The variety of festivals and events that take place during the year, are highly recommended if you have the opportunity to visit them. Always be sure to organize your accommodation in advance. The most popular festival time is from December to February, when you will find many opportunities to enjoy the Colombian culture’s inclination towards the party.
We have selected some of the most representative. Please take a look and choose your favorites ! We will be happy to organize your trip according to these special days… come and enjoy…
The Blacks & Whites Carnival was declared by UNESCO, as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It is celebrated every year in Pasto, an Andean city located in the southwestern Pacific border of Colombia. It takes place the first week of January, attracting a large number of tourists from all the corners of the country and abroad. The city of Pasto, close to the border, has historically been known as the meeting point and crossroads of travelers and traders leaving and coming to Colombia from Ecuador and other Andean countries.
The Carnival has four special events: the Carnavalito or Children´s Carnival, with their own mini floats, the Arrival of the Castañeda Family, which recreates the time, back in 1929, when the family of settlers came from the State of Putumayo on a Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Las Lajas Sanctuary. It features the grandmother, the spinster daughter, and the mischievous brothers.
On Black´s Day, people play and dance, smearing themselves and passersby with black cosmetic creams and paint, yelling “Vivan los Negros” Hurray for the Blacks, making the pastusos , as the people of Pasto are called, and visitors, one big family enjoying the Carnival.
The next morning is White´s Day, and everyone is bathed in fragant talc powder or cosmetic cream, shouting “Vivan los Blancos” Hurray for the Whites, crowding the Carnival Path to watch the Great Float Parade, cheering and throwing confetti and streamers.
Troupes and groups of dancers take part in the parade, which ends with a great Concert of Latin American and Andean music, with International singers. This emblematic celebration has cultural and artisanal workshops, showing the best of their handicrafts and gastronomy.
The Carnival of Barranquilla is the only celebration of the Greater Caribbean declared as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The Carnival has been enriched by the traditions, creativity and flavor of the barranquilleros.
More than a million people, including visitors and locals, participate annually in this celebration, which begins on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday – when public holidays begin – with the Battle of Flowers, the most expected event, and ends four days later, on Tuesday, with the Burial of ¨Joselito Carnaval¨, the symbol of the joy and revelry of the Carnival of Barranquilla. The Carnival encompasses Indigenous, African and European traditions, dance and music. It is a four-day celebration, that begins with the “Lectura del Bando” or Reading of the Carnival Proclamation, accompanied by a display of folklorical dances. It is read by the Queen of the Carnival, crowned at the Soccer Field in a special ceremony, and along with King Momo, they kickoff the events and festivities.
The Guacherna is a nocturnal parade that takes its name from the guache, a maraca-like instrument that beckons people to come out with a flauta de millo or flute-type instrument, and bass drums, dancing cumbias with colorful polleras or puffer skirts, to the light of candles and lanterns. People dance to the music of rhythms such as the cumbia,merengue or mapalé.
The Battle of Flowers, dating back to 1903, is a parade with floats and dance groups ; the Great Parade, with only traditional folklorical troupes taking part, the Fantasy Parade, with colorful costumes, the Festival of Orchestras, and the Verbenas (open-air dances) add life and flavor.
The Manizales Fair, which takes place in early January, is considered the largest, most important and emblematic fair in the Colombian city of Manizales, heart of the Coffee-Growing Region. This fair has Spanish roots, which dates back to 1952, is inspired by the Fair of Seville in Spain.
One of the most expected events, is the “Desfile de las Carretas del Rocío” a Parade of horse- drawn carriages, decorated with flowers, that are typical of the Religious Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of El Rocío, in Andalusia, Spain. The candidates to the International Coffee Beauty Pageant, ride the carriages, dressed in brightly colored printed flamenco day dress, with their “Mantón de Manila” the typical Spanish shawl and hair combs.
The Bullfighting season is a major event, attracting great Colombian and international bullfighters, and tourists can experience the typical atmosphere of the Fiesta Brava.
An exciting event is the ball-bearing wooden carts race. The teams decorate their carts and race downhill, bobsled-style, through the streets of Manizales. Concerts, exhibitions and customs of the coffee-growers paisa culture, make it one of the best fairs in America.
The Cali Fair, also known as the Feria de la Caña, or Sugar Cane Fair, which takes place every year from December 25 to 30, is one of the most important and traditional musical and cultural events in Colombia and in Latin America. During the fair, bullfights and colorful activities such as the Reina de la Caña Beauty Pageant , the Parade of Antique & Classical Automobiles, with over 250 models, and, of course, the Salsa Schools Competition, since Cali is known as the Salsa Capital of the World.
It is considered one of the best fairs in the Americas and the most important festival that ends the year in Colombia.
The program of the Cali Fair begins with the traditional “Salsódromo”, or Salsadrome, which has replaced the cavalcade as the inaugural act. Thousands of dancers from the best salsa schools parade competitively with their salsa choreography. And thousands of Colombian and overseas tourists can enjoy musical concerts with salsa orchestras from the United States, Cuba and the Caribbean. Visitors can relish with the Pacific Cuisine dishes, at The Tascas, tavern-type kiosks, set around a dancing area.
The world of Literature convenes in mid-January in Cartagena de Indias, the colonial city of bougainvillea-draped balconies and 17th century doors, for the Hay Festival. This annual Festival, has over 150 writers and guest speakers, who interact with attendees at a variety of venues. For the 2018 version, Hay Festival opens with Spanish singers Ana Belén and Victor Manuel, J.M. Coetzee, the South African Novelist, and Salman Rushdie, both of them, Nobel Prize Recipients. The French Physicist Christophe Galfard, autor of The Universe is in your Hand, and journalists Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev, writers of “In Our Hearts We Were Giants”. The Hay Festivalito for children, runs alongside, as does the Hay Joven, for Young writers.
The sessions and talks with Nobel Prize-winners and novelists, scientists and politicians, historians and musicians are broadcasted live, in a dynamic exchange of ideas. As Cristina Fuentes, its Director, says: “we firmly believe in the power of Literature and a Conversation, to explore the world of yesterday, today’s world, and imagine the world of tomorrow”. The Hay Festival also holds wide programmes of educational work supporting new generations of writers and artists, for the enrichment of culturally-hungry audiences of all ages.
In January, in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, the Caribbean city known for the beauty of its colonial architecture, the charm of its cobble-stone streets and the diversity of its multi-ethnic roots, the musical notes from the woodwind, brass, string and percussion instruments, fill the air with a fantastic variety of concertos, sonatas, operas, concert bands and recitals, that make the Cartagena International Music Festival, one of the most important events of classical music in Latin America.
The performances of symphonic and chamber orchestras, choirs, ensembles and soloists, are held in historical venues in the city, such as theaters and plazas, as well as in music halls and colonial churches, thus turning Cartagena into a magnificent musical stage.
During the Festival, academic events, with lectures and keynote speakers, are scheduled with gifted young musicians and students, where they have the opportunity to interact with guest artists and world-renowned composers and performers.
And the Program of Luthier Workshops is intended to promote the techniques and knowledge of the repair and maintenance of lutes, guitars and bowed instruments. There is also one for flutes and drums, and a Luthier Workshop for Children.
The Ibero-American Theater Festival (FITB) a world-famous cultural event, that was born in Bogotá, the “Theater Capital of the World”, will celebrate its 30th Anniversary in 2018. It is carried out biannually in the city of Bogotá, Colombia. It was directed and produced, until her death in August 2008, by Fanny Mikey, a theater actress and cultural entrepreneur, born in Argentina, and a citizen of Colombia. This is the most transcendent cultural event in Colombia, and the largest performing arts festival in the world.
The city becomes a great theater every two years, with this festival that brings together 30 theatrical productions from more than 15 companies representing the five continents. During these days, Bogotá becomes a great stage with spectacular plays and shows that are seen in theaters, parks and plazas , congregating an audience of 250.000 or more spectators.
Every year in August, during the Feria de Las Flores or Festival of the Flowers, the city of Medellin hosts a week-long schedule of events and festivities , including the world famous Parade of Silleteros.
The silleteros are flower growers of Santa Elena village, who keep a decades-long tradition of making resplendent Silletas or tumpline wooden frame flower arrangements, a remembrance of the colonial way of transporting uphill, people and goods, on tumpline wooden chairs. The frame has a mold that is decorated with bouquets, and intercalating the flowers, recreating a story, an event or a company logo. They can weigh over 40 kilos. The silleteros go downhill to Medellín, with the arrangements on their backs, and parade all the way to the exposition center.
In 1958, the festival was changed from May to August, to celebrate the independence of the State of Antioquia. Since then, other events have been added, such as the International Beauty Pageant of the Flowers, the cavalcade, the Classic automobile parade, and the Orchids Exposition.
For all of you jazz lovers , this is a great opportunity to enjoy top musical presentations, that take place in the beautiful and historical town of Mompox, by the Magdalena river . You will delight your senses with concerts held at colonial churches and plazas of this enchanting community. Street Jazz, jazz graffiti, folk groups as well as academic acts around this great musical rhythm. The Jazz Festival comes alive every October and is a great inspiration to national and international musicians who actively perform in this romantic place.