Bordered by on the west by the western mountain range of the Andes, the Cauca River to the east and plains on the north and south, Santiago de Cali (a.k.a. Cali) lies in a valley close to the Pacific Coast of Colombia. Populated by more than 2 million people, this highland region is an industrial and business center, cultural destination and an adventure lover's haven. Outdoor lovers can wander the nearby hills, windsurf and kitesurf on local lakes, mountain bike or explore the beaches on the numerous rivers. This semi-tropical, permanently verdant city doesn't see many seasonal changes, but December through March and July through August are drier than the rest of the year. Adventurers of all sorts will find plenty to do in this lovely spot.
Parque Nacional Farallones de Cali
Just under 400,000 acres, Colombia's protected Farallones de Calle National Park lies just 20 minutes from Cali's city limits. The park's altitudes, precipitation and temperatures vary widely because of the wide range of ecosystems that exist within its borders. There are 5,000-foot valleys and 13,000-foot mountains, clouds and rain forests, lowland jungles, and plenty of water sources. This means the flora and fauna is diverse. Not only is it an excellent place to watch the more than 700 species of birds, but it also offers adventurers an excellent opportunity to hike and see around 200 species of mammals and reptiles. Adventurers can also climb mountains and paraglide. Ecotourism has become a popular mode of exploration supported by the local and national government.
Travelers who want to lay low in the city for a while, but still want to get plenty of exercise should prepare for some evenings out with some of the world's best Latin dancers. Cali is well known as one of the premier salsa spots in the country. A plethora of clubs offer live salsa music, and dance lessons are available at various studios. And by timing it just right, dance lovers can hit the Summer Salsa Festival in early July, which showcases the best salsa groups and dancers in the world. Be sure to visit Juanchito, the zone of Cali with the most salsa clubs in the country.
Lago Calima (Lake Calima)
Just two hours from Cali, this man-made lake offers perfect opportunities for the water-sports lover, as well as for hikers, anglers and people who just love to picnic. Though wealthy Colombians are buying much of the lakeside property, plenty of peaceful places remain for exploration and the Hosteleria Los Veleros offers reasonably priced rooms with an excellent view on the Lake. The wind blows on this lake 365 days per year, making Lago Calima one of South America's best spots for kitesurfing and windsurfing.