Barranquilla and its UNESCO listed Carnaval celebrations

Michelle Jiménez | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Barranquilla means bright colors, warm weather, rich flavors, folklore, culture, and sports. This is a highly iconic and representative Colombian city. It is affectionately called "Curramba the beautiful" and Colombia's "Golden Gate" due to its significant international port where the Magdalena River meets the Caribbean Sea.


It is located in the Caribean region between Cartagena and Santa Marta and is amongst the top 10 of Colombia's biggest, most populated and developed cities. It is the official home of Colombia's soccer team, where local games are organized at the Metropolitan Stadium, Roberto Meléndez. Barranquilla is also the hometown of two of the most ravishing women in the world: Shakira and Sofía Vergara. It also hosts one of the only two Full Marathon races in Colombia, and one of the world’s largest Carnival and the biggest in Colombia: these last two take place about a week apart from each other. 

Barranquilla's Carnaval

This great event has been taking place every year since 1903, four days before Lent. It is so extremely special that people in Barranquilla are even given an official four-day holiday to live up their carnival, which is the biggest celebration of folklore in all Colombia. It was established as a Cultural Masterpiece by the National government and declared a Masterpiece of Humanity’s Intangible and Oral Heritage by UNESCO in 2003. 

© Istock/OSTILL

During the Carnaval, all the elements behind the funny and fancy costumes, the big show, and the sparks make of Barranquilla a vibrant and exquisite cultural epicenter. The numerous musical performances and the dancing acts, such as the mico y micas from the Americas, the African Congo, and the paloteo of Spanish origin, come together to showcase a big part of the Colombian essence. Local traditions include different Colombian sub-cultures influenced by all the predecessors that somehow made Colombia what it is today. 

What to expect and how to prepare

Saturday's festivities 

First, it started as a commemoration of the end of the Thousand Days War. ‘The Battle of the Flowers’ is the carnival’s most important event and marks the start of the whole celebration on Saturday before Ash Wednesday. The Carnival Queen hosts this event. It takes place in the famous Vía 40, where each of the various colorful floats and groups of some dressed up, disguised or masqueraded dancers parade for about four kilometers. For almost 6 hours that it lasts, the crowds can enjoy folk dancers, fire breathers, live music performances, and locals acting as famous figures, including politicians - in a mocking way.

© Istock/garytog

Sunday's Great Parade

On Sunday, the “The Great Parade” takes place, where dance groups compete against each other, and people rush in the streets in masks and disguises: some even like having fun with little battles throwing flour and foam to each other. Latin and Caribbean beats fill the atmosphere on Monday at The Orchestra Festival. The carnival ends on Tuesday with the symbolic burial of a famous and imaginary character called Joselito Carnaval.


The preparations

The general festivities actually begin some weeks before, with a night parade with music, dancing, and masquerades called La Guacherna and the crowning of the Carnival Queen. By the way, the well-known fashion designer Silvia Tcherasi was once one of them.

Attending Barranquilla's Carnaval

If you are planning on attending the festivities, you would most likely need tickets that you can buy in advance online. Keep in mind that Barranquilla is a very warm and sunny city, so make sure you pack accordingly. And if you are in a super carnival mood, you can pick fresh and colorful clothes that can include flowers or animal prints, and you can pair them with some cool sunglasses and sparkling accessories if you want.

© Istock/Tiago_Fernandez

Strolling in the city

Other than the cultural and big events, Barranquilla stands out for its architectural beauty, its natural landscapes, and the happiness of its people. While in the city, you can also visit the Malecón del Río, a stunning promenade of five kilometers along the western bank of the Magdalena River. Another place is Las Flores neighborhood, a very rural and colorful neighborhood where you can sit peacefully by the Magdalena River, have lunch at one of the few restaurants located in front of the river, or enjoy some coconut water straight out of a coconut. And if you are curious to see the spot where the Magdalena River pours into the Caribean sea, Bocas de Ceniza is a wonderful place to do so. 

In Barranquilla, you can feel joy at any time of the year, and the reasons to visit this fantastic city are innumerable: so fingers crossed, and I hope you get the chance to visit it soon!  Barranquilla and its UNESCO listed Carnaval celebrations are not to be missed! 

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