The raucous epicenter of Cali makes the department of Valle del Cauca the powerhouse of southwestern Colombia. Throughout the region, the average altitude is roughly 1,000 meters (3,280 ft) above sea level. In Valle del Cauca’s extreme west lies Cali’s ugly sister, Buenaventura, a port city flanked by the waters of the Pacific Ocean. The department’s other boundaries are defined by the mountain ranges that make up the central and western ridges of the Andes. The Cauca, one of Colombia’s most powerful and longest rivers, flows through these mountains.
The department has always been strategically important for overland travel and import/export, so there is no shortage of interesting sites to visit. From Cartago in the north, bordering the neighboring department of Risaralda, there is a steady line of religious monuments that follow the Cauca River and span south. Notable churches can be found in Cartago, Toro, Roldanillo, Bugalagrande, Guacari, Guadalajara de Buga and Jamundí.
If following the route of the river, take time to check out the traditional vallecaucana estancias, coffee farms, adventure sports and natural sights in Calima, El Cerrito and Palmira. Also, don’t miss an opportunity to check out locally woven crafts made from plantain fibers or try the nationally famous vallecaucana champús (traditional fruit and herbs drink) , marranitas (fried plantain balls) and aborrajados (banana dessert) dishes.