The southwest of Colombia has a magical region where euphoria, nature and gastronomy come together to offer travelers an extraordinary experience. In this article, we invite you to visit 5 places in the Colombian Pacific that hide all the ‘tumbao’* of this region that offers flavor, warm climate and variety of rhythms to enjoy an unforgettable vacation.
1. Cali: The salsa capital of the world
This city was made for dancing and being one of the capitals of the Colombian Pacific, it hosts important folk music festivals such as Petronio Álvarez, or the World Salsa Festival. It also has a varied gastronomic offer whose based in fried foods that can be tried in restaurants like Hacienda del Bosque, a great place to explore the flavors of Latin fusion cuisine.
This ‘branch of the sky’, as the city was nicknamed after the Pan American Games of 1971 due to the civility, organization and kindness of its people, has a remarkable characteristic: the greenness of the mountains that surround it. Therefore, one of the recommended activities is to visit the top of the city to see it from different viewpoints.
During the day you can also visit several cultural centers such as the Museum of Tertulia or Caliwood, and even escape to Andoke, a butterfly garden where your senses will be awoke. In the evening, the rhythm heats up ** so, we suggest you take some salsa lessons to be able to keep up.
On the outskirts of Cali you can find the best of nature and adventure. Extreme sports and a beautiful landscape in one place. La Maloca de los Vientos is a theme park that brings together 9 extreme and innovative activities. Although it’s difficult to choose whether the best part of this adventure is arriving at the park or entering the traditional haciendas in Cali.
If you’re a romantic, then you’ll love visiting Hacienda El Paraíso, the inspiration for Colombian writer Jorge Isaacs of his iconic novel: María. Entering the gates is like going back in time and reliving this love story.
2. Calima Lake: a place for adventure
This reservoir is one of the largest in the America, which makes it the perfect location for water sports. The combination of warm weather and the blue of the lake invite you to adventure.
This place is ideal for leaving the bustle of Cali to relax in nature for a day. In addition, in the town of El Darién, where the lake is located, you can visit the Archaeological Museum. If you come in August, when the Summer Festival takes place, you’ll also experience the best of Vallon folklore.
3. Gorgona Island, ideal for whale watching
The islands of Gorgona and Malpelo are National Natural Parks that were declared Natural Heritage of Humanity sites. If you love diving, you can’t miss the opportunity to visit this natural reserve.
In its waters you can see starfish, moray eels, turtles and sharks, and if you go between July and mid-October you can go whale watching! Before traveling, even before arriving in Colombia, consult the National Natural Parks page, to find out the cost of the entrance fee, as well as any restrictions or reservations required to enter the park.
4. Nuquí, a space for ecotourism
Located in Chocó, this magical place is ideal for those who want to disconnect from the modern world. The internet and telephone signal is inconsistent, there are modest lodgings and the menu is limited; even so, it’s one of the best places to get lost, to relax, to fall in love, to swim, and for everything. Therefore, if you’re a person with an adventurous spirit, this region is ideal for you. It’s possible to go outside of Nuquí to tour the mangroves, surf or kayak.
As it’s an isolated place, remember to bring cash since finding ATMs or exchange houses is challenging. Reserve your lodging before traveling and get vaccinated because it’s tropical zone with a lot of risk for mosquito bites.
There are places like Posada Palo de Agua where you can sleep in hammocks or in private rooms. Solomon’s Refuge is another good option, located 45 minutes by boat from Nuquí. At each place you’ll find different features but all with the objective of making your trip a haven of peace.
5. San Cipriano Natural Reserve
This reserve is located a couple of hours from Cali. You can’t get there by the main road and have to arrive by the train tracks, a transport that the locals call ‘brujitas’. This transport consists of pulling along, powered by a motorbike, a wooden blank with benches placed on the train tracks. It’s not a fast option fast but it is always better to be safe when riding.
San Cipriano is one of the wettest places in Colombia, so you’ll probably enjoy diving into its crystalline river, where you can see the bottom even when it’s 5 meters deep! Another of the unmissable activities is to walk upstream for an hour and then slip down the river on tires.
Its star dish is the Muchillá caviar, a river seafood soup that’s ambrosia on the palate. The recommendation is to plan the trip and book before you arrive because being a small town, in high season it can be difficult to find lodging.
Bonus: ¿How to speak caleño?
This region has a very unique way of speaking, so here we leave you with some translated expressions to make you feel like local when you are there.
– Aletoso: It’s an aggressive person who has no trouble looking for a fight.
– Abejorreo: Kissing passionately in public. It’s a common act when the festive atmosphere reaches its peak.
– Biringo: Being naked.
– ¡Bien o qué!: It’s a friendly greeting very common in all of Colombia, but to some foreigners, especially to Spanish speakers, it can be considered aggressive.
– **Calidoso: Is something or someone cool, they also say chévere or bacano.
– Cusumbosolo: Being lonely and bitter.
– Entuque: It’s an informal relationship, when you first start dating a person they say that you have an ‘entuque’.
– *Tumbao: Having style in the way you talk, dress, or walk.
Sign yourself up to dance salsa, speak caleño and eat fish. The Colombian Pacific awaits you!
By: Laura García Betancur, Colombian journalist and audiovisual communicator at the University of Manizales, Colombia.