Festivals in Colombia

Dear Reader

My name is Frank and I run a travel agency based in Bogota, Colombia. If you have any feedback or suggestions, please write them in our comments section. Thank you and have a great trip to Colombia!

Table of Content

January

  • Carnaval de Negros y Blancos, Pasto (Black and White Carnival)
  • Manizales Fair
  • Cartagena Classical Music Festival
  • Storyland Electronic Music Festival, Santa Marta
  • Riosucio Carnival, Riosucio – Caldas
  • Corralejas Fair, Sincelejo
  • Hay Festival, Cartagena

February

  • Barranquilla Carnaval, Barranquilla
  • Bullfighting Season, Bogotá

March

  • Holy Week in Popayán
  • Religious Music Festival, Popayán
  • Cartagena de Indias International Film Festival
  • The Theatre Festival of Bogotá (Ibero-American)
  • Jamming Festival, Ricaurte
  • Llanera Song Festival, Villavicencio

April

  • Vallenato Festival, Valledupar
  • International Book Fair, Bogotá
  • Estéreo Picnic, Bogotá

May

  • European Film Festival (Eurocine) – Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, Manizales
  • Wayúu Culture Festival, Uribia – Guajira
  • Baum Festival, Bogotá

June

  • International Tango Festival, Medellín
  • International Poetry Festival, Medellí
  • San Pedro and San Juan Festivals, Tolima
  • Folklore Festival and Bambuco National Beauty Pageant, Neiva
  • Coffee National Festival and Beauty Pageant, Calarcá

July

  • Rock al Parque, Bogotá
  • International Joropo Tournament, Villavicencio
  • Colombiamoda, Medellín

August

  • Medellín Flower Festival (Feria de las Flores)
  • International Orchids Exhibition, Medellín
  • Wind and Kites Festival, Villa de Leyva
  • Summer Festival, Bogotá
  • Pacific Coast Folklore Festival, Buenaventura

September

  • World Salsa Festival in Cali
  • Green Moon Festival, San Andrés
  • Jazz al Parque, Bogotá

October

  • Opera al Parque, Bogotá
  • National Tourism Beauty Pageant, Girardot
  • Hip Hop al Parque, Bogotá

November

  • National Beauty Pageant, Cartagena

December

  • Lights Festival, Villa de Leyva
  • Aguinaldo Boyacense, Tunja
  • Expoartesanías, Bogotá
  • Cali Fair

JANUARY

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos, Pasto (Black and White Carnival)

The largest and one of the oldest festivals in Colombia’s south-western region is a tribute to diversity in unity! Celebrated the first week of January, this festival takes more than 10,000 locals, tourists and visitors to the streets of San Juan de Pasto every year. This festival is an ode to the integration of the Pacific, Andean and Amazonian cultures! Be ready to witness costumes that will awe you with their ingenuity and creativity, thanks to the locals who open their homes for their preparations. Huge drums are banged for equality, respect and dignity for all. This festival is Colombia’s way of proudly owning all the numerous ethnicities and cultures that have thrived in the region and will continue to do so for years to come.

This festival has its roots in the slave rebellion that occurred in 1607 in Remedios, a town in Antioquia. Together, the African community in Popayán in solidarity with the black slaves demanded a day off-where they would be totally free and unaccounted for. The king of Spain acquiesced and officially declared an ‘off day’ and the African communities took to the streets, roaring in joy and celebrating with the beat of drums and painted the streets of the town black with coal. The celebration reached Pasto in the mid-1800s and has been refined as the years have passed, adding to its beauty. Several traditions, exchange of cultures, expressions and innovations have been integrated to form a unique festival that celebrates the history, the indigenous communities with music, parades and costumes.

The ‘Whites Day’ is celebrated before the grand parade. Locals spray each other in white using foam, talcum powder, flour and even paints. The grand parade witnesses the most beautiful display of colorful costumes, huge floats, dancers swaying to the beat of drums, musicians, bands and a crowd that loves to party!

Also check out our highlights

Manizales Fair

If you are planning to visit Colombia at the beginning of the year, the Manizales Fair is something you can’t miss! The capital of Caldas province in the Coffee Triangle hosts each year a big festival that is an homage to some Spanish traditions. Manizaleños visiting Europe in the mid-1990s returned amazed by the bullfighting tradition and the Seville April Fair, so they wanted to recreate them and in January 1955 the first edition was held. The city hall together with the Institution of Culture and Tourism organize hundreds of cultural and sportive events, most of which are free! So there is no excuse not to take part in this joyful celebration in the heart of Colombia.

Known as the biggest fair of America, it offers visitors activities such as the cavalcade, the bullfighting season featuring the best rejoneadores, parades with beauty queens in carriages, free concerts and even an International Coffee Beauty Pageant where representatives of around 28 countries compete to be the face of the best smelling coffee in the world. Hence, it becomes hardly surprising its acknowledgment as National Cultural Heritage. Those who love arts and crafts can’t miss the handicrafts fair, exhibiting works from several parts of the world. One of the most amusing events of the festival is the “Yipaos parade”, Willy jeeps loaded with coffee bulks, plantains, chickens and traditional items that make pirouettes on their rear tires along the Santander Avenue. From the typical fondas and arrierías (inns where muleteers came to rest after long days in the Caldas mountains) that offer local food and drinks, to the Tango Festival or the National Trova Festival, the Manizales Fair is full of great activities to suit every taste.

Cartagena Classical Music Festival

The Music Festival is held annually in January for 9 days (4th – 12th) and its objective is to strengthen the bond between two souls: the European and the Latinamerican cultures. With a different theme in each version, it brings together musicians, experts and amateur audiences around music. Here you can enjoy not only classical music but traditional music expressions from both continents. Organizers also seek to motivate positive social transformations and the formation and improvement of Colombian musicians, mostly young people, for whom the Festival is an important international platform. These efforts have already paid off, the Cartagena Symphony Orchestra formed by local musicians from 17 to 25 years old was created in one of the editions. Around 25,000 visitors attend the 35 concerts offered by 250 musicians in addition to conferences, lutherie workshops and exhibitions held in the historic center or those staying at home can watch the 9 TV live streams. Also, more than 600 young musicians and music teachers benefit from a program of masterclasses for their professional development. This festival is an important cultural reference that everyone should experience.

Storyland Electronic Music Festival, Santa Marta

Be prepared to start the new year in the way it should be: full of music and fun. The Storyland Electronic Music Festival happens in the beautiful beach of Bello Horizonte, in the Caribbean city of Santa Marta, and grows each time more like one of the greatest in Latin America. Not only music is the star of the festival but entertainment, fashion and tourism have their importance too. With 2 stages, a commerce area and 3 exclusive locations for comfort, the Storyland offers a high-quality experience. International electronic music celebrities such as David Guetta, Steve Aoki, Afrojack, Hardwell, among others have form part of the incredible line ups that attract thousands of tourists each year in January. This is an excellent platform for new artists to enter the industry as well. Also, before the festival begins, other activities allow attendees to learn and discuss more this genre in panels and conferences. If you can make it to the festival host city, watch out for the different beach and pool parties that are hosted in various cities of Colombia!

Riosucio Carnival, Riosucio – Caldas

Every 2 years around the Epiphany day, joy and magic visit Riosucio, a town located in the Caldas province, in the Colombian Coffee Region. The Riosucio Carnival dates back to 1819 when two parish priests managed to found the town joining Quiebralomo and La Montaña communities, which were declared enemies for years. Their victory was due to the priests’ statement that Satan would come to punish whoever was against the desire of uniting both towns and for celebrating the milestone, a celebration in honor of the Three Kings became a tradition. This festival gained so much importance that it was declared Colombia’s cultural, oral and intangible heritage. Since 1915 the devil is the image of the carnival, as the spirit that inspires artists and the guardian of the carnival.

If you visit this region at the beginning of the year, you can’t miss the many activities Riosucio offers. Celebrate dawns with music and fireworks in alboradas, if a fan of bullfighting go see the corralejas, dazzle yourself with the different parades including the Lanterns and Devils parade, which is a spell for the sun to shine during the carnival, and others that celebrate the return of the colonies and the entrance of the devil. These and many more magical events wait for you at Riosucio Carnival.

Corralejas Fair, Sincelejo

“Ya viene el 20 de enero, la fiesta de Sincelejo…” This is a popular Colombian song that serves as an insignia for this fair, also known as Fiestas del 20 de enero, held in the Caribbean city of Sincelejo. Its name refers to the traditional bullfights that have been a main attraction throughout the country since colonial time. Corraleja means bull ring, this is the scenario where hundreds of spectators come to witness various amateurs fighting about 40 bulls daily with music bands play upbeat songs to cheer up the event. Even though in recent years bullfighting has been forbidden intermittently thanks to animal activists, thousands of locals and foreigners enjoy 10 days of pure joy. The main activities are the Fandangueras parade, the carriages and troupes parade, the cavalcade, the Pola Becte alborada and the beauty pageant of January 20 that rewards the woman with the best charisma for Porro and Fandango music. For 2020, visitors can enjoy a new activity focused on regional gastronomy under the name of Festival del Frito.

Hay Festival, Cartagena

Promotion of culture is the main goal of Hay Festival in Cartagena. With a focus on literature, this international festival that has been held 14 times between January and February includes topics such as visual arts, films, music, geopolitics, journalism and environment as a way of fostering dialogue, cultural exchange, education and development. In 2019 Medellín and Jericó  also hosted this event that aims to be inclusive to all Colombians. It has social commitment too, 20% of the tickets are offered for free for high school and university students and there are exclusive events for them in the Hay Joven program. In there you can attend conferences and enter the amazing world of literature to understand the essence behind each story. With international and local guests and events for every audience, this is a festival to remember.

FEBRUARY

Barranquilla Carnaval, Barranquilla

Colombia’s largest and maddest festival is only the second largest festival in the entire world, after Rio De Jeneiro, Brazil! Held every year in February in the city of Barranquilla located on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, this festival is a 4-day long crazy party that never stops! The festival slogan is ‘quien lo vive, es quien lo goza’ – “those who live it are those who enjoy it” and truer words have never been uttered! Dating back to almost a century, the festival originates from pagan rituals, catholic beliefs and multi diversity that are ever-present in the country.

This exotic festival is appreciated all around the globe and has been declared by UNESCO as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. With over 18,000 participants and hundreds of thousands of spectators, the festival is truly a carnival unlike any other. From the infamous ‘Battle of Flowers’ that features 6 hours of dancing, political satire, floats and parade to the Great Parade of tradition and folklore which is another massive parade paying homage to the various cultures, there is something for everyone! The hotels in the city are booked months in advance so we advise our readers to book where you plan on staying in due time. Get your tickets early and get to the parades early to truly witness the stat of the show and to avoid getting stuck in jams. Prepare to get messy and wasted and for your senses to be dazzled by a cacophony of colors and vivid costumes!

A real life report of the Carnaval in Barranquilla you will find here.

Bullfighting Season, Bogotá

Between February and March, enthusiasts of bullfighting can attend 6 bullfights including 1 novillada or bullfight with steers at the Santamaría bullring. Unlike Medellín, the capital of Colombia maintains this Spanish tradition that many people claim as cultural heritage but many others consider a violation of animal rights. Organizers say that they’ll keep the habit of Sunday bullfights, although any proposal can be considered. Tickets can be bought in Tuboleta’s webpage or box offices and the minimum age for entry is 7 years.

MARCH

Holy Week in Popayán

A whole week devoted to celebrating the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ with processions, theatrical plays and choirs; this is what you can experience during the Holy Week in Popayán -one of the prettiest colonial cities of Colombia. Religion is a big part of Colombia’s culture since the Spanish conquerors infused Catholicism in indigenous, black and creole people. Now, hundreds of locals and tourists gather in the streets of the ‘White City’ in March or April to witness and live this holiday declared by the UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

At night, parishioners and scene artists parade over 2 kilometers reciting prayers and carrying incense and aromatic candles while bystanders admire more than 30 sacred statues carried on heavy platforms called ‘pasos’. Choirs singing traditional religious musical pieces adds a more solemn environment to this event that dates back to the mid-1500s. In the mornings you can let a collection of sacred art canvasses from the 16th-19th centuries amaze you at the Religious Art Museum or you can visit the Gold Hands Crafts exhibition at Claustro de Santo Domingo to support local and foreign artisans.

If you are looking for more information, click here.

Religious Music Festival, Popayán

The Religious Music Festival that takes place the same week of Holy Week is a must-visit for those interested in historical art expressions. Solo artists, bands and choirs from all over the world present displays of Islamic, Sephardic, Celtic, Lutheran, traditional American music, among others as part of the oldest festival of its kind in America. If you are not a fan of religion you don’t need to worry cause Popayán is a UNESCO city of gastronomy too, so you can discover its delightful typical dishes such as empanadas de pipian or salpicón de frutas while touring its beautiful streets that carry a long history.

Cartagena de Indias International Film Festival

The best films of Iberoamerica are displayed to the world at the Cartagena de Indias International Film Festival. Created in 1960, this is the oldest film event in Latinamerica which creates spaces for the encounter of professionals and audiences around the art. At least 130 movies are shown, some of which debut worldwide in the event held in March. So far, more than 5,000 films have been screened! In this way, the work of many Latinamerican producers, directors, and actors has been launched to the international industry. If you come to this festival, you can meet global film celebrities that often form the jury that chooses the winner movies for each category. Geraldine Chaplin, Willem Dafoe, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Susan Sarandon, Tilda Swinton and Owen Wilson have visited the beautiful walled city of Cartagena as special guests of the festival! The India Catalina Awards (national television awards) and Cine en los barrios (display of short films in popular neighborhoods) are other events that attract thousands of people to this great festival.

The Theatre Festival of Bogotá (Ibero-American)

Theatre: where art imitates life in the most profound manner. Lovers of cinema will understand the true value of a festival that celebrates creative geniuses, an excellent display of acting and theatrics that is loved in all corners of the world. This major cultural event is one of the largest festivals dedicated to performing arts and takes place every other year in the country’s capital, Bogotá. Witness the entire city coming to life in an erratic and unforgettable display of art for over 2 weeks. This event is an homage to the diversity of the various genres of art known to mankind and was originated in 1988 by an actress and a playwright; Fanny Mickey and Ramiro Osorio. Besides performing art and theatre, visitors can enjoy the circus, concerts, dances and even puppetry all over the city. Colorful parades and important theatre companies from around the world gather up for this unmatched cinematic and theatre ride in Colombia!

For more information click.

Jamming Festival, Ricaurte

Jamming Festival can be defined as the biggest yearly encounter of Afro Caribbean and alternative music in Latin America. Held during one weekend in March, this festival is full of good energy and celebrates the One Love culture. In 2020 there will be more than 40 artists and special guests from all over the world! Ricaurte is a little town in the Cundinamarca province 142 kilometers away from Bogotá with an average temperature of 29°C, so make sure to pack summer clothing and comfortable shoes, plus sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat to avoid sunburns. Apart from that, you just need a positive mindset and the will to spend the funniest 2 days of your trip to Colombia. There is a market area where local brands exhibit their products, a wide offer of restaurants and a wellness area with a camping zone, art workshops and sports zones for climbing and jumping for example.

One Love culture promotes free opinion and knowledge sharing, for this reason, there is an academic program that offers seminars, debates and film projections with cultural artists and activists. Last but not least, attendees can be part of a caring environment helping social and environmental foundations through donations of different items or purchase of official merchandising. Love is what this festival spreads!

Llanera Song Festival, Villavicencio

The Llanera Song Festival pays homage to the typical rhythms of the Eastern plains of Colombia known as Llanos Orientales. Inaugurated in 1962 thanks to the singer-songwriter Miguel Angel Martín , the former Colombian Song International Festival lasts 4 days and brings together the cultures from both Colombian and Venezuelan plains, which share a lot of traditions. Joropo is the name of the regional musical genre and it involves instrument playing, singing and dancing. Currently, delegations from many provinces of Colombia and other countries come to Villavicencio for the music contest and to present impressive choreographies to the rhythm of harps, maracas, guitars, mandolins, cuatros, drums and verses related to the life in the countryside sung with passion.

Also, the festival is the best way to portray the llanero folklore though the best singer-songwriters and groups of the genre. The event rewards the best duos, dance couples, unpublished llanero poems, songs, couplet singers and female voices. Also, as in most festivals in Colombia, there has to be a beauty queen, so the corresponding beauty pageant happens under the name of Joropo International Beauty Pageant. The Llanera Song Festival is a memorable experience for anyone that witnesses this huge celebration to the regional cultural heritage.

APRIL

Vallenato Festival, Valledupar

The Vallenato Legend Festival is one of the most important music festivals in Colombia. Created in 1968 by 3 locals thinking about preserving the cultural heritage of the region, this festival recreates all the magic of this culturally-rich land. Valledupar is a valley city located in the north of Colombia, in the Caribbean region. It is the cradle of Vallenato, one of the most famous native musical genres of Colombia, named Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO. The festival represented a milestone in 1987 when it served as a framework for the inauguration of regional television, with the coastal channel Telecaribe, which broadcasted the event live until 1998.

Every year in April or May, the festival aims to preserve and spread several folklore expressions of Vallenato and different traditions around this genre. You can witness parrandas vallenatas or soloists competing for the Cacique Upar gold figurine or the crown and oral traditions such as rural poetry and storytelling that show the foreigners all the myths and legends that survive generation after generation in this warm region.

International Book Fair, Bogotá

On late April and early May, the Fair and Expositions Corporation Corferias hosts an essential event for the promotion of literature and arts among Colombians: the Bogotá’s International Book Fair. Created in 1988 by the Colombian Book Chamber, this fair works for the democratization of books and reading. Thanks to the fair chosen as Asset of Cultural Interest for the country, Bogotá was declared the Book World Capital in 2007. Each year, a country or region is selected to be the special guest, meaning visitors can discover its history, its stories and its culture in general through a range of books, conferences and exhibitions lead by native authors. For its 33rd edition, the Nordic countries are the special guests! This is an incredible experience for those who love learning and discovering new worlds through reading. There are special interactive activities for introducing children to literature in a fun way. Entry is open for all public at low fees and inside you can find around 20 stands with different exhibitions and book shops, besides a stand devoted to comic and painting artists.

Estéreo Picnic, Bogotá

Estéreo Picnic Festival is the Colombian equivalent of Lollapalooza. An impressive alternative music festival held for 3 days every April since 2009. Now the Briceño 18 Golf Club is the designated venue, located a bit more than an hour away from Bogotá. It combines emerging local artists with world-known bands and singers besides a good customer experience based on food, camping, games and market zones, that is what makes this festival so interesting for Colombians and tourists. At the Hippie Market, attendees will get to know local brands that offer amazing products. Among the international artists that have played at Estéreo Picnic are The Strokes, Martin Garrix, The XX, The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa, Arctic Monkeys, Sam Smith, The 1975, Kendrick Lamar, Twenty One Pilots, Interpol, Tiesto, Disclosure, Gorillaz, The Killers, Lana del Rey, Mumford and Sons, Depeche Mode, Muse, Nine Inch Nails and in 2020 Guns N’ Roses head the line-up!

You can get transportation to the venue at additional cost, if not leave your hotel with extra time because Bogotá is sadly known for its traffic jams. Whether you buy tickets for one day only or all 3 days, fares increase the longer you wait, so don’t overthink and come enjoy this musical paradise!

MAY

European Film Festival (Eurocine) – Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, Manizales

Since 1994 there is an alternative space for the exhibition of European films in Colombia: the Eurocine Festival. It is supported by European embassies to spread their rich culture among Colombian people and it has worked! Around 30,000 people attend the festival yearly. Here you won’t find the same movies that are displayed in every commercial cinema, these are independent high-quality projects that guarantee the viewer’s satisfaction. Carefully selected into categories, these films expose the distinct contexts of the participating countries. Just check the program on the web page and filter by date, city or producing country and you’re ready to enjoy.

Wayúu Culture Festival, Uribia – Guajira

Held during the last days of May in Uribia town of La Guajira, the most northern region of Colombia, the Wayuu Culture Festival serves as a cultural showcase for this indigenous community living in this region and the Zulia state of Venezuela. It is the biggest ethnic festival in Colombia! It not only gathers members of ethnic communities but researchers, anthropologists, journalists, local and foreign visitors around Wayuu cultural expressions. With over 30 editions, it was declared National Intangible Heritage in 2006.

The idea of coming to this festival is to reflect on different topics based on Wayuu symbolism and world view. More than 15 thousand Wayuu people get to share their knowledge of traditional medicine, knitting, dance, games, gastronomy, music and typical clothing during the 3 days of the event. It has its kind of ‘beauty pageant’: the Majayut de Oro is the title given to the young Wayuu lady that shows the greatest understanding of her culture and the best skills in the Yonna dance, traditional games and the Wayuunaiki language. This appointment makes her the ambassador of the Wayuu culture and festival, a meaningful duty that should be the role model for other festivals. This cultural celebration that aims to preserve and transmit valuable ancestral knowledge should be in your bucket list when traveling to Colombia.

Baum Festival, Bogotá

For one day you get to experience freedom at Baum Electronic Music Festival. This is one of the most important events of this genre in Colombia and has been held only since 2015. Thousands of people expect to party all night with their friends to the beat of the best local and international DJs in 4 stages with over 500,000 watts of power. This festival is held o the outskirts of Bogotá, in a country club with all the facilities for a good experience. The Baum line-up is diverse: out of 34 artists in 2019, 14 were women and 12 Latin Americans, which is a big step in the desire for inclusion in electronic music. If you’re in Bogotá at this time of the year and you’re a fan of electronic music, Baum Festival is the right choice for you.

JUNE

International Tango Festival, Medellín

The “City of eternal spring”, capital of the Antioquia province, offers a magnificent show to Tango lovers: Festitango. As it assembles plenty of tangueros, or Tango dancers, from all over the globe, it is the second most important Tango festival worldwide. Why Medellín? Since the famous Argentinian Tango singer-songwriter Carlos Gardel died in a plane accident over the Medellín Airport in June 1935, the city developed a strong sense of belonging for that genre and the passion for Tango was transmitted to the newer generations. So each year, the city’s iconic scenes, as well as popular neighborhoods, serve as environments to commemorate and enjoy this unique music. More than 900 high profile dancers get to Medellín to compete in amazing stages with quality productions. The best part is that this is a traveling, inclusive and diverse festival with free entry for all public!

International Poetry Festival, Medellín

The lovely art of poetry is honored at the Medellín’s International Poetry Festival, held in mid-June. The essence of the festival is intertwining with the community in a process of building a new culture, in which peace, democratic participation, respect for their cultural rights, their free expression, life and care for the planet are possible. 100 poets from over 45 countries gather in 130 activities including poem readings, concerts, workshops, conferences, talks, panels and artistic interventions. Plus, there is an educational element materialized in its International School of Poetry. Let your imagination fly participating in this enriching experience for the soul.

San Pedro and San Juan Festivals, Tolima

As said before, Catholicism plays an important role in Colombian culture. Celebrations held throughout the country in honor of the saints Peter and John since colonial times are a good example. The provinces of Caquetá, Huila and Tolima include this holiday in their list of festivals, some of the most representatives are hosted in the warm tolimense towns of Espinal since 1881 and Natagaima. The San Pedro festival in Espinal begins a week before the Catholic holidays (June 29th) and offers innovative cultural expressions such as the children’s beauty pageant and school music presentations. The San Pedro National Beauty Pageant, the Municipal Troupes Contest, Bambuco dance exhibitions and firework shows are other attractions of the festival. In Natagaima the San Juan festival happens for 5 days and unites rural and urban communities in one spirit of joy, to the sound of Sanjuanero. Come and enjoy free concerts of renowned folk artists such as Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Grupo Niche, Jessi Uribe, among others. And don’t forget to taste delicious tamales and lechonas, typical dishes in Tolima.

Folklore Festival and Bambuco National Beauty Pageant, Neiva

Celebrating as well the San Pedro and San Juan Holiday, the capital of Huila province lying between the central and eastern mountain ranges hosts these great events during the second half of June. In former days, this holiday was more linked to religion and was about honoring the saints and sharing typical food such as mistela and bizcochuelo blanqueado with the bystanders, going to a riverside or a gorge to cook an asado huilense and then, in the evening, attend bullfights. Now, folklore and revelry have gotten hold of the celebration, that is why visitors can find numerous cultural activities. In the 1960s the holiday changed its name to Folklore Festival and Bambuco National Beauty Pageant and began to gain a reputation throughout the country. Don’t miss your chance to witness an Andean music contest, dance troupes dancing fandanguillo and the Sanjuanero bambuco, cavalcades, colorful parades, the election of the Bambuco queen, a band’s regional encounter and typical cultural demonstrations with international Latinamerican guests.

Coffee National Festival and Beauty Pageant, Calarcá

7 kilometers away from Armenia, the capital of the Quindío province known for its coffee, is the city of Calarcá. Calarcá hosts this festival since 1960 when it was trying to progress and establish peace in a cold environment of national violence through a night of reunion with friends drinking aguardiente and hearing bambuco among the pleasant aromas of coffee trees. The last days of June are scheduled with cultural events for your entertainment such as the theater regional encounter, cavalcades, recreational activities, music shows, gastronomic samples and, of course, the beauty contest that chooses the coffee national and international representative but beyond that, brings all Colombian regions together around the culture of coffee. The most important event in Quindío is expecting you!

JULY

Rock al Parque, Bogotá

Rock al Parque: the largest free outdoor rock festival in Latin America and the third-largest in the world. One sentence was enough to catch your attention, wasn’t it? Well, this festival inaugurated in 1994 in Colombia’s capital started as an initiative to promote local rock bands and programs for tolerance among the youngsters. It is the first of a series of free festivals hosted in the city’s parks organized by the District Secretary of Culture, Recreation and Sport and now is declared cultural heritage of Bogotá. It is held yearly in June, July or August. While at first it only focused on rock bands, it has been including other genres such as punk, reggae, ska and blues. You can enjoy 3 days of good music in 3 different stages with many national and international bands playing in the beautiful landscape of Simon Bolivar Park (the Central Park of Colombia). Additionally, its hundreds of thousands of attendees can visit a food zone, a market place with local brands and conferences, workshops and masterclasses delivered by academics and special guests. This is a unique experience for all rock lovers.

International Joropo Tournament, Villavicencio

The boost of tourism and the preservation of the cultural heritage of the llaneros are possible thanks to the International Joropo Tournament held in Villavicencio. The capital of Meta celebrates its anniversary with a great tribute to its culture. More than 5,000 prepared and devoted dancers participate in the Joropódromo: a big parade that displays the typical clothing and the dancing troupes showing their passion for the llanero dance. As a spectator, you will hear strong knocking sounds along the avenue, those are the dancers’ steps that they perform emulating galloping horses. It is not a simple step to learn and for that reason, this dance requires a good physical condition from its practitioners. Coleo, a work activity from the plains that later became an official local sport, is also present in the festival and consists of groups of cowboys pursuing cattle on horseback through a narrow pathway to tumble them. This tournament is a lot of fun and the landscapes of the Colombian plains will leave awestruck.

Colombiamoda, Medellín

Colombia’s fashion week Colombiamoda results very attractive for many tourists. Colombiamoda is a bet of the pro fashion organization Inexmoda for the 4th industrial revolution. It focuses on creativity, entrepreneurship. innovation and technology. This is a platform with spaces that provide optimal experiences for final consumers and business models for specialized buyers thanks to the nearly 580 brands that connect with their audiences during the fair in Medellín. They do that through a commercial sample open to 12,000 specialized buyers from around 39 countries, a concept market where you can get special editions of products from your favorite brands, an e-commerce platform, about 50 fashion runways and knowledge sharing (talks and panels). Be part of this trendy event that happens at the end of July and see colorful styles contrasting with the pretty paisa sky.

AUGUST

Medellín Flower Festival (Feria de las Flores)

Picture this: a city submerged in flowers of all shapes, sizes and colors, is there anything even comparable to its beauty? We think not! Medellín, also known as the ‘city of eternal spring’ is the proudest host to the most glorious festival there exists: the Flower Festival taking place in early August every year.

Celebrated and hosted since 1957, this festival is unlike any other in Colombia and that is exactly why it’s a must-visit! Spanned for 10 days there are plenty of activities and events to look forward to such as parades, flower displays, competitions that do not wholly have much to do with flowers only. The amusing event ‘Cabalgata’ is a parade with over 6,500 locals on horseback laden with booze and fun (discontinued since 2014 due to the loud disruptions). The most awe-inspiring event is the ‘Silleteros ‘parade where locals carry huge and heavy flower displays and bouquets on their backs -most of which can weigh anywhere from 80-100 kilos! Dedication, isn’t it? In earlier times the poor slaves carried the rich on their backs across the city’s mountains; what a beautiful way to challenge the old practices and norms by proudly carrying beauty and flowers on their backs by choice today! Beauty pageants, orchid competitions, car parades and fondas: the display of various bars from every region along the river banks are some of the many exciting events in this stunning festival of flowers in Medellin! Truly beautiful and worth witnessing!

Learn more in my action report when I visited the Medellin Flower Festival myself.

International Orchids Exhibition, Medellín

As a part of the Flower Festival, this specialized fair called ‘Orchids, Flowers and Handicrafts’ is held in the Medellín Botanical Garden during the first days of August. Here you can see over 200 commercial stands offering exclusive handicrafts, food, plants and flowers. Also, 62 orchid samples lay in the garden’s Orquideorama, where 30 artisans show their craft live in front of visitors.

Wind and Kites Festival, Villa de Leyva

Every August, Villa de Leyva greets strong winds that sway among its lovely streets. On this occasion, the main square gets filled up with colorful kites of every size and shape. This colonial city located in the province of Boyacá, in the Andean region of Colombia, hosts every year during 3 days the Wind and Kites Festival. This unique event gathers since 1975 local families and curious foreigners as well as professionals in the matter in one of the biggest squares in Colombia, with 14,000 square meters. Both amateurs and pros can compete in different categories of the famous contest that rewards creativity and skills. Individual contestants or teams aim at having the best handmade kite, the biggest kite, the best acrobatics, synchronized flights or the prettiest light kites for the night show. Whether it is for fun or sport, as a competitor or spectator, it is always magical to participate in this festival.

If you go to Villa de Leyva for the kites festival, it is a big opportunity to get to know all of the activities that this city has to offer. Tours around the center can show you some historically important places for the colonial era such as the Antonio Nariño House Museum. Also, this city is significant for the study of geology and paleontology, since fossils of dinosaurs and other animals have been discovered there, and for the preservation of the Muisca indigenous culture. There are many other plans for couples, friends and families: a great hotel infrastructure, extreme sports, an ostrich farm, wide gastronomy and wine offer, amazing lakes and natural parks… all of this can be enjoyed in this little town of barely 18,000 inhabitants.

Summer Festival, Bogotá

Since 1997 Bogotá chooses to commemorate its foundation and birthday with this great leisure time festival that features different recreational and sports activities. It is deemed to have a cultural interest by the city’s council. The Summer Festival aims to represent the diversity of the city and its inhabitants, besides highlighting the country’s cultural plurality by bringing typical regional celebrations to the capital. If you are discovering Bogotá the first weeks of August, you will have a full schedule. Go to the over 100 events in the Simon Bolivar and El Tunal Parks, among other places, to share with more than 3 million people that enjoy the windy and sometimes sunny days of August. Either you fly kites or attend the closing concert by famous local artists, you will not get bored in this summer fair.

Pacific Coast Folklore Festival, Buenaventura

This city located in Valle del Cauca, on the Pacific coast of Colombia, hosts since 1986 a vibrant ethnic event that makes everyone feel traditional Afro beats running through their veins. The folklore festival of the Colombian Pacific coast was created to highlight the cultural legacy of Afrodescendants living in the region for centuries. Just like every other festival in Colombia, in here you can experience troupe parades, children musical presentations, the beauty pageant, shows of folk music groups and the iconic Peregoyo de Oro marimba contest. Locals and tourists in this port city live joyfully during the 5 days of the festival, tasting shots of viche or arrechón (traditional liquors) to the sound of currulao.

SEPTEMBER

World Salsa Festival in Cali

Did you even visit Colombia if you missed out on this crazy Salsa feat in Cali? Celebrated annually in September in Cali, a South-western Colombian city nestled in the Cauca Valley, is the World Salsa Festival in none other than the Salsa Capital of the world. That’s right! With over 200 academies, over 40 clubs dedicated to salsa and various bars and places where Salsa kicks off as a nightly ritual, Cali is world-famous for Salsa and nowhere in the world is Salsa experienced as it is in this beautiful city!

Trust us; you will be doing yourself a great favor if you manage to make it to Cali to witness the city’s fierce love for the amazing Afro-Caribbean style of dance that has garnered love from all across the globe. The city is famous for its own spin on the dance style: ‘salsa caleña’ that is a brilliant display of speed, unique choreography and colorful costumes. Cali hosts the World Salsa Festival with reported 44,000 attendees and scored of dancers, artists, trainers, enthusiasts and musicians that travel from across 7 countries for this 4-day event. The festival was inaugurated in the year 2005 and since then has remained an essential part of the cultural integrity and industry of the city as it attracts thousands of tourists, allows a safe outlet to the marginalized communities, especially the youth to find their salsa calling and save themselves from evils of homelessness, drugs and prostitution.

Besides the main start of the festival, the competition that draws the best of the best salsa dancers in the world, the festival offers something for everyone! Think you’re a novice and can never shake a leg? Let the festival prove you wrong! International guests and local salsa trainers from various academies in the city will help you shake it off in no time with various workshops and training camps! Enthusiasts can also become a part of fascinating discussions exploring the roots of this fiery dance form with incredibly talented academics and specialists. The rocking concerts display a mix of insanely talented musicians from around the globe to play the best classical salsa music there is! All this and so much more prove why Cali is indeed the Salsa Capital of the world. Why not head to Colombia and witness the glory yourself?

Green Moon Festival, San Andrés

In San Andrés, located in the Caribbean sea, the Green Moon Festival honors the Creole culture that inhabits the island. It comprises the artistic, gastronomic, intellectual, religious, sports, cinematographic and musical expressions of the sanandresanos that display its mixed European and African origin. There are 3 basic pillars: Bush Culture, Sea Culture and Coconut Culture. Around these topics several academic activities are offered, one, in particular, is the study of the Creole language spoken by natives and derived from English. If you are more on the sports team, you can see horse races, softball, domino and sailing boat competitions. However, the main attraction is music, so there are several concerts with national and international artists representative of the traditional Caribbean genres, such as reggae, dancehall, calypso, salsa, merengue, Cuban and African rhythms, among many others. Anyway, the Green Moon Festival is a great way to discover the culture and history of this touristic island with unforgettable landscapes and people!

Jazz al Parque, Bogotá

The beloved classical jazz or the new trends of fusion with other genres such as pop, alternative rock or Colombian music -this is what Jazz al Parque festival brings to the audience of Bogotá every September. This event, created in the mid-90s as part of the series of free music festivals hosted in the capital, gathers adults, youngsters, families, musicians or music lovers from various national regions and countries. The Country Park, in the north of the city, was initially the only venue for the festival, but in recent years it has spread to other locations such as the Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Theater and La Milla stage at Bronx Distrito Creativo. The sound of drums, guitars, saxophones and cellos harmonizing prodigious local, national and international voices are the perfect way to enjoy 4 days full of musical surprises. If you are not a fan of jazz, don’t make excuses up and just go. Entry is free and perhaps you can even return home with a new musical obsession!

OCTOBER

Opera al Parque, Bogotá

For 5 days, the capital of Colombia recreates the historic art tradition that involves singing, playing instruments and acting with passion. Opera al Parque is organized by the Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra to bring the opera to the popular culture, as it usually is reserved for the elite classes. Its 22nd version in 2019 had scheduled 8 pieces and 17 shows featuring exclusive debuts of plays in Spanish. Sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses perform lyrical pieces from famous international songwriters expecting to leave a message in the public. Do you love opera? You can’t miss this festival.

National Tourism Beauty Pageant, Girardot

As you should know by now, Colombia has beautiful women and a lot of festivals. Hence, most festivals reward beauty and charisma with a different focus. Girardot -this warm town of Cundinamarca that is growing each time more- hosts every October the National Tourism Beauty Pageant, since it is the most visited tourist destination in the province. Candidates from different Colombian regions get to Girardot to be part of several activities such as the carriages parade and the nautical parade along the Magdalena River. Enthusiasts of the beauty contest also participate in cavalcades, folklore demonstrations, dance troupes, handicrafts exhibitions and music shows of local and foreign artists. You can also visit natural tourist sites that are representative of Girardot.

Hip Hop al Parque, Bogotá

Hip Hop al Parque is another of the series of free outdoor music festivals that take place in Bogotá since the mid-1990s, being one of the most important of the genre in Latin America. On this occasion, great exponents of Hip Hop culture participate in diverse branches: rap, breakdance, DJs and graffiti. It is held in the Simon Bolívar Park and the public stage La Media Torta for 3 days a year. As the other park festivals, it features an educational component with talks and workshops and makes available food and recreational zones inside the venue. Do not doubt the quality of the line-up -all participants are selected in internal contests for the different categories of hip hop culture.

NOVEMBER

National Beauty Pageant, Cartagena

For more than 80 years, Colombians gather around the beauty of the Colombian woman in the framework of the National Beauty Pageant held in the lovely Walled City. Ladies from all the regions pass through several stages in order to be elected as Miss Colombia. In this competition, not only beauty is important but earning admiration thanks to their honesty, effort, kindness, empathy, passion and ambition. That way, only a whole woman can aspire to represent the country rightfully abroad and inspire Colombians to be better. The winner of the national contest is the one that represents Colombia in Miss Universe.

DECEMBER

Lights Festival, Villa de Leyva

A dazzling night festival aimed to all families in honor of the Candles Day Colombian tradition, that is what the Lights Festival of Villa de Leyva is. This holiday is held every year on December 7th, the Immaculate Conception’s eve, as a way of greeting Christmas time. This is a night when families get together, eat typical food such as buñuelos and natilla and have fun. The feast in Villa de Leyva is completed with great fireworks shows that illuminate the cold sky and even the artisan companies compete for the highest score in brightness, coverage, sound, and duration of their fireworks. Alternative activities such as painting exhibitions and choirs are always available for your enjoyment.

Aguinaldo Boyacense, Tunja

Before celebrating Christmas, Tunja receives thousands of tourists that arrive looking for an incredible experience. It went from disguised policemen that took Christmas to the streets in 1955, to a cultural heritage event loved by boyacenses and foreigners. In the Aguinaldo Boyacense, one can enjoy numerous events and activities: the carriages parade, dance troupes, costumes, music shows, sports and children competitions. This festival lasts 1 week and each day focuses on a music genre, so you could choose which shows you want to go to. As a plus, you can tour this colonial city, with the biggest main square among the Hispanic towns in Latin America, decorated with colorful lights that highlight the beauty of its architecture.

Expoartesanías, Bogotá

Artisans and artists build with their hands the traditions and the identity of a country. They are a cultural asset of a nation. In Bogota’s exhibition center -Corferias- you can support them in Colombia’s biggest handicrafts and cultural products fair: Expoartesanias. Origin, design, fashion, and art come together in this incredibly diverse and innovative fair held in the first half of December. Here you can travel around the country without taking an airplane! In just one space, you can discover the cultural expressions from different regions that make up the artisan wealth of Colombia. There is the possibility of interacting with the artisans in workshops. So this is a nice experience for honoring them and helping them get to a wider market.

Cali Fair

Cali’s culture of Salsa and happiness can be directly related to its geographical location, its weather, food and traditions. Caleños are known for being kind and good dancers, wouldn’t you like to meet them? The Cali Fair is the perfect time to do so, as it embodies the essence of these energetic people. 6 days of rave, art and music are what you can experience if you come to this city the last week of the year. The biggest event of the fair is called Salsódromo, it is the opening activity every December 25th since 2008 and consists of a 1,500 meters route where dance troupes parade showing Salsa choreographies with live music played by national and international orchestras to thousands of excited viewers. There are over 1,400 artists for each edition! Everyone can experience concerts, art exhibitions, sports fairs, cars and pet parades, markets and more.

While the country offers a never-ending plethora of festivals and carnivals that will fill your trip to the wonderfully diverse country of Colombia with unforgettable memoirs, these are some of the most celebrated and infamous festivals in the country with each festival worth enjoying and witnessing!

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If you feel a great desire to travel to Colombia at one of the festivals described, write to us! As a travel agency in Bogota, we specialize in traveling throughout Colombia and will be happy to help you.

2020-04-04T21:10:59+00:00

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