2016 Medellín Christmas Lights: the World-Class El Alumbrado

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Medellín Christmas Lights 2016
Medellín Christmas Lights 2016

One event that Medellín is really famous for is the annual Medellín Christmas lights display that is known as El Alumbrado. The Medellín Christmas lights display this year is expected to draw approximately 4 million visitors, just like last year.

For the second year in a row there is a very major change for the Medellín Christmas lights display. It doesn’t use the normal route along the river with lights strung across the river. Due to construction along the river the city had to find another location.

The majority of the El Alumbrado lights display this year is found in Carabobo Norte.  The lights are located around Parque Explora and inside the Parque Norte amusement park. Additional lights are run along Avenida La Playa and in Parque Boliver.

The Christmas lights were originally scheduled to start on November 30 this year. Due to the sad tragedy of the plane crash with the Brazilian soccer team on November 29 the start was postponed.

The Medellín Christmas lights can be seen every night from December 3 until January 9 from 6 pm until midnight each night.

Note the above photo is a 24-meter high Christmas tree, which is located in front of Parque Explora. The photo was taken shortly after the initial lighting on the first day of El Alumbrado on December 3.

House set up in Parque Norte with many Christmas lights
House set up in Parque Norte with many Christmas lights

This Year’s Medellín Christmas Lights

This year the Medellín Christmas lights display uses a total of 31 million LED lights.  The theme this year is “In Christmas, Medellín is a large family.”  In addition there are 42,000 hand-woven figures, 950 kilometers of luminous hose and 13 tons of metallic paper of different colors.

The lights display was created by Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM), the local utility company for the city.  Notably EPM generates much of its power from hydroelectric sources.

The Christmas lights this year were planned for almost a year. And a team of 15 designers and 196 craftsmen worked on the Christmas lights for nearly a year.

The December holiday season and Christmas lights display is very important for the economy in Medellín. All the tourists visiting Medellín helps the commerce and hospitality sectors in particular in the city.

Medellin’s Tourist Indicator System (SITUR) expects 90,000 tourists to visit Medellín in December to take in the world-class display of Christmas lights.

According to Fenalco Antioquia, the holiday season represents an average of between 25 to 30 percent of the total revenue of the year in the commerce sector. As a result December is the biggest revenue month by far for most shops in the city.

Christmas lights along the route in Parque Norte
Christmas lights along the route in Parque Norte

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.  In addition 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.  As a result they have now become one of the biggest tourist attractions in Medellin.

The number of Christmas lights installed in Medellín has been growing. In 2006, it consisted of about 12.5 million lights. In 2013, it was about 27 million lights. In 2014, it was about 30 million lights. And last year the light display included about 31 million lights, which is the same as this year.

Most noteworthy, in December 2012, National Geographic included Medellín in its list as one of the 10 best places in the entire world to see holiday Christmas lights.  So El Alumbrado is considered world-class.

A couple of the many figures seen along the route in Parque Norte
A couple of the many figures seen along the route in Parque Norte

Other Christmas Lights Locations

Christmas lights can be seen throughout the city of Medellín at well over 100 locations.

You can also find Christmas lights in several locations in El Centro. And each of the surrounding municipalities, including Envigado, Sabaneta, Itagüí and Bello also decorate their central parks with lights.

Parque Sabaneta is probably the most popular of the parks for seeing Christmas lights. Seems like Parque Sabaneta comes alive during Christmas with many locals and visitors from other parts of the city.

In Sabaneta there are many booths selling food and drinks. Furthermore Sabaneta even blocked off some roads around the park and they held a concert with live music on December 3.

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.  So you will see lights everywhere you go in the city.

At the entrance to Parque Norte – 3 Christmas figures, the tallest is 15 meters high
At the entrance to Parque Norte – 3 Christmas figures, the tallest is 15 meters high

How to Get to the Primary Christmas Lights Display

The primary Medellín Christma lights display this year is around Parque Explora and inside Parque Norte. The route of the Christmas lights this year can be seen here.

EPM has even provided the following video showing the route for the lights this year:

Admission to Parque Norte to see the Christmas lights located in the amusement park is free. But if you want to use the park attractions you must buy a ticket.

The easiest way to get to the Christmas lights display is to take the metro to Universidad station. Parque Explora and Parque Norte are very close to this this metro station.

The Medellín metro has extended it’s operating hours to midnight in December on the following days:

  • Saturday, December 3
  • Wednesday, December 7
  • Friday, December 9
  • Saturday, December 10
  • Friday, December 16
  • Saturday, December 17
  • Friday, December 23

Any taxi will also be able to bring you to the Medellín Christmas light display. Just tell the taxi driver: “El Alumbrado, Parque Explora, por favor”.

There is a pretty large police presence along the Christmas light display around Parque Explora and in Parque Norte.   While there are many police, still take care as the large number of tourists does attract some thieves.

The enclosed nature of Parque Norte where most of the Christmas lights are this year should help with security.

Outside Parque Norte you will see a row of booths lined up selling food and drinks as well as a number of booths selling arts and crafts and Christmas themed items. Inside Parque Norte you will also see many stands selling food and drinks.

You will see countless families with kids taking photos - out to see the Christmas lights
You will see countless families with kids taking photos – out to see the Christmas lights

The Bottom Line

The Medellín Christmas lights 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.

I went to see El Alumbrado the first day this year on December 3. Unfortunately the forecast was for rain this first night. As a result I was prepared with a big umbrella and it did rain. However, I wouldn’t recommend going on a day it’s raining.

My impression of the Christmas lights this year is that the location with Christmas lights around the lake in Parque Norte is better than the Plaza Mayor location last year.

But it just wasn’t the same as seeing the Christmas lights in its traditional location along the river with lights strung across the river, which I have seen eight different years.

More Christmas lights along the route in Parque Norte
More Christmas lights along the route in Parque Norte

Reader Survey – Provide Feedback!

Help us to better understand and serve our readers by completing the Medellín Living Reader Survey. Also all responses are due by December 9!

Two of the survey respondents requested that we cover this year’s Christmas lights.  So I wrote this article.  If you have questions or things you would like the site to cover, the survey is the best way to let us know.

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