While it may not have the looks to front the tourist brochure, Cali is the kind of place that provides all the substance. It's a hot, gritty city with a passion for life that draws you in and stays with you long after you leave town.

It is not an easy place to get to know – tourism doesn't seem to be high on anyone's agenda here – but if you make the effort you will find great nightlife, good restaurants and plenty to do, especially in the evening, when a cool mountain breeze dissipates the heat of the day.

Cali is rich in Afro-Colombian heritage; nowhere is the nation's racial diversity and harmony more apparent. From the impoverished barrios to the slick big clubs, everyone is moving to one beat, and that beat is salsa. Music here is more than entertainment: it is a unifying factor that ties the city together.