Medellín’s annual festival of flowers is one of the biggest events in the city’s calendar and draws travelers from around the world and locals alike. This year, the 62nd edition of the festival begins on Friday August 2nd and closes on Sunday August 11th, and sees the streets of Medellín come to life with a flurry of parades, people and pollen! A range of displays and activities take place over the days, including horse parades, flower competitions, music performances, fireworks, chiva rides and more. The majority of goings-on are family-friendly and a fantastic way to learn a little about Colombian history, as well as celebrate Medellín’s beautiful nature and rich culture (and, true to Colombian form – party!).
History of Feria de las Flores
Colombia is the second biggest exporter of live flowers in the world (after the Netherlands), selling roughly $1.35 billion dollars’ worth internationally every year. Medellín is a major farming area that contributes to the agricultural industry – sometimes being called the flower capital of Latin America – so it’s no surprise that flowers have had an important role in the city’s past.
The first Feria de las Flores occurred in May of 1957 when an employee of Medellín’s tourist board suggested an event to recognize Colombia’s booming flower trade. The original festival (referred to as the Flower Party, ‘Fiesta de las Flores’) lasted half the time of the present-day festival, and the majority of attendees were from Antioquia only. Equally, the schedule wasn’t as extravagant as it is now – being limited to a small flower show in the Basilica Metropolitana in El Centro, a parade of 40 families (silleteros) and live music. In 1958, the festival date was changed to August to align with Antioquia’s independence.
Perhaps the most distinctive scene at the Feria de las Flores throughout the years is the procession of silleteros (Desfile de Silleteros). The silleteros are farmers who work on the local land and use wooden chairs strapped to their backs to transport items up and down the mountain. Nowadays, the Feria sees over 500 silleteros walk from Santa Elena into downtown Medellín carrying stunning flower arrangements.
While the parade is a spectacular sight, it also has its roots in the emancipation of slaves. Traditionally, silleteros came from peasant families and were responsible for not only transporting items up the hillsides, but people too. These days, the parade represents freedom and pride – demonstrated in the popular expression ‘Cuando pasan los silleteros, es Antioquia que pasa’, meaning: ‘when the silleteros go past, it’s Antioquia passing.’
The main events
Super Concierto de Feria de las Flores
Saturday August 3rd 3 pm
Taking place the evening after the first night of the Feria, this huge music concert at the Estadio stadium is the perfect way to kick-off the celebrations and indulge in Latin dancing and singing. 2019’s concert is headlined by Marc Antony, Carlos Vives, Ozuna, Maluma and plenty more, spanning across genres like reggaetón, vallenato, salsa and pop. Ticket prices range from $75.000 COP to $14.760.000 COP (for the red carpet box) and wherever you are in Medellín at the time, you’ll likely hear the excitement from the crowd.
Feria de las Flores a Jardín Botánico
Tuesday August 6th – 11th 9 am – 4.30 pm
An obvious location for the festival, Medellín’s Jardín Botánico (botanical garden) hosts a selection of flower arrangements, as well as arts and crafts stalls across six days. The garden additionally has lots of information about the history of the event, the conditions in which the flowers are grown and crafted into displays, and promotes sustainable horticulture. Of course, there is also the opportunity to buy plants and souvenirs from the Feria here. Entrance to the garden is free but check opening and closing times before arriving as these can vary depending on preparations for large exhibits.
Classic Car Parade (Desfile de Autos Clasicos)
Saturday August 10th 10:30 am – 2:30 pm
The car parade adds to the vibrant colors spilling across Medellín during the festival, as classic models from around South America take to the streets complete with drivers in costumes and music. The parade is free and divided into various categories ranging from old vehicles, renovated vehicles and vehicles specifically manufactured in Colombia. In previous years, more than 300 cars have taken part and so the full event takes a few hours in total. However, the crowds get very large, very quickly (an estimated one million people will watch the car parade), so it’s advisable to secure a spot early and come prepared with water and protection from the sun. The parade is a fantastic photo opportunity, so remember a camera but keep all valuables close to you to avoid possible theft.
The car route beings at the El Colombiano in Envigado, stretches north along Avenida Regional up to Calle 45A before looping back south on the Autopista Sur and ending at the SOFASA building in Envigado.
Flower Parade (Desfile de Silleteros)
Sunday August 11th 2 pm
An incredible display of strength, nature and identity, the flower parade has come to include people of all ages carry flowers 2.3 kilometers through Medellín. Undoubtedly, this event is the most popular across the full festival, and gets extremely busy. Tickets can be purchased for seats in the bleachers alongside the parade route, however, the release date has not been announced so visitors will have to check daily in advance. General attendance is free but those without tickets will have to stand and risk having a blocked view of the procession.
Typically, the Desfile de Silleteros starts in Santa Elena (where the flowers are grown) and moves down the Avenida Guayabal, past the domestic airport and Terminal del Sur. The entire parade lasts roughly four hours.
Many other smaller, but just as unique and entertaining, events occur over the festival. See the official schedule for a full breakdown of what’s happening when, or alternatively, simply wander around the city and soak in the vibrant atmosphere and picturesque scenes.