When you think about carnivals in Latin America the first one that probably comes to your mind is Rio the Janeiro. Yes, that is definitely the biggest carnival in the continent. However, it is not the only one. Thanks to the wide diversity of traditions in Colombia, there are plenty of festivals and carnivals every month of the year. However, just to make your decision a bit easier, below we have listed the five biggest and most popular festivals in Colombia.
1. Carnival of Barranquilla (Carnaval de Barranquilla)
The Carnival of Barranquila is not only the second largest Carnival celebration in the world after the one in Rio de Janeiro, but also probably the biggest public and street celebration in Colombia. The Carnival offers a repertory of dances and musical expressions originating from the blend of various local traditions. Groups of masqueraded dancers, actors, singers and instrumentalists delight crowds with theatrical and musical performances based on historical as well as current events.
While Carnival is celebrated officially for only four days at the beginning of February, the pre-Carnival season officially begins in mid-January, and even before then you will see the city coming alive with Carnival themed decorations, music, and more.
Some of the most popular pre-Carnival events include smaller parades such as la Guacherna and el Garabato. These parades happen in smaller areas of the city, and they give you a glimpse of a few popular dances and snippets of traditional Carnival music.
The purpose of any pre-Carnival event is to get you hyped up for the actual Carnival celebration. So, enjoy as many as you can take! Once you’ve had your fill of pre-Carnival events, you should make sure you get tickets to official Carnival events, whether it to be the parades, concerts, or other events around the city.
2. The Flower Festival in Medellin (Festival de Flores en Medellin)
The Flower Festival is another nationally famous festival that takes place in Medellín at the beginning of August every year.
During the festival, the entire city is filled with displays, competitions, and parades that explain and showcase the incredible flowers grown in the area and the culture that has developed with this agricultural activity.
For more than 50 years, men and women of all ages have been participating in this remarkable spectacle. Slaves were once forced to carry rich people up and down the city’s surrounding mountains. Now, proud country folk carry flowers. It is called the Silleteros parade. This ten-day festival also includes dog shows, automobile parades and beauty contests.
3. Blacks and Whites’ Carnival (El Carnaval de Blancos y Negros)
Blacks and Whites’ Carnival is the largest carnival celebration in southern Colombia and one of the oldest festivals, showcasing a cultural exhibit of different races in South America. The carnival happens in the city of Pasto from the 2nd to 7th January of each year.
The festival originates during Spanish rule, when slaves were allowed to celebrate on January 5 and their masters joined them in their festivities by painting their faces black. On the following day, the slaves painted their faces white. Today, the Carnival of Blacks and Whites is a two day wild extravaganza when people smear each other in black and white colours.
The preparation for the Carnival of Blacks and Whites begins well in advance. Pre carnival begins with the Day of Water, when people of all ages come out on the streets and playfully celebrate this day by getting drenched with water. Following this, begins the little carnival (El Carnavalito) when the kids showcase their creativity and culture.
4. The Cali Fair (Feria de Cali)
The Cali Fair is a massive year-end celebration held in Santiago de Cali, Colombia. The first Cali Fair took place in 1957, and it has been held with no interruption since then. The Fair was originally set as a traditional Spanish bullfighting celebration that also included a horse parade, ballroom dancing, and a beauty pageant. However, since the 1980s the Cali Fair has progressively adopted the form of a street carnival that focuses on a celebration of salsa music and dance.
The celebration includes public concerts and private presentations of the most outstanding world salseros, stars of the salsa music scene. The Cali Fair usually starts on December 25th and ends on the 30th, although the bullfighting activities extend to January 6th.
5. The Manizales Fair (Feria de Manizales)
The Feria de Manizales is known for its bullfighting season, concerts, exhibitions, parades and the international Coffee Pageant. This fair has Spanish roots and is inspired in the April Fair of Seville in Spain, taking many of their customs, but also with many customs of Colombia’s coffee region. The fair begins on January 3 and ends on January 12
The Uncover Colombia Team