Colombia has become one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, and with good reason—no matter what time of the year you choose to visit, there’s always something to celebrate! Read on to learn all about Colombia’s can’t-miss festivals.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Colombian festivals are subject to change or cancelation
Medellin has earned its title of “City of Eternal Spring” due to its perma-pleasant weather and gorgeous landscape—so it’s no surprise that it’s also the host of Colombia’s annual flower festival every August. This 7-day festival was founded by a member of the Medellin's tourist bureau in 1957 to boost to the city’s blossoming flower industry, and has since become the enormous event we know today. The Festival of Flowers (Fiesta de las Flores) bewitches the entire city of Medellin during this time, as the city is packed with beauty pageants, bird expos, music festivals, flower parades, and a plethora of games for kids and families. As Medellin is one of the biggest exporters of cut fresh-flowers in the world, travelers from all over can come celebrate the blooming festival in Colombia’s very own flower country.
Many countries have their own versions of Carnival, but Barranquilla’s is one of the biggest and best. Throughout the four days leading up to Ash Wednesday, Barranquilla hosts one of the biggest festivals in the world, attracting 1.5 million partygoers every year. The origin of Barranquilla’s Carnival is disputed, but the festival’s traditions date back to 18th-century music-oriented festivities observed by African slaves. With that in mind, Carnival is truly a celebration of inclusion, diversity, music, and dancing. It even creates 20,000 jobs for Colombian locals every year! If you’re in need of an escape from reality, have one of our Heroes create your Barranquilla itinerary around this amazing festival!
If you’re into theater and arts, look no further—Bogota’s Ibero-American Theater Festival is the largest theater festival on earth, garnering Bogota the title of “World Capital of Theater.” The festival was founded in 1988 by two theater lovers, Fanny Mikey (creator of the National Theater Foundation) and Ramiro Osorio, who wanted to promote diversity and encourage tolerance, understanding, and artistic development in Colombia’s developing theater scene. The bi-annual festival displays about 900 productions from hundreds of Colombian and international theater companies. While Bogota is filled with an exorbitant amount of excursions, this commemoration of local and global theater can’t be missed.
Perched just south of Medellin is the small municipality of Riosucio, the birthplace of Carnival del Diablo—which literally translates to the “Devil’s Carnival”. Carnival del Diablo stretches back to 1819, when Riosucio was divided between two communities—the indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombian immigrants. Now every two years, the carnival is held to enact its motto, “brotherhood, peace, and happiness”. While the 6-day festival is about tranquility, however, the festival is anything but. After 6 months of preparation for the event, the streets become filled with alcohol, debauchery, and bullfights—a huge party that can’t be missed on your Colombian expedition!
For a New Year’s Eve to remember, stop by San Juan de Pasto—a city in the southern part of Colombia, close to its Ecuadorian border—for the Carnival de Negros y Blancos (the “Blacks and Whites Festival”). Every year from December 28 through January 6, this UNESCO-recognized festival is composed of 5 distinct stages: the pre-carnival, the carnival, the parade of the Castaneda family, the day of the blacks, and the day of the whites. Each stage has its own tradition, all of which involve parades, parties, and general revelry in one form or another. The Colombian National Congress even declared the festival a distinct element of the Cultural Heritage of the Nation in 2002, so make sure to have your local trip planner work at least one day of this mesmerizing festival into your Colombian bucket list!
Known to locals as FICCI, the Cartagena International Film Festival is just one of many festivals that take place in Colombia’s Caribbean capital of Cartagena. FICCI, the oldest film festival in Latin America, was founded in 1959 by director Victor Nieto. It began as a way to showcase edgy and up-and-coming Latin American—but especially Colombian—cinema. Since then, it has transformed into an international film festival, with directors submitting productions from the U.S., France, Italy, and beyond. FICCI is regarded as a favorite amongst movie buffs and directors alike, and has truly become one of Cartagena's highlights.
For those who have a wide range of music tastes, Estereo Picnic is the granddaddy music festival of them all. Globally-known artists like The Killers, Lana Del Rey, LCD Soundsystem, and more have headlined Colombian highlight, which is conveniently located in Bogota. The 3-day festival is comparable to the legendary Coachella Music Festival, so once those Coachella tickets sell out in under 5 minutes, feel free to enjoy this incredible festival in Colombia’s beating heart instead!
While La Feria de Cali—or “The Cali Fair”—promotes diversity and culture, it is mainly a 6-day long excuse to revel in Cali’s amazing salsa culture (after all, Cali is known as the “World Capital of Salsa”). Hence, the festival is sometimes referred to as “La Feria de Salsa”—but rest assured, it’s the same thing! La Feria de Cali takes place from December 25th to December 30th, so to end the year with an incredible bang, have one of our Heroes plan you an itinerary that hits both the Cali Fair and the Blacks and Whites Festival!
The Cartagena Music Festival is unlike any other, as it both commemorates classical music and encourages younger generations to continue the tradition through educational programs, fellowships, and participation. The 10-day festival features over 250 musicians performing in 40 concerts throughout Cartagena.
What sets Rock al Parque apart from any other rock music festival is that it’s completely free—and right in the middle of Bogota’s Simon Bolivar Park! So if you’re going to Bogota on a budget, have one of our trip planners arrange your vacation around this wonderful 3-day rock celebration. The largest rock concert in Latin America (with over 400,000 attendees), Rock al Parque features all types of rock, with musicians from all over the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
EDM enthusiasts will be in awe of Cartagena’s very own electronic music festival, Storyland—whose tagline is “where dreams go.” The festival’s production quality, fireworks shows, and warm crowd make it something that can’t be missed for any dance lover.
With all the festivals Colombia has to offer, it can be hard to decide which to attend—so chat with one of our Heroes to find the perfect festival for your Colombian itinerary! Or, as always, feel free to message us directly with any questions.
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