15 September 2012

Beyond Rio: Party and experience multi-cultural Colombian carnivals and festivals

Posted in Blog

Looking for different and truly authentic carnivals in Latin America?

Well... maybe you should consider Colombia.

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. Consider Colombia for example: thanks to the wide diversity of traditions across all regions in Colombia, there are plenty of festivals and carnivals every month of the year. These festivals are probably not as big as the one in Rio but they can be more authentic and traditional.

It is a little known fact that in Colombia there are more festivals and carnivals than days in the calendar. As a traditionally catholic country, each town has its own patron saint celebration in which certain days are consecrated to the Virgin or a particular devoted saint.  But not every celebration is for religion reasons; it could be also in honour of downpours, food (i.e. potatos, onions, etc), animals (i.e donkeys or alligators) or just as an expression of the typical traditions of each region.

Truth is, it does not matter what the reason is, as long as we can get together to celebrate and have an opportunity to share and enjoy the best of the traditions, music and gastronomy of each village, town or city.

Colombia has not only a huge biodiversity of fauna and flora, but also a wide variety of traditions thanks to the mix of the traditions of three cultures: Spaniard, African and the Indigenous Pre-Columbian. Colombia is a multicultural and multiethnic country and its folk festivals and carnivals are a good way to experience and value the differences among all regions in Colombia.

This is the introductory blog post of a series that will describe in more detail the carnivals and festivals happening in the country every month.  For the moment we will leave you with a list of some of the most representative festivals listed by month. Feel free to explore further!


  • Blacks and Whites Carnival, held in Pasto, Nariño, in the South West. (Originated during Spanish rule, when slaves were allowed to celebrate and their masters joined in the festivities by painting their faces black)
  • The Manizales fair, held in Manizales, Caldas. (Bullfighters, feistiest bulls, parades, beauty pageant)
  • Corralejas feast, held in Sincelejo, Sucre, in the North.
  • Carnaval del Diablo (The Devil carnival), held in Riosucio, Caldas, every two years in odd years. This carnival is immaterial cultural heritage of Colombia.
Parade in Manizales fair - Caldas, Colombia
Parade in Manizales fair - Caldas, Colombia


  • The Barranquilla carnival, held in Barranquilla, Atlántico, in the Caribbean coast.(The second biggest carnival in Latin America after Rio de Janerio)
  • The Corrido Llanero festival, held in Puerto Carreño, Vichada, in the East of Colombia closer to the Orinoco river.
  • Carnaval del fuego (The fire carnival), held in Tumaco, Nariño, in the South West.
  • Nuestra señora de la Candelaria festival, held in Cartagena, Bolivar, in the Caribbean coast.
The Barranquilla Carnival - Atlantico, Colombia
The Barranquilla Carnival - Atlantico, Colombia


  • Holy week (Easter), held in Popayan, Cauca, in the South West.
  • Festival del burro (The Donkey festival), held in San Antero, Cordoba, in the North.
  • Festival de la canción llanera (The llanera´s song festival), held in Villavicencio, Meta.



  • The San Pedro and Bunde Tolimense festival, held in Espinal, Tolima.
  • Wayuú culture festival, held in Uribia, La Guajira, in the Northern coast. Uribia is the Indigenous people capital of Colombia and every year, the Wayuú indigenous community held this festival between May or June.
  • Cachama festival, held in Puerto Gaitan, Meta. The cachama is a type of fish that can be found in rivers in the South and East of Colombia and that is the main ingredient of traditional dishes in these regions.
Wayuú hammock - Guajira, Colombia
Wayuú hammock - Guajira, Colombia




  • The Medellín flower fair, held in Medellín, Antioquia.
  • The Petronio Alvarez festival, held in Cali, Valle del Cauca. This festival is the most representative folk festival for the Afrocolombian people in the pacific coast.
  • The Tiple and Guabina festival, held in Velez, Santander, in the North West.
Chirimia dance,  typical music of Afrocolombian people in the Pacific Coast
Chirimia dance, typical music of Afrocolombian people in the Pacific Coast


  • San Pacho festival, held in Quibdó, Chocó, in the East.




  • Aguinaldo Boyacence, held in Tunja, Boyacá.
  • The Cali Fair, held in Cali, Valle del Cauca, in the West.

This is obviously not a comprehensive list. There are many more festivals and carnivals in all parts of Colombia.

Have you been to one of more of the festivals listed above?

Tell us about your experience below.

Also, is there any other festival that you think should be included in the list?

Feel free to start a conversation below.

Uncover Colombia team.