Top 6 Nature Escapes Around Cali, Colombia

Writing and Photography by Leanne B. Carroll

Love the bustling vibe of Cali but need some time away from the salsa music blasting next door and the man announcing, "pan del horno!" in the wee hours of the morning? There are some be-e-a-utiful nature escapes not far from Cali, most only a short bus ride away. For me, as well as many expats, adjusting to the city landscape of Cali when you're used to green space can be difficult. That's why I take time to recharge and relax by exploring all the nature Colombia has to offer!

The following escapes are accessible by bus, close enough to Cali that you shouldn't need to pay for accommodation (day trip-able), offer hiking, fresh air and spectacular scenery!


# 6: San Cipriano 

San Cipriano is a small village located just west of Cali, around 3 hours away by bus. Its biggest attraction is its infamous mode of transportation to the village from the main road, the notorious "Brujitas." "Las Brujitas" are small trolley platforms powered by motorcycle engines that deliver visitors from the main road to the small town of San Cipriano. The ride is both exhilarating and scenic. 

Offerings: A beautiful river with lovely clear water, tubing, swimming, rope swinging, lunch for purchase.

Tips: Las Brujitas are a lot of fun but can be dangerous. Don't ride the Brujitas at night. Also, like all of the top 6 Nature Escapes around Cali, this place fills up quick! Arrive early and leave early to beat Brujita traffic and the inevitable rain! 

Popular swimming hole in San Capriano

Popular swimming hole in San Capriano

# 5: Lago Calima

Accessible via bus from the Cali Terminal, Lago Calima is north of Cali, around 3 hours way. The lake is a man made reservoir surrounded by fincas (farms), hostels, hotels and recreational areas for camping. The lake provides opportunities to windsurf, boat and swim. 

Offerings: Scenic lake views from quaint hostels and a peaceful bus ride through the town of Darien (stop off for some lunch before reaching your final destination!).

Tips: Upon reaching Darien, make sure to tell the bus driver where you're going and that you'd like to be dropped off. In general, this is a good rule of thumb in Colombia, bus drivers are great at remembering where you are going! 

View of the lake from Local House Hostel, Lago Calima

View of the lake from Local House Hostel, Lago Calima

# 4: Km 30 (Kilometro 30)

While Kilometro 30 can be bustling and quite crowded on the weekend, around the area you will find private farms that Caleños vacation to on the weekends. Always at least 10 degrees (F) cooler than hot, hot Cali, Kilometro 30 and the surrounding farms are nestled in countryside on the edge of Farallones de Cali, a national park. In the car, it´s about a hour´s drive west of Cali. 

Offerings: An escape from the heat, green pastures, rivers and beautiful scenery. 

Tips: If you have time, check out the neighboring town of El Queremal. It´s lovely square is known for street parties, dancing and food.

Walking to the river on a farm near Kilometro 30.

Walking to the river on a farm near Kilometro 30.

#3: Tres Cruces

The true beauty of Las Tres Cruces (the notorious three crosses on top of a hillside in the west of Cali) is that you don´t need a car to get there! From San Antonio simply walk to the nearby neighborhood of El Peñon, cross El Rio de Cali, and find the trailhead past a few houses on the right. Depending on how quickly you hike, it will take around 1.5 hours to hike to the cruces.

Offerings: A fantastic view of Cali, lots of exercise, a peaceful way to spend a morning. 

Tips: It´s important to do this hike in the morning! Brave it any time after 10am and you are sure to need triple the water, and lots of skin protection! Careful, there are some steep parts! 

View of Cali from the hill tops.

View of Cali from the hill tops.

#2: Rio Pance 

Rio Pance is located in the south of Cali and is accessible by bus, Mio and taxi (although comparatively taxis are expensive). There are many places to enjoy the river. You will come across the Ecoparque fairly quickly but if you continue along the main road, you will soon find the small pueblito of Pance and many more swimming holes that are much less crowded. Of course for the most privacy, you will need to hike along Rio Pance on the provided trails to find your own sanctuary along the river. 

Offerings: Hikes, swimming, a nice place to have a picnic, a lazy Sunday afternoon activity.

Tips: Pance can become quite crowded, especially on holiday weekends! Arrive early to beat the crowds. 

Enjoying a sunny day in the shallows of Rio Pance at the Ecoparque.

Enjoying a sunny day in the shallows of Rio Pance at the Ecoparque.

#1: Buga

And finally, coming in at #1, Buga. What´s so special about Buga…? Where to begin! First and foremost, getting to Buga is as easy as it comes. Just take the wonderfully straight, not at all carsickness inducing, bus ride 1 hour north from the Terminal de Transportes de Cali. Once in Buga, you will need to take another bus (about another hour) to arrive at the trail head for a waterfall hike. Buga also offers a small hike to a lookout point above the city which you can access from town (about a 45 minute walk to the top from the trail head). 

Offerings: Hikes, waterfalls, swimming. Check out Buga Hostel for more information about where to hike and how to get there. ALSO, this place serves artisanal beers, kombucha and homemade sourdough bread. Buga Hostel - also known as, my happy place. 

Tips: If you´re curious about Catholic traditions or Colombian Magical Realism, check out La Basilica church in downtown Buga. If it´s your first time visiting the Basilica, you can ask for 3 wishes to come true. 

Sunset above Buga.

Sunset above Buga.

Enjoy your time in Cali!

About the author: 

Leanne B. Carroll (in the photo above), commonly known as "Lee," wrote this article while teaching English in Cali, Colombia during a 6 month volunteer program.  Besides travel writing, her passions include vegan cooking, Peace and Conflict Studies (her major at UC Berkeley), and exploring the world with the people she loves. 

First Time Visiting on social media!

You may also be interested in: