Los Alumbrados: Medellin’s Annual Christmas Light Display (2012)

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Los Alumbrados
Los Alumbrados
Los Alumbrados

December is my favorite month to be in Medellin. In addition to kicking off the Summer dry season, the entire valley is decorated with Los Alumbrados, the annual Christmas light display.

In 2010, I experienced the holiday lights for the first time, and it blew me away. I was especially fond of the lights draping Envigado, so much so that the cover of my upcoming Medellin Travel Guide is a photo taken there.

I’ve seen holiday decorations from New York City, to Paris and Barcelona, but Medellin, and its surrounding municipalities, still take the prize in my eyes.

Whether you opt for a crazy chiva tour with a bunch of friends, or a more leisurely DIY approach, taking time to see the lights is a must when visiting Medellin in December, or early January.

The Medellin River
The Medellin River

The epicenter of activity is along the Medellin River, which runs through the valley. It’s here that families, couples, friends, and foreigners flock to walk along the eastern side of the river.

Immersed in the glowing lights, and massive crowds, one must walk for several kilometers to see it all.

In addition to the lights, there are food and drink stands for as far as the eye can see.

Street performers set up shop in the hopes of earning tips, and temporary rides offer kids some hands-on fun.

A fisherman casts a net (white lights) to try and catch some fish
A fisherman casts a net (orange lights) to try and catch some fish

Every year, there’s a different theme for the decorations, and in 2012, the theme was the flora and fauna of Antioquia.

Last week, I embarked on my second visit to Los Alumbrados.

We began at Parque de los Pies Descalzos, and walked three-quarters of the river to one of the end points near the Industriales metro station.

Los Alumbrados

At that point, there are water fountains set up, which are popular with the kids who can be seen running through them.

This year, there was also a 3-D laser show projected onto fountains of water. While I didn’t catch the show, it sounded similar to what I’d seen at the Water Fountain Park in Lima, Peru.

From there, we crossed an old stone bridge, and walked toward Cerro Nutibarra.

Pueblito Paisa
Pueblito Paisa

At the base of the hill, already a bit weary from the crowds, I suggested we take a taxi up to Pueblito Paisa.

Many Colombians were walking up and down the winding road, but without any Christmas lights along the way, I didn’t see the point.

Luckily, we got all the way up there, as taxis were allowed. Private vehicles had to park lower down the hill.

View of the Medellin River from Pueblito Paisa
View of the Medellin River from Pueblito Paisa

From atop Pueblito Paisa, which itself was decorated, we had a clear view of the lights along the river.

As much as I wanted to see the lights in other areas, including Sabaneta, Itagui, Envigado, and Centro, I ran out of time. The lights were turned off as of Monday, January 7, 2013.

Below are a few more of my favorite shots from the night.

Birds and trees reflecting the 2012 theme of local flora and fauna
Birds and trees reflecting the 2012 theme of local flora and fauna
Kids pack themselves into a jeep
Kids pack themselves into a jeep
Rio Medellin alight in green
Rio Medellin alight in green
Signs in both English and Spanish explain the way flora and fauna are incorporated into the lighting designs
Signs in both English and Spanish explain the way flora and fauna are incorporated into the lighting designs
This design reflects the Besitos plant (see above)
This design reflects the Besitos plant (see above)
New rule: spit the gum out before taking photos
New rule: spit the gum out before taking photos

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Click here to see Ryan’s 2012 photos of Los Alumbrados in Medellin.

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