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Festivals in Colombia

Amazingly enough, most of the festivals hosted in Colombia originated in the 1950s and 1960s.

Barranquilla Carnival #

Date(s): Sat, Feb 18, 2023 - Tue, Feb 21, 2023

Where: Barranquilla

The Barranquilla Carnival, or, Carnaval de Barranquilla, is one of the largest festivals in the world. Over the course of four days, Colombians and world travelers join together in Barranquilla - Colombia’s 4th biggest city - to celebrate by donning an array of vivid costumes, dancing in the street, and reveling in a series of parades.

The largest, the Batalla de Flores, takes place on Day One. It’s notable for the display of the King and Queen of the Carnaval, the cumbia dancing, and for setting the tone for the next three days of revelry, as well as all Colombian Festivals throughout the year.

The festival primarily takes place at Via 40, a main thoroughfare that plays host to the Battle of Flowers, Great Parade and The Great Fantasy Parade. Romelio Martinez Stadium, La Paz Square, the 17 road and the 44 road also play host to important events such as the The King Momo Parade and Guacherna. Verbenas (places to dance and party) pop up throughout the surrounding neighborhoods, including La Union, Las Nieves, Los Pinos, Olaya and San Jose.

Why is the Barranquilla Carnival celebrated? #

The origins of the Carnval de Barranquilla are a bit unclear. states that - - “The beginning of these fairs and festivals dates back to the time of the Spanish conquest, as this kind of tradition comes from Europe and was introduced little by little by the Spanish and Portuguese in America.”

However, the event takes place in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday. So there’s some religious significance to the event.

What Pre-Carnival events take place? #

Is the Barranquilla Carnival worth it? #

La Carnaval de Barranquilla is quite the spectacle to behold. If you were looking for just one international festival to attend in a given year, you’d be hard pressed not to give it serious consideration.

What happens on Barranquilla Carnaval? #

Troupes of dancers, musicians and revelers gather in the streets to perform and celebrate. Songs are sung and customary dances of the garabato and marimonda are performed as the Carnival floats pass through during parades. Colorful costumes are worn, and joy and laughter serve as the main theme of this four day party in The Golden Door of Colombia. Is Barranquilla Carnival free?

Yes, the Carnaval de Barranquilla is free to attend.

What food is served at Barranquilla Carnival? #

A variety of food and drink - - is served during Carnaval. The list includes Enyucado, Fritos, Mojarra, Pineapple Chicha, Posta and more. Given the festival’s international appeal, we’re confident that you can find non-traditional Colombian foods as well.

When is the next Carnaval de Barranquilla? #

The next Carnaval de Barranquilla will take place between Saturday, February 10th, 2024 and Tuesday, February 13th, 2024.

The Cali Fair #

When: Dec 25th, 2023 - Dec 31st, 2023

Where: Cali

People come to the Feria de Cali for the Salsa Dancing and they stay ... well, for the Salsa Dancing. La Feria de Cali will celebrate it’s 66th Anniversary in 2023, having started back in 1957. - - states that the fair, “... attracts some two million visitors and showcases the cultural and musical diversity of the region’s majority Afro-Colombian population. It has turned into what is widely regarded as the country’s most important cultural and traditional event.”

The biggest event of the entire festival is the Salsódromo - El Salsódromo puts the choreography of the great city of Cali on display for festival goers, as it makes several stops along the 1,500-meter parade route to give all a chance to behold the elegance and poise of the dancers.

What happens at the Cali Fair? #

Beyond the aforementioned Salsa Dancing is a variety of events centered around the art and music of the region. Bullfights, fashion shows and pageants - - are but a small example of the types of performances and participatory events one can find at the Cali Fair.

El Desfile de Cali Viejo and El Desfile de Carros Antiguos are two other parades that occur over the 5 days of the fair.

Why is the Cali Fair celebrated? #

The Cali Fair is celebrated each year as a way to honor those who died in the tragic explosion of 1956. It also celebrates Colombia’s cultural prosperity and ethnic diversity.

Homeschool Spanish Academy says, “Cali fair is the perfect example of the resilience and strength of the Colombian people, especially of the caleños.”

Where in Cali is the Feria? #

Black and White Carnival #

When: January 2nd - January 7th

Where: Pasto

Having been declared a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2009, the Black and White Carnival is perhaps the most indigenously-led festival in the country of Colombia. At least at its roots.

While many Colombian festivals celebrate with the inclusion of floats, Pasto's Black and White Carnival includes floats made by children. Parade participants and spectators can be found wearing costumes of all colors and design.

Events include:

What does the Black and White Carnival celebrate? #

Like many Colombian festivals, the Black and White Carnival is filled with parades, dancing, and music, including the Rock Carnaval, where National and International touring acts perform.

Where is the Black and White Carnival celebrated? #

The Black and White Carnival is celebrated over 6 days in Pasto, the capital of the department of Nariño.

The Flowers Festival #

When: July 28th - Aug 7th, 2023

Where: Medellin

The Flowers Festival (Feria de las Flores) is Medellin's signature event. Thousands, both Nationally and Internationally, descend upon the City of Eternal Spring for a week's worth of celebrations.

If you're wondering why you should attend Colombia's Flower Festival, it is because, "some of the finest flowers in the world come from Antioquia", per Flower Magazine. Put on display in silletas (wooden backpacks if you will) are the gorgeous floral arrangements made by the Silleteros (flower vendors) of Santa Ana, the town where the festival takes place annually.

Events to attend include the automobile parade, the horse parade, and of course, the Silleteros Parade. Who knows, if you're lucky you may even be able to find your way on a Chiva bus.

The Manizales Fair #

When: January 2nd - January 9th

Where: Manizales

The Manizales Fair goes above and beyond the street parades, costumes and musical performances by including bullfighting in their festivities. As it is, several hundred thousand people attend the fair annually, attending one of the several hundred events that take place.

The Manizales Fair is great for retirees looking to keep the party going as it picks up where the Cali Fair leaves off, starting just days later. Beyond the bullfighting, you'll want to see the Tango Festival, enjoy the musical performances, and sip some of the finest coffee in the world, as Manizales sits squarely within Eje Cafetero (the Coffee Triangle).

How important is coffee to la Feria de Manizales? So important that the title of Coffee Queen is bestowed to a contestant of Reinado Internacional del Café, the fair's beauty pageant.

Cartagena International Film Festival #

When: November 26th - December 2nd

Where: Cartagena

The Cartagena Film Festival, or, El Festival Internacional de Cine de Cartagena (FICCI), has been an annual event focusing on Latin American filmmaking since its inception in 1960. Yes, there is an award for Colombian-made films, but FICCI is the premier cinematic event for Latin America.

Even popular movie stars from the United States have attended as guests, including Harvey Keitel, Owen Wilson and Susan Sarandon.

Estereo Picnic #

When: Mar 23, 2023 – Mar 26, 2023

Where: Campo de golf Briceño 18 Sopo

An extended weekend in Sopo where you can see some of the biggest musical acts from around the globe. That's Estereo Picnic in a nutshell. Included in 2023's lineup were:

The music festival claims to host over 50,000 people. Further, they do a great job of mixing and matching the lineups by having acts that span over multiple musical genres.

Vallenato Legend Festival #

When: April 26th – April 30th

Where: Valledupar

El Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata celebrates Vallenato, a style of Colombian music common to the Caribbean region. Vallenato has musically evolved over time, and is commonly performed using cajas, guacharacas, and accordions.

In fact, the Vallenato Legend Festival features several contests where they award the premier accordion players who perform. There is even an award given to the best youth Accordion players.

Baum Festival #

When: May 20th - May 21st

Where: Bogotá

A two-day rave in Bogotá, the Baum Festival eschews all of the typical street processions in favor of a giant fiesta at the Corferias convention center.

Rock al Parque #

When: November 11th - November 13th

Where: Bogotá

Rock al Parque is a musicfest that's been going strong since the mid 90s. It is arguably the largest rock music festival in South America, with over 50+ acts playing each year and 300,000-400,000 attendees. The musical lineup is far less U.S.-driven than Estereo Picnic.

The event takes place over three days at Simon Bolivar Park, with the music blasting from 1pm-10pm. Don't go to Rock al Parque expecting a big party though, alcohol and smoking is prohibited.