil. The winding backroads to get up there were cool. We passed many pizza places on the road up. I guess it’s tradition to get pizza and see the Jesus—like a local weekend hangout.
08/17 – Cat Sculpture Park – El Gato del Río statue in Parque El Gato De Tejada or the “Cat Park”
Iconic Cali cat sculpture by Colombian sculptor Hernando Tejada. He passed away soon after completion. To honor him, they gave a handful of artists each a blank cat statue to make their own piece of art out of it. The park is a long, thin path next to the Cali river, displaying all the cats.
08/17 – Petronio Alvarez II
We went back to Petronio Alvarez for the big music show this evening. The crowd was huge and energy was infectious. Everyone was singing and dancing and drinking and having a great time. The whole crowd was dancing and waving handkerchiefs in the air while the bands played on the main stage, putting on a great show, all vying for the top spot.
08/18 -Flights Home
Sad to say goodbye! See you soon, Colombia!
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