One event that Medellín is really famous for is its annual Christmas lights display that is known as El Alumbrado. The Christmas lights display this year in Medellín is expected to draw over 4 million visitors.
This year there is a very major change for the Christmas lights display in Medellín as it doesn’t use the normal route that runs along the river with lights strung across the river — this is due to construction along the river.
The majority of the Medellín El Alumbrado lights display this year are found around Plaza Mayor in El Centro with more lights run along the new Tranvía de Ayacucho as well as Parque de los Pies Descalzos and Avenida La Playa.
In addition there is a small section of lights run over the road along the river from the bridge of Guayaquil and the Edificio Inteligente de EPM that can be seen from cars.
This Year’s Christmas Lights
This year the Medellín Christmas lights display uses a total 31 million LED lights with a theme of Carnival Lights.
The lights display was created by Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM), the local utility company for the city, which generates much of its power from hydroelectric sources.
The Christmas lights this year are estimated by EPM to use 0.8 gigawatt-hours of total electric power over 45 days, which is equivalent to about 50 minutes of total power consumption in city of Medellín over the year.
History of the Medellín Christmas Lights
The annual Christmas lights display in Medellín began way back in 1955, when EPM was consolidated as a public utilities company. Starting that year, part of the city was adorned with a modest special lights display jointly contributed by EPM, the government, and the press.
By 1967, EPM assumed the role of managing Medellín’s Christmas event each year and the company was responsible for the design, installation and funding of the light display.
Over the years, the annual Christmas lights were broadening in scope and have now become one of the biggest tourist attractions in Medellin.
The number of Christmas lights installed in Medellín has been growing each year. In 2006, it consisted of about 12.5 million lights; in 2013, it was about 27 million lights; last year, it was over 30 million lights and this year the light display consists of over 31 million lights.
In December 2012, National Geographic included Medellín in its list as one of the 10 best places in the world to see holiday Christmas lights.
Other Christmas Lights Locations
Christmas lights can be seen throughout the city of Medellín at well over 100 locations.
Parque Sabaneta is probably the most popular of the parks for seeing Christmas lights. Parque Sabaneta also comes alive during Christmas with many locals and visitors from other parts of the city. There are many booths nearby selling food and drinks.
Cerro Nutibara where Pueblito Paisa is located also has Christmas lights set up and is worth a visit as it is approximately 80 feet above the city streets. From this point, you can see many of the city’s Christmas light displays.
Add to that shopping malls, private homes, commercial buildings, and smaller parks and you’ll see lights everywhere you go in the city.
How to Get to the Primary Christmas Lights Display
The primary lights display this year is around Plaza Mayor. The Christmas lights around Plaza Mayor can be seen every night through January 11 from 6 pm until midnight.
Any taxi will be able to bring you to the Christmas light display, just tell the taxi driver “El Alumbrado Plaza Mayor”.
You could also take the Medellín metro to the Alpujarra station. Plaza Mayor is located west about a four-block walk from the metro station. But this isn’t recommended after dark, as there aren’t many people on the street.
There is a pretty large police presence along the Christmas light display around Plaza Mayor. However, take care as the large number of tourists does attract some thieves.
Along two sections of the lights display around Plaza Mayor you will see rows of booths lined up selling food and drinks as well as a number of booths selling arts and crafts and Christmas themed items.
The Bottom Line
The Medellín Christmas light display is a must see if you are in Medellín anytime in December or early January. If you ever wanted a reason to visit the city, the month of December is a good choice with the world-class Christmas light display.
My impression of the Christmas lights this year was that they were impressive as usual. But it just wasn’t the same as seeing the lights along the normal route strung across the river, which I have seen eight different years.