Salsa in Cali

Cali is salsa-obsessed, so during my time in Colombia, a visit here to learn some steps was firmly on my list (but not on Adam’s, who took his two left feet to San Agustin instead). Here’s how to try salsa in Cali…

Salsa in Cali


Salsa in Cali is world-famous. Most people who visit here try to learn to dance, or at least take in a show. A wide range of hostels in the city offer lessons, shows, and other salsa events. So I had my pick of places to stay, and opted for El Viajero, who offer daily lessons as well as nightly parties and salsa shows. All of which were included in the fairly reasonable price for a shared dorm.


After navigating my way through the scenic city, I reached the hostel. The first thing that struck me was how hot Cali was. Having only recently arrived in Colombia from Ecuador, I wasn’t anticipating such a temperature change. And so the first thing on my to do list was a much needed shower. This was followed by a relaxing snooze in a hammock, while I waited for my first taste of salsa in Cali.


Church in Cali, Colombia

The pretty city of Cali


If I thought the heat while walking around Cali was unbearable, it was nothing compared to my first dance lesson. The tiny room was packed with guests, following the teacher as he led us through the basic footwork. The temperature quickly rose to sweating-level, as people rolled up clothing and fanned their reddened faces. But the teacher had great energy, and the music was never once switched off. So, despite the heat, everyone was having a great time, and the atmosphere was pumped up.


When we had run through each basic step, we were instructed to pair up to practise together. Some pairs fell naturally into great pattern, others fumbled through steps and stood on others’ toes. Thankfully my partner had some experience, and led me through the basics with minimal toe-stepping.

Once the lesson ended, there was a frantic rush for yet another shower. Then everyone leapt into the pool to cool off, or lay in the recliners with some cold beers from the bar.


Soon after, the lights dimmed, and some scantily-clad dancers appeared on the outdoor stage. They performed some incredible dances, with impressive lifts and dips, while rhythmically shaking their hips non-stop. I may be able to follow basic steps, but I doubt that even with years of training I could ever get my body to move that way. Why is it that every time I learn a new dance I’m instantly reminded about how good the pros make it look?!


Salsa in Cali- dance show in hostel

The salsa pros on stage at El Viajero


Though I’d heard amazing things about the nightlife in Cali, I had arrived during Semana Santa. This meant that most bars and clubs were closed. Luckily, a group at my hostel had found an open salsa bar, named La Kasa. Piling into several taxis, we headed here and squeezed our way into the open-air courtyard. We then danced (and sweated) the night away to the sounds of salsa music, and put our single lesson into practise.


I had arrived in Cali hoping to experience the salsa world of Colombia, and, in a single night, I had taken in a fun salsa lesson, watched an impressive salsa show, and partied at a salsa bar. So for those looking for the perfect salsa destination, you can’t get much better than Cali!


To read more about great dance destinations in South America, check out the graceful world of zouk in Rio, or read about the elegant tango scene in Buenos Aires.



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