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A once-in-a-lifetime experience, caribbean climate and a lot of amusements are waiting for you on the northern coastline of Colombia. The Carnival of Barranquilla is with around one million visitors the second biggest in the world after Rio’s and considered as a must-see event when you are concurrently in Colombia. Furthermore this event is part of UNESCO’s “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”. In the following sections, you will find a brief overview over the history and the celebration days, rounded off with important pieces of advice for a pleasant visit.

A female performer of one of the tremendous parades (Source: Instagram - carnavalbaq)


The very origin about the carnival is uncertain. One possible explanation is to send off the winter and welcome spring, therefore a time of renewal and fertility. Other sources declare it as a time of debaucheries and excesses before the Lent season for the Christians starts on Ash Wednesday. A further myth bases on the history of the slaves who were brought to the caribbean region during the Spanish Inquisition, so these four days of the year were the holiday for this community. Probably it’s a mix from all of above with cultural, religious and as well as ethnic impacts. 
The first noted date about the carnival was 1888 with the coronation of the first carnival king respectively the birth of the figure “Rey Momo” (designation for “King of Carnival” in Latin America). Until the election of the first  “Reina del Carnaval” it lasted exactly 30 years. 

Rey Momo” and la “Reina del Carnaval” (Source: Instagram - carnavalbaq)

The programme of the carnival was transformed over time, so in 1903 the “Batalla de Flores”, which has its origin in the end of the Thousand Days’ War, was taken up in the program. Then 1967 the “Gran Parada de Tradición y Folclor” or in short just called as the “Gran Parada”, which shows, how the title implies, traditional and folcloric subjects. 1969 it followed the “Gran Parada de Comparsas” which includes presentations from origins all over the world. In 2003 was the “Festival de Orquestas” introduced, a competition between music groups in different categories. 


The Carnival takes place annually for four days prior Ash Wednesday and has a fixed programme for the festivity. Of course there are many cheerful preceding events like the “Carnaval Gay” or “La Guacherna” but the official starting will be given by the “Batalla de Flores” on carnival Saturday. A parade for the sake of peace in which blossoms are shot instead of bullets and tears of joy are shed instead of blood, causing nothing less than happiness and pleasure. The official part of the carnaval goes on on Sunday with the “Gran Parada”, a further highlight of these celebrations. This corso is special because there won’t be any carriages, it’s full of (traditional) dance groups who perform what they trained for the whole year. This part is usually a bit less crowdy than the “Batalla de Flores” the day before. Maybe not everybody made it out off bed yet after the hard night out.

Figure from the “Batalla de Flores” (Source: Instagram - carnavalbaq; photographer: Instagram - barranquillacpt)

On Carnival Monday there are two main events, the “Gran Parada de Comparsas” and the “Festival de Orquestas”. First mentioned is a procession which follows more or less no rules. There are different groups who perform choreographies which are from a traditional, local or even international origin. The same counts for the range of rhythms they play: from salsa over reggaeton to electronic music, almost everything is represented.
On Tuesday, and therefore the last day of the carnival festivities, the main event is called “Muerte de Joselito”. Joselito is a figure of the carnival who dies exhausted and intoxicated from the celebrations on the last day to rise again on the next start of the carnival. For this purpose the locals are ceremonize a fictive funeral for the dead Joselito and the whole city is in deep grief. This marks the end of the Carnival of Barranquilla.
Besides the main programme, there are a lot of street parties going on, literally this city is on fire during these days. 


Before you take off, make sure to internalize our expert proven suggestions:
  • If you haven’t found any accommodation yet and booking.com is already sold out, think outside of the box: there are other possibilities like airbnb or couchsurfing
  • Tickets for the “palcos” (paid tribunes to see the parades) you can either buy them online on tuboleta, in some hotels, by haggling in the streets or in a few supermarkets which are official sales points. If you don’t want to pay, no worries, there are also free alternatives to enjoy the korso. On both options, make sure to be early enough, especially with the one who is for free. The parades start around 1.30 pm, depending where your viewing point is located on the roadmap.
  • The carnival takes place under tropical circumstances, this means that it will be around 30 degrees Celsius, no clouds and a burning sun. In this case, don’t forget to use sunscreen and a hat, depending on your level of sun resistance.
  • Stay hydrated! Like mentioned above, the circumstances are tropical. Especially while consuming alcohol people forget to drink non alcoholic beverages what is actually good for their body.
  • Watch out your belongings, as a tourist it can happen that you will be considered as a walking ATM and a target for pickpockets.
  • Don’t wear anything you can not dismiss, because your clothes will get covered with confettis, foam from spray cans, dust, sweat and much more. In this case, dress yourself up, but not for an exquisite gala diner. 
  • Of course there are spectacular main events during these days, but don’t miss the little parties in the streets, they are worth a visit as well and the best way to share good memories (and of course aguardiente and beer) with locals.
  • Bring hand sanitizer, you will probably use some interesting built up toilets during the carnival.
  • Go a bit crazy with costumes, glitter and accessories and dress yourself up, then the slogan is “Quien lo vive es quien lo goza” (Those who live it are those who enjoy it). So put your party equipment on, take off and enjoy!

There are no limits for the dress up (Source: Instagram - carnavalbaq)

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