One thing that you’ll know by now about the city of Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city is that it’s the Salsa Capital of the world! This is thanks to the vibrant music playing all around the different parts of the city and the lively street parties and dances. The city has a huge collection of salsa clubs you can visit to immerse yourself in Cali’s buzzing nightlife of live music and open dance floors. The exciting dance city can help be incredible fun, and amazingly energizing, but it may also become overwhelming if you’re not used to it on a daily basis. So if you’re looking for a change from the city, before you come back for more then look no further! Come on over and see the best day trips from Cali.
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Outside of Cali, the capital city of the Villa del Cauca region, it is really easy to experience the natural beauty of Colombia with hikes through jungles, horseback riding, and sightseeing of various historical sites. With Colombia being known as one of the happiest countries in the world because of the locals’ welcoming spirit, you can be sure of having a blast getting to know some of the lesser-known parts of the country and the culture of Colombia!
The Best 11 Day Trips from Cali, Colombia
Regardless of your traveling style, there’s a heap of things to do on a day out from Cali. We love the different experiences that you can have here – while still returning to Cali at night!
Guadalajara de Buga is one of the oldest cities in Colombia, founded in the 16th century. One of its most prominent attractions is the Basilica de Señor de Los Milagros or the Basilica of the Lord of the Miracles; the Basilica houses the iconic iron statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and is a famed pilgrimage site that brings 3 million pilgrims annually to the city. Buga is also considered the origin of the spiritual route of the Americas and is a destination of faith. You can read more about Buga here.
You can explore the rich history of Buga through its magnificent 17th and 18th-century architecture. It’s also worth checking out other important landmarks housed by the city such as the old railway that was declared a Good of Cultural Interest, and the Academia de Historia Leonardo Tascón which displays paintings of Bugueño heroes, a letter by the Liberator Simón Bolívar, along with other historical and cultural documents and articles.
Aside from being a famous religious pilgrimage site, Buga also has several resorts where you can relax such as the Balneario Casa Lago Manantial which has eco-cabins. Visit also the Laguna de Sonso Nature Reserve, also called the Laguna del Chircal, the largest wetland in Cauca and considered one of the most important locations for birdwatching with 162 species of birds housed within the wetland.
Buga is located approximately 74 km northeast of Cali and can be reached within about an hour via buses that leave from the Cali transport terminal. (Alternatively, you can take door-to-door transport and see more of Buga, there are details here.)
Through Buga, you can also check out the town of Ginebra which is very famous for its sancocho de gallina, a type of chicken soup; other surrounding places near Buga which sport either natural or artificial lakes also offer activities like recreational fishing where you can have the chance to catch fishes like tambaqui, brycon, and tilapia.
While the weather in the city can be consistently warm during the day, bring an extra jacket just in case because at night the temperature can drop to 50 °F (10°C).
Check out this day tour to Buga from Cali which will pick you up from your hotel at Cali and take you around the Minor Basilica of the Lord of Miracles; this tour is for you if you want to take a more in-depth look into the sacred art of the Basilica, and the history of the image of the Señor de Los Milagros de Buga which is 4.37 feet high. Book your place and tickets here.
Just above Cali, within the hills, there’s a scale map of Colombia complete with hanging gardens, ponds, and animal statues. Directly adjacent to this map is the Andoke Butterfly Reserve, which is part of the Andoke Foundation. It was set up by a family that designed an eco-centric educational program for both kids and adults for the promotion and conservation of Colombia’s biodiversity. The Andoke Butterfly Reserve houses 15 species of native butterflies and pieces of jewelry made from the remains of butterflies. In the reserve, kids can learn about the lifecycles of butterflies, and observe the reserve’s ant colonies and beehives. Apart from butterflies, ants, and beehives, the reserve also houses frogs and 14 species of hummingbirds.
After visiting the reserve, you can head to Los Cristales Hills. Atop the hill sits Cristo Rey or the statue of Christ. The statue is the largest in Colombia, at 21 meters high and 464 tons, and it is the 10th tallest Christ statue in the world! The statue was built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the War of a Thousand Days, the civil war between the Liberals and Conservatives. The trek up the hill will take approximately an hour but you’ll be rewarded with a magnificent view of the city of Cali! At the top, you’ll find several stalls selling juices, snacks, and ice cream to refresh you after the trek.
From Cali, you can reach the reserve via car within 30 minutes, or you can minimize your travel time and maximize your experience while visiting Andoke Butterfly Reserve and the Cristo Rey with this trip that also takes you to the Cauca Valley where you can see Colombian flora and faunas, and the birds that are usual to Cauca Valley. Check the details and reserve a place here
The Rio Pance River is one of the few remaining major rivers near the city that is not polluted and that’s why it is a perfect attraction for swimming to cool off during the hottest seasons and for weekend barbeques. The river stretches 25 km and flows into the river Jamundi-turn and has now become one of the main destinations of Cali locals and tourists alike. Apart from its rather chilly river, Rio Pance is also known for its hojaldras, a pastry snack typical in Colombia, as well as the regular local snacks such as bunuelos and arepas. Rio Pance is also known for its recreational parks which offer various activities such as camping, barbecuing, and hiking, as well as the different restaurants and food stalls you’ll find here. Like wildlife? You’ll also have the chance to spot different species of birds that visit the area. You can head there on a small group tour
For a more relaxing experience you can opt to visit the river during the weekdays, but if you want a more fun-filled and exciting visit, go during the weekends when both locals and tourists are there to loosen up!
Located at the west of the city of Cali, the Farallones de Cali Natural National Park houses páramos, waterfalls, trails you can hike, scenic mountains, and rivers. The park contains majestic 20-million-year-old rock formations formed by the folding of the South America and Nazca tectonic plates. Farallones de Cali is also the largest protected area in Valle de Cauca and conserves over 540 species of birds, over 30 rivers originate from the park, and is considered one of the most abundant flora and fauna locations in Colombia. Want to read more about the Farallones?
You can also go birdwatching and see various species that make the park their homes, such as the long-wattled umbrella bird, the Multicolored Tanger, and Yellow-green Tanger, the Cauca guan, the Andean Cock-of-the-rock, the Banded ground cuckoo, and the Baudó guan. The park has wildlife tours where you can see small bats, pumas, panthers, ocelots, foxes, and spectacled bears, but remember to be careful with taking photos with a flash as it is prohibited by the park.
When visiting the park, it is best to go during the dry seasons, between January and March, or between July and August. You can reach the park from Cali by bus which takes about an hour. This day trip to Farallones de Cali from Cali makes it easy to visit and explore.
Take an exciting ride on a homemade trolley (Brujitas) driven by a motorcycle to reach the quaint riverside community of San Cipriano. Considered by the United Nations as having one of the purest and cleanest crystalline rivers in the world, it’s worth it just for being able to take a dip to cool off and sunbathe by the river’s rocky shore. You can also hike through the Regugio del Amor ecological trail just outside the town and experience the crystal-clear blue natural pools and cascading waters of the river. If you have yet to get enough birdwatching in the area, this mountain town also allows you to check out more species of birds while you breeze through the jungle riding the brujitas, or hiking the trail. There’s more about taking a river safari here.
To travel from Cali to San Cipriano, go to the Cali Terminal de Transporte and hop on a bus that will take you to Buenaventura (about two hours). Make sure to say that you’re going to San Cipriano so they know to stop and drop you off along the way; you will be dropped off on the side of a highway where you will see the ticket booth for the brujitas. The brujitas will then take you to San Cipriano. As an alternative this guided day tour to San Cipriano from Cali will take you swimming, snorkeling, tubing, and cliff jumping in the surrounding rivers, so you can experience the diverse ecosystem of the small town!
The Bosque el Descanso is just about an hour away from Cali. Here there’s a crystalline river that serves as a base for a majestic waterfall, rock slides, natural Jacuzzis, and ecological trails. , A trip to the Bosque el Descanso is a great way to explore the natural landscape around Cali. And the pretty Jordan River here provides a lovely peaceful atmosphere in which to unwind and de-stress. Want to see more? Here you go. This tour will take you on an exciting adventure at Jordan River and also to see the spectacular view of the mountains of Pico de Loro!
The Farallones de Cali Natural National park offers plenty of different activities you can enjoy. You can take a hike on four different trails, the Pico de Loro trail which takes three hours, the Burbujas trail, the Peñas Blancas trail, and the Anchicayá Canyon. The park can also offer a scenic sanctuary with several waterfalls, puddles, and natural pools. The Park has well-managed trails and a diverse ecosystem, so get your hiking shoes on and check out this tour that will guide you through the quaint village of La Voragine and head up to see the waterfalls and natural pools of the park!
If you’re reading this on public WiFi and plan to book a trip, a walking tour, or accommodation, then check out my guide to the best VPNs for Colombia and why (and how you should protect your personal login details).
The El Paraiso Hacienda is world-renowned for being the stage for the Latin American romance literature, Maria, written by Jorge Isaacs. Built between 1816 and 1828 by Victor Cabal, the house museum here was declared a National Monument of Colombia. The house museum is a prime example of the traditional architecture of large houses in the Valle del Cauca region with its high ceiling. From the hacienda, you can see a magnificent view of the remaining sugar cane plantations and the massive saman trees. El Paraiso Hacienda has also perfectly preserved the floor plan described in Isaacs’ novel; you can visit Efrain’s room and Maria’s room that oversees the glorious garden of the estate, along with the other rooms described in the novel, and experience an immersive exploration of the romantic love between the characters with the several displayed mementos taken from the novel such as Maria’s photograph, the clock that indicates the time of Maria’s death, and the fresh rose within the vase placed in Efrain’s room. There’s heaps more information on El Paraiso here.
The hacienda is also surrounded by the usual various souvenir shops, a cafeteria, and the Hostal Piedemonte, a hostel with accommodation, natural pools, a restaurant, and an events space.
After exploring the house museum, head over to the sugar cane plantation. You’ll find everything you need to know about the history of sugar cane, how they are grown, and processed, and the crucial role they play in the Cauca region. After walking through the plantation, you should of course treat yourself to the famous finished product, a guarapo or sugar cane juice, and a typical valluno lunch!
You can reach El Paraiso Hacienda from Cali by bus and then walk to the estate and this only takes around an hour. Alternatively, try this day trip to El Paraiso Hacienda from Cali that takes you through the house museum and goes in-depth with the history and process of sugar cane!
If you want your trips to be more culturally sensitive and supportive to the local community then, visiting Uramba Bahia Malaga National Natural Park is an ideal place to go. Uramba Bahia Malaga allows you to support community-based tourism activities, help the Afro-descendant communities that rely on ecotourism for territorial development, and is recognized worldwide as a biodiversity hotspot. The park is located at Biogeographic Choco in the Pacific Region which is known as one of the most biodiverse locations on the planet.
The waters of Bahia Malaga are part of the migratory route of humpback whales and are visited by approximately 500 humpback whales from Antarctica annually between July to October, so be sure to schedule your visit around that time! Aside from whale-watching, you can also enjoy hiking, canoeing, and kayaking activities through the park’s mangroves. You can visit the waterfall of La Sierpe and Tres Marias at La Plata, Playa Chucheros, Juan de Dios, the beaches of La Barra, Juanchaco, and the cliffs and natural pools of Ladrilleros. The park also houses 107 species of birds so you can go birdwatching while exploring.
To get to Uramba Bahia Malaga, from Cali, you can travel to Buenaventura by land then a speedboat will take you to an hour ride to Juanchaco. Alternatively, this day trip to Uramba Bahia Malaga will take you whale-watching!
Witness Pico Loro’s (Parrot Peak) iconic beak-like peak with a day trip from Cali. The peak is located within Farallones de Cali Natural National Park which only takes an hour by bus from Cali. Here, you’ll trek up to the peak, surrounded by the thick jungle that houses hundreds of species of birds. Listen to the sound of waterfalls as you hike through the jungle and then at the top of the peak you’ll be rewarded with a glorious view of the valley and the entirety of Farallones de Cali Natural National Park. Try and schedule your visit during the weekdays as it is usually busier at the weekends!
This tour provides a guide to take you trekking to the top of Parrot’s Beak. You’ll also get insights on the history, culture, and the diverse ecology of the landscapes of Farrallones. After the trek, you can enjoy a simple lunch and a swim in the creeks or at the Pance River, and your transport back to Cali. Make sure your travel insurance covers you for this hike – read our guide here.
Get away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city and have a relaxing adventure in the countryside. and see the scenic view of the Cauca Valley from horseback. You’ll see the glorious mountains ranges of the Andes and tour the vast sugar cane plantations of the region. You can also spot the various birds and different species of plants and trees housed in the surrounding landscape of Cauca. This tour picks you up from Cali and has well-treated animals and good reviews – book a horseback ride in the Cauca Valley here.
11. Go windsurfing with a day trip to Lago Calima from Cali
Considered the largest artificial lake in Colombia, Lago Calima is known for its perfect cool weather and steady winds ideal for kite surfers and windsurfers. Lago Calima also offers other water sports such as kiteboarding. Aside from being a top tourist destination, the reservoir was built in 1966 to generate hydro-electrical power for the region!
Lago Calima isn’t too far from Cali, so you’ll be able to get there by bus to Buga and then take a taxi to Lago Calima which will take you approximately two hours.
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Final Words on the Best 11 Day Trips from Cali, Colombia
The buzzing and vibrant city life of the Salsa capital is definitely one to experience! and the carefree atmosphere and incessant music will keep your feet tapping constantly. But sometimes it’s good to escape the city and our recommendations for day trips do just that! There’s a great balance of fun adventures and activities, as well as great hikes and history lessons. These day trips will immerse you in the natural beauty of the Valle del Cauca region with hikes through birds-filled jungles, dips in crystal clear waters, tastes of some great local delicacies, viewing colorful flora, and fauna, and visits to world-renowned museums. And of course, you get to head back to the somewhat addictive atmosphere of Cali’s lively nightlife!
With thanks to the author of this article, Alyssa Manuel
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