As someone who lives in Bogotá, Colombia, I often come across travellers here that have it in their head that Colombia is one of the party capitals of the world. Moreover, they expect the people here to be complicit. The truth is that yes, Colombia is great for a party, and especially in the bigger cities. People are full of life, love to dance and revel in a good night out.
There’s a crucial difference, however, between your average Colombian and this hypothetical traveller I’m outlining, and that is that the Colombian isn’t likely to go out and get absolutely pissed and end up abusing the bouncers, stealing drinks or trying to score off tramps in the alley (all of which I’ve seen from travellers). Instead they’ll stick to what they can handle and just set about enjoying themselves, most likely.
In terms of being a party capital, however, our hypothetical traveller is actually right. This is because, nationally, Colombia is a country that loves to throw a party and in fact has well over 30 major festivals every year, and that’s not including the smaller, local festivals that people like me have no chance of hearing about. At these festivals you can expect a great deal of color, dancing and aguardiente to be thrown around as the locals take advantage of the occasion to celebrate in a way that only Colombians can. It’s not about going crazy and ending up with a monster hangover and a story to tell, but about enjoying yourself with music and friends. Lovely.
So what are some of the major ones you shouldn’t miss out on? Culturally speaking you’d be a fool to miss the Ibero-American Theater Festival that’s held every two years. There’s also a great annual Film Festival in Cartagena.
For sheer enjoyment, the place to be is Barranquilla for the Barranquilla Carnival every year, four days before Ash Wednesday. Second only to the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, it’s one of the world’s biggest and best carnivals.
In Medellín you can enjoy the Feria de Las Flores, which the guys over at Off2 Colombia attended recently and celebrates the history of the area. Similarly the Feria de Cali takes over the city of Cali around Christmas time for some Santa-defying salsa.
For music-lovers, Bogotá is the place to be. Every year around July you can enjoy Rock Al Parque, which brings together some of the best international and Colombian artists. Best of all, entrance is completely free.
For more information on these happenings, be sure to check Off2′s Colombian Events page.