14 February 2018

Expert Advice for Enjoying Carnival in Barranquilla, Colombia

Posted in Blog

The famous Carnival in Barranquilla, Colombia took place February 10 through February 13, 2018. If you missed this year’s festivities, don’t worry. You can always travel to Barranquilla, Colombia next year to enjoy this vibrant celebration. Here is everything you need to know about Carnival in Barranquilla:

Carnival in Barranquilla, Colombia

Why Carnival is Celebrated

A blend of religious ceremonies, music, and dance, some locals say Barranquilla began its lively celebration of Carnival as a holiday for slaves. However, the modern celebration surpassed this idea years ago. Today, Carnival is a contemporary celebration of festivals, parades and musical events, the second-largest event of its type in the world after Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While the exact origin remains unknown, it is believed the Colombian festivities originated around 1903.

La Guacherna (Pre-Carnival)

La Guacherna is a nighttime parade of folkloric dance groups including Tamboras and Cumbiambas, with traditional costumes, illuminated by candles from spectators to the event. La Guacherna takes place on the Friday before Carnival and is considered by many to be as important as the main event. Looking to get a jump on the celebration? Consider arriving in Barranquilla the weekend before Carnival begins and party like a local in La Guacherna.

Carnival in Barranquilla, Colombia

Celebration Atmosphere

While words like “festive” and “jovial” come to mind during Carnival in Barranquilla, you may find “hedonistic” and “chaotic” more fitting, with everything from loud music to daytime parties common even on weekdays. Locals and tourists alike indulge playfully in battles of maizena and espuma (corn flour and foam spray, respectively), so be sure to pack clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. For most Carnival events, dress comfortably and invest in comfortable footwear, especially if you plan on walking or using public transportation.

Staying Smart as a Visitor

While some warn Carnival is a risky time to visit Barranquilla, Colombia because an increase in debauchery, it is also an excellent time to meet locals who are proud to show off their spectacular annual event. Street smarts, such as being aware of cell phones, wallets, and other personal items at all times, come in quite handy. Opportunists are everywhere; for safer options, buy from vendors wearing identification badges and follow the official City of Barranquilla guides.

Carnival in Barranquilla, Colombia

Don’t Forget!

Now that you know the basics of attending Barranquilla's Carnival, here are a few things to make your visit truly memorable:

  • Book your stay far in advance. Some people seek accommodations in the center of the parades (often pricey or limited), while others enjoy the less-expensive option of staying with a host family or friends just outside of the city. Whatever you choose, be sure to book far in advance of Carnival week.
  • Go light at night. Unless you are a professional photographer carrying insured equipment, or a reporter needing a constant connection, consider leaving expensive cameras and cellphones at home, especially at night, when petty theft is typically heightened. Try browsing photos of events on the Internet, or look for inexpensive photos you can buy on the street.
  • Relax and have fun. Remember, you traveled to visit Barranquilla during its most popular time of the year. With Carnival comes complicated traffic jams, long wait times in lines, and vendors running out of options. Try to relax and have fun, even if you're waiting uncomfortably for your next great experience to arrive, it will. Just give thanks for the moment and enjoy Carnival!

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Carnival in Barranquilla, Colombia


About the author: 

Kate Dana is an independent writer and international educator with five years' experience teaching and living abroad. She enjoys cooking, traveling and staying connected with friends around the world. Find her online at www.katedana.com