Famous Festivals in Colombia That You Shouldn’t Miss

A photo of lively Colombian dancers. Carnaval de Barranquilla -- the most famous of all the festivals in Colombia. | Photo by Dawin Rizzo on Unsplash

Apart from being the home of stunning Latin beauties, Colombia is famous for its rich cultural heritage that is showcased in over 150 festivals. It is no surprise, though, since this Latin American country is known to be the land of cheerful, lively, and passionate people.

As such, it’s only reasonable that they have more than enough share of ferias y fiestas celebrated all throughout the year.

Many festivals in Colombia are centuries-old, most of which are highly anticipated not just locally, but also internationally. People of all ages from across different continents grace Colombia with their presence and take part in the many festivities.

Six of these world-famous and highly anticipated festivals are listed below for you to have a glimpse and ultimately decide to pack your bags, fly to Colombia, and experience a one-of-a-kind festive getaway.

Carnaval de Barranquilla

A grand carnival that is said to be running for about three centuries, Carnaval de Barranquilla is the most famous and significant festival in all of Colombia. It’s the biggest carnival celebration in the country, and the second biggest carnival in the world, next to Rio de Janeiro’s.

Each year in Barranquilla, an estimated 1.5 million locals and tourists grace the four-day celebration that happens four days prior to Ash Wednesday. Starting mid-January, pre-carnival events will take place to hype the crowd for the upcoming grand carnival.

The four-day festival showcases grandiose and colorful displays of parades and performances from both local and international artists, as well as live music and dances. The first day is commemorated with the massive 6-hour La Battala de Flores parade.

Among all the festivals, Carnaval de Barranquilla is where the best of Colombian culture and heritage is exhibited, and as a result, it was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Event back in 2002.

Festival de las Flores

With its first showcase in 1957, Festival de las Flores has gone a long way and is now recognized as one of the best and largest flower festivals in the world. It annually takes place in what is known as the Orchid Capital of the World and City of Eternal Spring, Medellin.

A photo of a flower field Medellin, Colombia is home to the world’s second largest outdoor flower festival. | Photo by Raffaella Raspini on Unsplash

The festival’s main event is the world-famous parade called El Defile de los Silleteros, where vibrant displays of meticulously crafted flower arrangements are carried and showcased on the backs of participants. In the past 50 years, there were about 50 participants, but now the parade has over 500 people joining in.

Throughout the 10-day event, unique and beautiful flowers grown around the country decorate the streets and corners of Medellin. Tourists also shouldn’t miss the highly anticipated exhibit of the best, rarest, and most beautiful flowers that exist in the country.

This renowned flower festival also has a variety of other festivities that tourists and locals can take part in, such as musical concerts, food fairs, dances, firework shows, and even a beauty pageant.

El Carnaval de Negros y Blancos

A festival recognizing and proudly embracing diversity in South America, El Carnaval de Negros y Blancos is one of the oldest ferias in Colombia. It is the country’s second largest carnival celebration, next to Barranquilla Carnival.

Annually hosted by the city of Palo, the last two days of the celebration are the most awaited and significant because this is when the Day of the Whites and Day of the Blacks take place.

Disregarding race or ethnicity, everyone in the carnival dresses or paints themselves black on the first day and white on the second day. Festival goers throw talcum powder at each other whilst partying to the beat of drums and other instruments.

This week-long celebration is intricately planned months ahead, and one of its pre-carnival activities is the El Carnivalito; a mini carnival that is all about children and their creativity.

Because of the festival’s one-of-a-kind celebration of heritage and cultural diversity, UNESCO recognized Black and White’s Carnival as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Semana Santa

Though Semana Santa is celebrated throughout Colombia, the most famous one is in the colonial city of Popayán, the country’s religious capital.

A photo of one of the famous churches in Popayan, Colombia. The century-old Semana Santa celebration in Popayan is a perfect example of Colombia’s oral and intangible heritage. | Photo by Roberth Jpr on Unsplash

The city has a week-long Semana Santa celebration, devoted to Jesus Christ, His passion, death, and resurrection. For five days, processions are held showcasing century-old wooden religious statues on intricately adorned reliquary floats.

Of all the traditions in Colombia, this is said to be one of the oldest, passed on from generation to generation since the 18th century. Aside from these processions, there also happen to be religious theatrical plays and performing choirs.

The Semana Santa celebration of Popayán is the perfect example of intangible heritage, hence, it was officially recognized by UNESCO as one of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, aside from being hailed the second largest Easter celebration in the world.

Another significant Semana Santa celebration in Colombia is the one in Santa Cruz de Mompox, which was also awarded by UNESCO as a Historical and Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 1995.

Festival de Luces

Aside from the festivities that occur during this celebration, Festival de Luces is highly anticipated by both tourists and Colombian locals because it marks the beginning of the Christmas season in the country.

It is held in Villa de Leyva every 8th of December, in honor of the Colombian tradition of Candles Day and the Day of the Immaculate Concepcion.

During the celebration, houses and streets around Villa de Leyva are adorned with stunning lights, candles, and lanterns. This attracts thousands of tourists to roam around the stunning town during the night of the festival.

But the highlight of the evening is the spectacular fireworks display by the best firework companies in all of Colombia. These companies compete against each other for various categories, such as the longest duration of display and highest firework display.

In the years since 1986, this annual magical spectacle has attracted spectators from inside and outside of Colombia.

Feria de Cali

Often identified as a grand salsa event, Feria de Cali is a symbolic year-end cultural celebration annually held in Santiago de Cali, the Salsa Capital of the World.

Before becoming world-famous for its Salsa Marathon, the celebration used to be a traditional Spanish bullfighting event. Though such an activity is still observed and practiced today, the festival evolved mainly into a street carnival and music extravaganza, particularly in the 1980s.

Today, its highlight is the massive Salsódromo, a 1,500-meter parade of local and international salsa dancers, or Salseros, accompanied with live orchestral music. Dancers and musicians from the international scene fly to Cali to witness this grand showcase of Colombia’s ethnic and musical diversity.

After five days of endless dancing and fun, Cali Fair holds a massive live concert on its final day every 30th of January.

Why Colombian Festivals are Fun and Famous

The fun and festivities in Colombia almost never end, which give people endless reasons to smile, be happy, dance, and have fun.

It has already become part of their identity and is continually passed on to the succeeding generations. The celebrations aren’t just for pure fun because it’s also how Colombia proudly presents itself as a melting pot of different cultures, races, and ethnicities.

Festivals in Colombia are famous because the world can see how they sincerely value their heritage and its diversity. They see to it that the country is and will continue to celebrate equality amid divisions and uncertainties.

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