Cali is Colombia's third-most populous city and the place where Afro-Colombian culture collides in a mishmash of dance, street food and colourful festivals. The mountainous setting is ideal if you're keen to do some hiking, and vibrant streets are shedding their formerly industrial identity in favour of local breweries and student-led nightlife. The downtown and central neighbourhoods bustle with foreign travellers, making for a welcoming vibe for first-time visitors to Colombia.
Cali hostels range from refurbished villas with garden pools for cooling off during hot siestas to hilltop hostels with views across the valley. For a fun way to meet other travellers, ask if your hostel runs salsa classes, or book into the Cali hostel with its own salsa school. You can wind down with yoga classes, or visit a hostel social area to chill out with Netflix and a beer. Hostels in Cali often have female-only dorms and private rooms available too.
The Centro neighbourhood is Cali's downtown area, which is where you'll find museums, shopping and sights. To the north over the river is Granada. This up-and-coming district is full of independent galleries and breweries housed in abandoned industrial buildings. San Antonio is the historic heart of Cali, where you'll see colonial villas and quirky stone lanes. A short stroll south is student-heavy San Fernando. Nightlife, markets and a young crowd make this a popular base for visitors.
Most travellers won't come to the salsa capital of the world without stopping by Plazoleta Jairo Varela. Twice a week, a huge salsa class takes place in the square. It's worth planning your trip to Cali around the festival calendar too. September brings the World Salsa Festival, while music festivals take place in June, August and December. Any time of year is good for food tours. Walk off atollado rice and chorizo with a hike to Mirador Belalcázar, a viewpoint crowned by a statue of Cali's founder pointing to the green valley beyond.
If you're flying into Aeropuerto Alfonso Bonilla Aragón, you can take a taxi or a minibus to the Terminal de Transporte (Cali's main bus station). From here buses connect Cali with Bogotá, Medellín and Pasto. Cali is a big place, so you'll find taxis useful as well as affordable. Outside of peak times, the Masivo Integrado de Occidente transport system is a good option. Nearly all the city is served by the network, and the carriages are known for being clean and having air con.