Colombian Festivals: Major Colombian Parties, Fiestas and Ferias

Colombian Festivals

Colombia is a nation that takes it festivals, dance, music and traditions incredibly seriously and despite all of the only too well publicized problems in this country, you’ll not find another place where the people are more prepared to let their hair down, shrug off their difficulties, embrace as tourist as if they were family and party hard. Below we have listed a few of the more famous, unusual and exciting events and festivals for the period January to December.

January

Blacks and Whites Carnival/ Los Blancos y Negros

Los Blancos y Negros

Location: Pasto, Narino

Dates: January 3 – 7

What to Expect: A non-stop celebration of interracial and cultural diversity. Locals paint their faces black with shoe polish and then engage in massive flour fights in the streets.

Cartagena Hay Festival

Location: Cartagena, Bolivar

Dates: January 28 – 31

What to Expect: Literary heavyweights descending upon the stunning walled city of Cartagena. Amongst others, this year’s invited authors include Ian Mcewan, Michael Ondaatje and Mario Vargas Llosa.

February

BARRANQUILLA CARNAVAL

Barranquilla Carnival

Location: Barranquilla, Atlantico

Dates: February 13 – 16

What to Expect: This is not a carnival for the faint hearted and all are welcome. Dancing, drinking, partying and from well before the set dates. Barranquilla carnival will devour you, chew you up and spit you out with a thumping hangover and hearing problems!

March

XII Iboamerican Theatre Festival

Location: Bogota, Cundinamarca

Dates: 19 March – 4 April

What to Expect: While there will be performing troupes from all over the world strutting their thespian stuff in formal venues throughout the capital there will also be parallel free street theatre taking place in various locations.

April

Semana Santa/ Easter Week

Semana Santa COLOMBIA
Image source by El Tiempo

Location: Popayan, Cauca and Mompos, Bolivar

Dates: April 1 – 5

What to Expect: Austere processions and immaculate floats lifted upon the shoulders of pilgrims. Things may be more organised in Popayan but Mompos’ Masonic heritage makes this the pick of the two.

Vallenato Legend Festival

Rafael Escalona

Location: Valledupar, Cesar

Dates: 27 April – 1 May

What to Expect: This year’s edition is in memory of deceased Vallenato legend Rafael Escalona and so we can expect the accordion heavy music to be pounding harder and louder with his songs. Build up your whisky tolerance and start now!

May

Wayuu Cultural Festival

Location: Uribia, La Guajira

Dates: May 22 – 24

What to Expect: A fascinating slice of life in northern Colombia involving plenty of dance, traditions, and drums.

June

Cumbia Festival

Cumbia Festival

Location: El Banco, Magdalena

Dates: Mid June

What to Expect: The town itself may not be up to much but everything is turned around for a full on cumbia explosion where the Cauca and Magdalena rivers converge.

Rock in the Park

Location: Bogota, Cundinamarca

Dates: Mid June

What to Expect: In recent years the organisers have come up trumps and managed to attract the likes of Bloc Party and Fito Paez to Bogota. There should be a good number of local acts on show as well

Colombian Folklore Festival

Location: Ibague, Tolima

Dates: Mid June

What to Expect: Ibague is considered as Colombia’s capital of music and so you can expect duets, poetry and plenty of theatre.

Bambuco Festival

Location: Neiva, Huila

Dates: Late June

What to Expect: Neiva might not attract too much international tourism but as this festival keeps gaining fame for being one of Colombia’s greatest parties, this seems set to change. And of course no Colombian festival would be complete without a coronation, in the case the Bambuco Queen.

July

Colombia Moda

Colombia Moda

Location: Medellin

Dates: End of July

What to Expect: The beautiful people and their beautifully dressed friends will descend into Medellin’s Aburrá Valley and attend catwalks, photo shoots and other model activities. If the idea of the Colombian Miami expat community taking over Medellin is terrifying then perhaps wait for August and the Flower Festival to visit the city!

August

La Feria de las Flores

La Feria de las Flores

Location: Medellin, Antioquia.

Dates: First week in August

What to Expect: The streets will be packed to watch the famous desfile de los silleteros – literally parade of the flower offerings – as local flower growers display fine adornments all made into an intricate float which each individual then carries on his/her back. There are over 130 events during this fiesta ranging from orchid displays to horse races. But the real partying takes place later on in the evening.

Kites Festival

Location: Villa de Leyva, Boyaca

Dates: August Long Weekend

What to Expect: Hopefully a good wind, but this should not be too much of a problem since this is windy season in Colombia. Both amateur and professional kite flyers rub shoulders in what is a spectacle of colour against Boyacá’s clear blue skies.

September

Bogota, Cundinamarca.

Dates: 2nd Week in September

What to Expect: In previous the organizers have been very successful in bringing artists from all over the world including from the US and Holland in addition to overseas based Colombians. Usually proceedings are led by the Bogota Philharmonic Orchestra and then there are workshops, student performances and live gigs and jam sessions in the Parque Simon Bolivar as well as in dimly lit jazz venues about the capital.

October

Location: San Agustin, Huila.

San Agustin Huila

Dates: TBA

What to Expect: Set up in attempt to rescue all of the various displays of culture from this region of Huila,

the Cultural Week in San Agustin should have something for every palate. As the impressive anthropomorphic statues are found in a well-kept park nearby to the picturesque town and there are plenty of activities such as horse-riding and hiking to enjoy in the area, why not plan a trip to Colombia’s south at this time?

November

Location: Cartagena, Bolivar

Dates: December

What to Expect: Taking place at the same time as the independence celebrations in the city of Cartagena, this city becomes a touristic hotspot, perhaps more so than normal. While the Miss Colombia hopefuls, hailing from all over the country, strut their stuff at daily events about the city, each night there are various fiestas put on and if lucky a glimpse of the potential winner!

December

Location: Cali, Valle de Cauca

Dates: December 26 – Jan 3

What to Expect: Plenty of procession, salsa dancing, horse events and non-stop partying in Colombia’s hot southern city. Some locals have complained that the true essence and costs of attending the events are now too much for the real Calenos, but they put these issues aside and celebrate all the same en masse.

Festival of Lights

fireworks illustration

Location: Villa de Leyva, Boyaca

Dates: Dec 7 and 8

What to Expect: During the nights of the 7th and 8th of December the streets of colonial Villa de Leyva are illuminated with hundreds of fireworks and the balconies and homes are lined with candles making this a well worthwhile spectacle. Evoking the spirit of Christmas, one can expect to find many families from Bogota making the trip 3 hours to this town to enjoy the event.