One event that Medellín is famous for is the annual Medellín Christmas lights display that is known as Alumbrados Navideños or El Alumbrado.
For the fourth year in a row there is a major change for the 2018 Medellín Christmas lights display. It won’t be along the traditional route along the Medellín river with lights strung across the river.
The majority of the Alumbrados Navideños lights display in Medellín this year will be in Carabobo Norte. The primary lights display this year will be inside the Parque Norte amusement park. This is the same location as last year.
You will be able to see Christmas lights in Medellín every night from November 30 until January 7 from 6 pm until midnight each night, with the exception of the lights in Parque Norte that will be on until 11 pm.
Note the above photo is a 24-meter high Christmas tree from 2016, which was located in front of Parque Explora.
2018 Medellín Christmas Lights
This year is the 51st anniversary of Medellín’s Christmas Lights. The theme this year is “Colombia, magical paradise of light at Christmas” (in Spanish: “Colombia, paraíso mágico de luz en Navidad”). This concept is tied to the natural wealth of Colombia.
Colombia has 59 protected areas and five of these areas will be spotlighted as part the Christmas lights display in Parque Norte. Note that all five national parks being spotlighted are currently closed to the public:
- Parque Nacional Natural Orquídeas – located to the west of the Western Cordillera in the Andean Region.
- Parque Nacional Natural Serranía de los Churumbelos – located in a mountainous area of the Churubelos (Central and Eastern cordilleras).
- Santuario de Flora y Fauna Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta – the Grand Marsh of Santa Marta.
- Parque National Natural Selva de Florencia – located in the Department of Caldas and considered one of the rainiest areas of Colombia.
- Parque Nacional Natural Sumapaz – covers approximately 43 percent of the largest paramo complex in the world, the Cruz Verde – Sumapaz complex.
The Medellín Christmas lights display this year is a reduction compared to last year and includes:
- 26 million LED lights, which is down from 37 million LED lights last year
- 35,000 hand-woven figures, which is down from 50,000 hand-woven figures last year.
- 11 tons of metalized paper, which is up from 5 tons last year.
Medellín’s Utility EPM Creates the Medellín Christmas Lights
The Medellín Christmas lights display each year is designed, created and sponsored by Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM), the local utility company for the city. Especially relevant, EPM generates much of its power from hydroelectric sources.
However, EPM is tightening its belt this year compared to last year with fewer lights in the city. The financial situation of the city of Medellín, due to problems at the Hidroituango hydroelectric project, led EPM to implement a savings plan this year.
In addition, Medellín Mayor Federico Gutiérrez said that for the Christmas season this year, they expect 90,000 visitors to the city with 60 percent hotel occupancy.
Other Places to See the 2018 Medellín Christmas Lights
Besides the main lights display inside the Parque Norte amusement park, you will be able to see Christmas lights in many places throughout the Aburrá Valley metro area.
You can also find Christmas lights this year on Carrera 70 (Avenida Libertadores de América), Las Palmas and La Playa avenues, along the Ayacucho tram line, at Parque de los Pies Descalzos and the EPM building.
In addition, there will be lights at the main parks of the 16 comunas in Medellín such as Parque Poblado and the first Laureles park. Each year there are also Christmas lights at Pueblito Paisa.
Christmas lights can also be seen in the main parks in other municipalities in the metro area including Parque Envigado, Parque Sabaneta and Parque Bello.
Furthermore, the December holiday season and Christmas lights display is very important for the economy in Medellín. The many tourists visiting Medellín during the holiday season help the hospitality and commerce sectors in the city.
Each year up to 4 million people see the Alumbrados Navideños display in the city. And last year an estimated 90,000 tourists visited Medellín to see the world-class Medellín Christmas lights.
History of the Medellín Christmas Lights
The first public Christmas lighting in Medellín reportedly happened in 1851 at Plaza Mayor, which is currently the location of Medellín’s large convention center.
The modern annual Christmas lights display in Medellín began in 1955, when EPM was consolidated as a public utilities company. Starting that year, part of the city was adorned with a modest special Christmas lights display that was jointly funded by EPM, the local government and the press.
By 1967, EPM started to manage Medellín’s Christmas event each year. In addition, the company became responsible for the design, installation and funding of the light display.
Over the years, the annual Christmas lights were broadened in scope. So, they are now considered one of the biggest tourist attractions in Medellin. Tourists come from around the world to Medellín to see Alumbrados Navideños.
Furthermore, the number of Christmas lights installed in Medellín has been growing over the past several years until this year:
- 2006 – 12.5 million lights
- 2008 – 14.5 million lights
- 2013 – 27 million lights
- 2014 – 30 million lights
- 2015 – 31 million lights
- 2016 – 31 million lights
- 2017 – 37 million lights
- 2018 – 26 million lights
Most noteworthy, 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. So, the Alumbrados Navideños Christmas Lights display in Medellín is considered world-class.
How to Get to the Primary 2018 Medellín Christmas Lights
The Mayor of Medellín provided the above video last year showing the route for the primary Alumbrados Navideños lights display, which will be a similar route this year.
The primary Medellín Christmas lights display this year is inside Parque Norte. The lights this year are only in Parque Norte. And there are no lights around Parque Explora like last year.
Admission to Parque Norte in the evening to see the Christmas light display located in the amusement park is free. But if you want to use the park attractions you must buy an entrance ticket.
The best way to get to the primary Christmas lights display is to take the Medellín metro Line A to the Universidad metro station. Fortunately, Parque Explora and Parque Norte are located very close to this this station.
Also, there isn’t much parking at Parque Norte. It has only about 300 parking spaces for cars and 50 spaces for motorcycles. So, we recommend not driving.
Any taxi or Uber driver will also be able to bring you to the primary Medellín Christmas lights display. Just tell the driver: “El Alumbrado, Parque Norte, por favor”.
Location of Parque Norte where the primary Medellín Christmas lights display is found
Safety While Viewing the Medellín Christmas Lights Display
Each year there is typically a large police presence along the primary Alumbrados Navideños lights display route. Plus with many people it’s relatively safe.
However, we recommend still taking care as some thieves are attracted to the large number of tourists. Here are some safety tips for the Medellín Christmas lights:
- Stay in groups while walking along the route. Don’t walk alone at night through unfamiliar areas.
- Never resist if you are a robbery victim. It’s not worth risking your life for some money and/or possessions. Don’t try to be a hero.
- Don’t flash your cellphones, cameras, jewelry or money around. In addition, pickpocketing and purse snatching is common in busy public places. Distraction is frequently the strategy, so be alert and keep an eye on your belongings.
- Watch out for motorcycles. A disproportionate number of robberies and crimes in Medellín take place by criminals on motorcycles due to the ability for a quick getaway.
- Don’t carry your passport with you. Carry a copy of your passport with another ID like a driver’s license. Only bring ATM and credit cards which you plan to use. Leave your passport and other cards locked up in a safe location.
In addition, we have 19 Medellín safety tips for expats in our article about security in Medellín with expat safety tips, which was updated recently with up-to-date crime statistics.
Also, we recommend bringing an umbrella, as you never know when it might rain with the climate in Medellín. And it’s better to go during the week, as the crowds are much bigger on the weekends. The crowds are also smaller in early December.
Similar to last year, outside of Parque Norte there will be a row of booths lined up selling food and drinks. And there will also be a number of booths selling Christmas themed items and local arts and crafts. In addition, inside Parque Norte you will find many stands selling food and drinks.
The Bottom Line: the 2018 Medellín Christmas Lights
The Medellín Christmas lights display is definitely something to see if you are in Medellín anytime in December or in early January. And if you are looking for a reason to visit Medellín, the month of December or early January is a good choice with the world-class Christmas lights display in the city.
I look forward to seeing Alumbrados Navideños this year, even though this year it will be somewhat smaller than in the recent past. And unfortunately, the Christmas lights display won’t be along the river for the fourth year in a row.
I have seen the Christmas lights nine different times in the past. And in my opinion, having the main Christmas lights at Parque Norte just isn’t the same as along the Medellín river.
However, in 2019, the Medellín Christmas lights reportedly will finally return to the river. The Christmas lights were moved from the traditional river location for four years in a row due to the construction of Parques del Rio.
Here are photos from three previous Alumbrados Navideños or El Alumbrado in Medellín along the river.
Top Things to See and Do in Colombia
On the Medellin Guru website, we have been looking at some of the most beautiful places in Colombia in a series of top things to see and do in Colombia. This is due to many readers asking about several of these things to do in Colombia.
We have looked at 20 of the top things to see and do in Colombia, in alphabetical order:
- Caño Cristales – the most beautiful river in Colombia, which has also been called the most beautiful river in the world by some people.
- Carnival in Barranquilla – the second largest carnival in the world.
- Cartagena – Oozing history, romance and sun-drenched beaches, the allure of historical Cartagena is hard to resist.
- Ciudad Perdida – the site of an ancient city in Colombia that is older than Machu Picchu in Peru.
- Colombia’s Pacific coast – often overlooked by tourists visiting Colombia but offering untamed nature and undiscovered beauty that is off the beaten path for most foreign tourists.
- Desierto de la Tatacoa – the second largest arid zone in Colombia is Tatacoa Desert, which has surreal desert landscapes and some of the best stargazing in Colombia.
- Guatapé – a picturesque pueblo near Medellín known for its huge rock and lake. And it’s likely the most visited pueblo in Colombia by foreigners.
- La Guajira Peninsula – one of the most visually stunning places in South America, which is located on the northern tip of Colombia where the desert meets the sea.
- Las Lajas Sanctuary – the most beautiful church in Colombia, which has also been called the most beautiful church in the world.
- Medellín’s Christmas lights – Medellín’s annual world-class Christmas lights known as Alumbrados Navideños.
- Medellín’s Feria de Las Flores – Medellín’s world-famous flower festival each year.
- Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados – a popular national park in Colombia located in the heart of the Colombian coffee region.
- Parque Tayrona – known for its beautiful beaches and the world’s highest coastal mountain range.
- Popayán – a colonial gem in Colombia best known for its white buildings and churches, it’s a city off the beaten path for foreign tourists but is definitely worth visiting.
- Rio Claro Nature Reserve – located about three hours from Medellín, Rio Claro is the perfect place to unplug from hectic daily life and enjoy a picturesque crystal-clear river, canyon and tropical rainforest.
- Salento and the Cocora Valley – Salento is a picturesque pueblo in Colombia’s coffee region and the nearby Cocora Valley is one of the most striking landscapes found in Colombia.
- San Agustín Archaeological Park – the largest group of pre-Columbian monuments and megalithic statues in South America and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- San Andrés – Colombia’s Caribbean island which is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve featuring many beaches, islets and coral reefs that are filled with flora and fauna.
- San Gil – Colombia’s adventure capital that is full of things to do including white water rafting, paragliding, caving, rappelling, hiking and much more.
- San Jose del Guaviare – a hidden gem and eco-tourism location off the beaten path and offering wildlife watching, jungle trekking and delving into Colombia’s prehistoric past.
Also, we included the Medellín Christmas lights in our list of the top 20 tourist attractions in Colombia.
Sign up for the Free Medellin Guru Newsletter – You can see all of the previous Medellin Guru weekly email newsletters and sign up here.
Editors note: updated on November 12, 2018 by completely revising this article that was originally published on November 6, 2017 with new information about the 2018 Medellín Christmas lights – Alumbrados 2018.