All the preparations have been finalised and the most anticipated cultural event of the year in Colombia – Barranquilla Carnival – is set to kick off. It is a party out of the ordinary: full of colour, joy, and fantasy in which the indigenous Caribbean cultural traditions and charisma of Barranquilla are showcased through an extravagant array of parades, competitions, and concerts. Together they generate a unique festive atmosphere, where people take to the streets and party to the sound of flutes, drums, and accordions.
Barranquilla Carnival is a unique work of humanity / Image Source
If your plan is to travel to Colombia during carnival season, do not miss this simply extraordinary event, recognised by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” for its deep ethnic roots, technical and aesthetic qualities, and also the cultural expressions of the various communities living in the Colombian Caribbean and the Lower Magdalena River region. It is an area full of mysteries, legends, myth, and dances that collectively define Colombia.
The Barranquilla Carnival motto tells us that “Quien lo vive es quien lo goza”, translated into English as “Who lives it, is who enjoys it”. This essential guide offers insider tips and advice so that you can learn which activities are not to be missed during your visit to the birthplace of magical realism.
The Carnival is always awash with colour / Image Source
Where and When is Barranquilla Carnival Celebrated
Barranquilla Carnival is celebrated every year in the city of Barranquilla, the largest port city in Colombia located at the mouth of the Magdalena River. This charming coastal paradise is accessible by air – through national airline carriers – and by buses that operate from all the country’s major cities. A flight takes anything between 45 and 90 minutes depending on your point of departure, while a bus journey can be anything from 13 to 22 hours long from Medellin and Cali respectively.
The Carnival officially runs for 4 days, and every year these days correspond to the Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday that precede Ash Wednesday (the day that marks the beginning of Lent and fasting). During this long weekend, spectators have the opportunity to enjoy a whole host of activities that include parades, dances, festivals, competitions, plays, and concerts. These events pay homage to the diversity and creativity of the people who call this region home.
The festivities begin early on Saturday and end the day before Ash Wednesday. People gather on the main streets of the city and indulge in some chaotic revelry. The main events and cultural activities are listed below.
The streets are filled with love during Barranquilla Carnival / Image Source
The Main Activities at Barranquilla Carnival
The Battle of Flowers (Carnival Saturday – begins at 12pm). The Battle of Flowers is the inaugural parade of Barranquilla Carnival and it is perhaps the most well-known due to the attention it garners from the media, and understandably so. Throughout the procession, which is led by the Carnival Queen, viewers are treated to a show of spectacular floats and flamboyant dancing from popular artistic groups in the region – a true display of fantasy and beauty that should not be missed. For tickets, click here.
Great Traditional Parade (Carnival Sunday – begins at 1pm). Every year, this dazzling parade take place along Via 40 (Street 40) and it is undoubtedly one of the most representative expressions of Barranquilla Carnival. Over 160 troupes come and entertain the crowds with an astonishing blend of Spanish and African styled music, as they compete against each in various categories to be crowned champions.
Burial of Joselito Carnaval (Carnival Monday – begins 4pm). A fun and delightful way to close the ceremonies is the mock funeral of crowd favourite carnival character Joselito Carnaval. Locals dress up as this party-loving character, who dies each year and rises the following year once again to enjoy the festivities.
Night Parties. After the parades, concerts, and competitions during the day, the celebrations are taken to different neighbourhoods across the city. The most popular parties feature renowned DJ’s who select the finest classic and tropical dance hits that keep both Colombians and tourists alike jiving all night long.
Dances and Fiestas. One of the most exclusive parties at Barranquilla Carnival is the Grand Fiesta at the Dann Carlton Hotel. It is arguably the most famous event at this time of year due to the numerous musicians and artists of international stardom that have performed there.
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Now that you have an idea of what Barranquilla Carnival is all about, it just needs you to join in this epic celebration and enjoy 4 days in one of the liveliest and most delirious parties in Colombia. Go to our website and buy the Colombia4u Carnival Parades Package which includes tickets and transfers to all the main events.
If you would like to learn more about the cultural heritage of Barranquilla Carnival, follow the link and read our pocket guide.
By David Luna / Translated by Simon Hall