If there’s one thing I love about traveling it’s trying new food. The best way to get a taste of a new culture (literally) is by sampling local cuisine and venturing out of your food comfort zone. So when I heard about Callejeros Tours and their street food tour in Cali, Colombia, I was on board right away!
The tour ended up being so much more than I expected. Not only did I fill up so much on samples that I didn’t have room for lunch, but I also learned more about Cali’s history and culture. Niels and Jonathan were really knowledgeable and also hilariously entertaining. It’s obvious that they really love showing tourists around the city and had formed deep relationships with some of the vendors.
Even after living in Cali for a year, I still hadn’t tried nearly half the foods that we tried on the tour. Some of the fruits were even new to my boyfriend, who was born and raised in Cali – proof that the tour might make you more of a local than most Caleños.
The tour departed from El Viajero Hostel in San Antonio at 11 A.M. It’s important to note that Cali starts getting especially hot around this time, so come prepared with sunscreen and plenty of water. If it’s rainy season, rain gear and an umbrella are also a good idea. The tour guides started by asking anyone if they have any food allergies or preferences, so if you’re a picky eater let the guys know and they’ll point you in the right direction.
Next, we walked about ten minutes to Loma de la Cruz, which is an artisanal park in Cali. At 11 A.M., not many vendors are around but it’s an excellent opportunity to take in views of the city and learn a little about the history. We learned about the stories behind nearby graffiti and how they relate to Cali’s history and culture.
Next, we walked to another park about five minutes away, Parque Jovita. On the way, we sampled a couple of fruits, including one of my favorites–mango biche! Niels and Jonathan told us about La Jovita, one of Cali’s most iconic women. It’s a super interesting story, but I won’t spoil it for you.
On the way to our next stop – the vibrant and chaotic Galería Alameda – we stopped to try salpicón, borojó, and sorbeto de guanabana. Salpicón is one of my favorite ways to cool down in Cali’s heat, you can think of it sort of like a drinkable fruit salad. Borojó is also great for cooling down—it’s a juice made from the fruit of the same name. I’m personally not a fan of guanabana but it’s really common in Cali and worth a try!
Once we arrived to the Galería Alameda, we tried guarapo, which I tried for the first time. It’s a type of sugar cane juice, but my favorite part was watching them make it. Then…we moved on to my favorite food of all time…ceviche!!
For those who haven’t tried ceviche before, I’m sorry that your life is filled with sadness. Keep in mind that Colombian ceviche is a little different from other varieties. Peruvian Ceviche features raw fish bathed in lemon as the base but Colombian ceviche can be a little…messier. Many varieties are made from cooked shrimp and either ketchup or a ketchup-mayonnaise combination. While it might seem sketchy to buy seafood off the street, I’ve personally done it multiple times in multiple Colombian cities (cheap and delicious seafood…why not?) and can say I’ve never had a bad reaction.
My second favorite part was trying the fruit inside Galería Alameda and I really learned a lot. My first week in Colombia, I walked into a supermarket in Bogotá and was overwhelmed by all the fruit I’d never seen before. It’s such a daunting task trying to figure out what fruit is for eating, what’s for juicing, etc.
During the tour, we tried SO MANY FRUITS and we were able to just point to any fruit we were curious about and try it! It would be impossible to name all of them but some were pitaya, chontaduro, zapote, and lulo. My mouth is watering just thinking about how delicious everything was.
We then went on to some heavier foods, like yuca and tamales. In a moment of bravery, I decided to finally try rellena, which is a blood sausage. I’d been avoiding it for over a year. The verdict? Nope. Definitely not for me. But it’s worth trying and deciding for yourself. We also tried cheese with a guayaba sweet, one of my favorite Colombian treats. I’d never tried it so fresh before and it was absolutely amazing!
Somewhere along the way, we walked by the shop of a Shaman, which was an aspect of the culture I’d never seen before. He sold a variety of potions for all different problems, like being broke or being unpopular. It makes me wonder…is there some kind of promotion if I buy them all?
We also learned about some herb and their physical and spiritual benefits. I’ve never been much of an herb garden kind of girl but maybe it’s time to start.
A delicious glass of lulada came at the perfect time after walking for hours and sampling different foods. Lulada, a juice made with lulo, is the most refreshing juice I’ve ever tried. Not to be dramatic but I don’t know how I ever lived without it.
At the end of the tour, we were able to try some organic Colombian coffee from The Trinitario Coffee. This was an awesome way to end the tour – not only was the coffee fantastic but the company has a really interesting story and the growers actually work at the café. Niels told us about coffee culture in Colombia and how the life of a coffee farmer can be difficult. Interesting fact: most of Colombia’s best coffee is actually exported. He talked about social issues surrounding the coffee industry, which I think is super important. The only thing better than traveling is traveling sustainably and consciously.
After the tour, we had around 15-20 minutes to walk around the market before leaving as a group and returning to San Antonio.
All in all, I was super impressed by the tour and for $30.000 COP (about $10 USD) it’s a cheap activity that will really give you a feel for Cali and fill your belly at the same time!
- Keep in mind that the tour is a walking tour. You’ll be walking in the heat and you’ll be on your feet for long periods of time. Plan accordingly.
- Tours are offered Tuesday through Saturday (excluding holidays) by reservation only. They leave at 11 A.M. from El Viajero Hostal in the colonial neighborhood of San Antonio. The tour is three hours long.
- The tour is in English, but Spanish and Dutch are available upon request.
Click here to find out how to make a reservation.
Do you know of any other awesome tours in South America? Let me know below!