García Márquez once said, “five Colombians in a room invariably turns into a party”. It could also be said that a couple of hundred Colombians in a village invariably turns into a fiesta. Colombians will use almost anything as a pretext for a celebration; there are more festivals, parties and carnivals than days in the year. Every city, town and village has at least three or four annual events in which local products and traditions are celebrated with music, dancing and raucous revelry. Below are some of the most significant.
Early January – Feria de Manizales, Facebook: Feria de Manizales. Festivities in Manizales include horse parades, beauty pageants, bullfighting and general celebration of all things coffee.
End January – Hay Festival Cartagena, www.hayfestival.com/cartagena. A branch of the UK’s Hay Literary Festival turns Cartagena into a focus for all things bookish for four days.
2 February – Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. Celebrated in several towns, including Cartagena and Medellín, this religious cult festival was inherited from the Canary Islands, where two goat herders witnessed the apparition of the Virgin Mary holding a green candle.
February-March – Barranquilla Carnival (movable), www.carnavaldebarranquilla.org. Beginning four days before Ash Wednesday, this is one of the best carnivals in South America and involve parades and plenty of dancing. Four days of partying are compulsory by law.
Late April – Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata, www.festivalvallenato.com. One of the most important music festivals in Colombia, four days of hard partying in Valledupar culminate in the selection of the best vallenato musician.
August – First fortnight – Feria de las Flores. Concerts, street parties, antique car parades, a Paso Fino horse parade and the Desfile de Silleteros, in which flower growers file through the streets carrying their elaborate displays mounted on wooden ‘chairs’, have made this festival in Medellín a world-renowned event.
September – Jazz al Parque, www.jazzalparque.gov.co. Bogotá’s parks resonate to the sound of pianos, saxophones and trumpets during this festival that has grown exponentially since it began in 1996.
25-30 December – Feria de Cali, www. feriadecali.com. What started as a bullfighting festival involving the best Spanish and South American matadors is now a city-wide party where Cali’s self-imposed title of ‘capital of salsa’ is reaffirmed every year. The festival is opened by an impressive Paso Fino horse parade.
This travel tip is part of Huw and Caitlin Hennessy’s COLOMBIA guidebook. Click on the banner below if you are interested in buying the book.
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Tips must be in English (Quality of English will be evaluated and any tips in another language will not be accepted)
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