One event that Medellín is famous for is the annual Medellín Christmas lights display that is known as Alumbrados Navideños or El Alumbrado.

The primary lights display for Christmas this year is at Parques del Río, along the river. Parques del Río is intended to be transformed into the world of Christmas. In this space, the central nucleus of the Alumbrados, the life of the “Destellitos” is concentrated, in a special celebration between the global concept of Christmas and the traditional Colombian one.

Medellín Christmas lights in 2021 will be from December 3, 2021 to January 10, 2022. So, you will be able to see 2021 holiday lights display in Medellín every night from December 3, 2021 until January 10, 2022 from 6 pm until midnight each night, except on December 24 and December 31, when they will be off for holidays.

Sabaneta will beat Medellín in 2021 to turn on its Christmas lights. We have photos of the 2020 Sabaneta Christmas lights from last year. The Christmas lights in Sabaneta will start on November 27, 2021.

Also, we have photos of the 2020 Christmas lights in the Aburra Valley, which were in 9 of the 10 municipalities.  Note the above photos are from prior years of Medellín’s Christmas lights.

2020 Christmas lights over the Medellín river at Parques del Rio

2020 Christmas lights over the Medellín river at Parques del Rio

2021 Medellín Christmas Lights

This year is the 54th anniversary of Medellín’s Christmas Lights.  The lights display in 2021 includes:

  • 6 million LED lights, which is way down from 28 million LED lights last year.
  • 26.000 hand-woven figures, which is down from 30,500 hand-woven figures last year.

A team made up artisans, welders, designers, architects, assemblers and engineers, worked to get ready for the annual Medellín lights display for Christmas.

Christmas lights display at Parque Norte in 2020

Christmas lights display at Parque Norte in 2020

Medellín’s Utility EPM Creates the Lights Display for Christmas

The Medellín lights display for Christmas 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 started tightening its belt in 2018 and in 2019 compared to previous years with fewer lights in the city. In 2017, there were 37 million lights.

The financial situation of the city of Medellín, due to problems at the Hidroituango hydroelectric project, led EPM to implement a savings plan for the lights for Christmas over the past few years.

Pueblito Paisa at Christmas, photo by SajoR

Pueblito Paisa at Christmas, photo by SajoR

Other Places to See the 2020 Medellín Christmas Lights

Besides the main lights display at Parques del Río, you will be able to see Christmas lights in many places throughout the Aburrá Valley metro area.

You can also find lights displays for Christmas this year in several locations, including:

  • Carrera 70 (Avenida Libertadores de América)
  • Avenida Las Palmas
  • Avenida La Playa
  • Along the Ayacucho tram line

Also, 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.

In addition, Christmas lights can 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 are very important for the economy in Medellín. Many tourists visit 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.

Christmas lights display at Parque Norte in 2020

Christmas lights display at Parque Norte in 2020

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 lights display for Christmas 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 lights display for Christmas were broadened in scope. So, the lights at Christmas 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 lights installed in Medellín for Christmas has been growing over the past several years with a drop in 2021 due to belt tightening at EPM.

  • 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
  • 2019 – 27 million lights
  • 2020 – 28 million lights
  • 2021 –6  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 2021 Medellín Christmas Lights Displays

The main location of the 2021 Christmas lights is at Parques del Río, along the river. Note the lights are on the east side of the river. Also, likely similar to last year, the pedestrian bridges across the river will be closed. So, there will only one entrance to see the Christmas lights on the east side of the river.

The easiest way to get to this park is via the Medellín metro. To get there take the A line of the metro to the Exposiciones station and take the Metroplus bus line to the Plaza Mayor station and the entrance to Parque Del Rio is nearby.

In addition, any taxi driver in Medellín will know where Parques Del Río is located. But make sure you go to the park on the east side of the the river, not the west side. Note the pedestrian bridges crossing the river will likely be closed like last year.

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 driver will also be able to bring you to the secondary Medellín Christmas lights display. Just tell the driver: “El Alumbrado, Parques del Rio, por favor”.

Large Christmas tree near Parque Explora in 2016

Large Christmas tree near Parque Explora in 2016

Large Christmas tree at Parques del Río in 2019

Large Christmas tree at Parques del Río in 2019

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 Alumbrados 2020:

  1. Stay in groups while walking along the route. Don’t walk alone at night through unfamiliar areas.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Also, make sure to wear a face mask and try to socially distance yourself from others. So, it is best to go on Monday to Thursday, when there will normally be less people.

In addition, we have 20 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. Also, the crowds are smaller in early December.

Previous Medellín Christmas Lights Along the River

I have seen the Medellín Christmas lights 11 different times in the past. And in my opinion, having the main lights at Parque del Rio just isn’t the same as the previous long route along the Medellín river from many years ago. But the coronavirus pandemic has changed things with controlled and limited access possible at Parque Norte.

Here are photos from three previous Alumbrados Navideños or El Alumbrado in Medellín along the river.

2014 Christmas lights strung across the river

2014 Christmas lights strung across the river

2013 Medellín Christmas lights strung across the river

2013 Medellín Christmas lights strung across the river

2012 Medellín lights for Christmas strung across the river

2012 Medellín lights for Christmas strung across 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:

  1. Caño Cristales – the most beautiful river in Colombia, which has also been called the most beautiful river in the world by some people.
  2. Carnival in Barranquilla – the second largest carnival in the world.
  3. Cartagena – Oozing history, romance and sun-drenched beaches, the allure of historical Cartagena is hard to resist.
  4. Ciudad Perdida – the site of an ancient city in Colombia that is older than Machu Picchu in Peru.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Las Lajas Sanctuary – the most beautiful church in Colombia, which has also been called the most beautiful church in the world.
  10. Medellín’s Christmas lights – Medellín’s annual world-class lights display at Christmas is known as Alumbrados Navideños.
  11. Medellín’s Feria de Las Flores – Medellín’s world-famous flower festival each year.
  12. Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados – a popular national park in Colombia located in the heart of the Colombian coffee region.
  13. Parque Tayrona – known for its beautiful beaches and the world’s highest coastal mountain range.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. San Agustín Archaeological Park – the largest group of pre-Columbian monuments and megalithic statues in South America and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  18. 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.
  19. San Gil – Colombia’s adventure capital that is full of things to do including white water rafting, paragliding, caving, rappelling, hiking and much more.
  20. 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.

The Medellín River at Parques del Río for Alumbrados 2019, it changed colors

The Medellín River at Parques del Río for Alumbrados 2019, it changed colors

The Bottom Line: 2021 Medellín Christmas Lights

The Medellín Christmas lights display is definitely something to see if you are in Medellín anytime from early December to early January. You will be able to see these lights in Medellín from December 3 to January 10.

Also, if you are looking for a reason to visit Medellín, the month of December and early January are good choices with the world-class lights display for Christmas in the city and these are normally two of the driest months of the year.

I look forward to seeing Alumbrados Navideños this year. There will be a return to the river with lights at Parques del Rio again this year.

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Editors note: updated on October 18, 2019 by completely revising this article that was originally published on November 12, 2018 with new information about the 2019 Medellín Alumbrados.

Editors note: updated on November 19, 2020 by completely revising this article that was originally published on November 12, 2018 and updated in 2019 with new information about the 2020 Medellín Christmas lights – Alumbrados 2020.

Editors note: updated on November 26, 2020 with information that Medellín has changed the date to start its Christmas lights to November 30.

Editors note: updated on November 27, 2020 with information that Alumbrados lights will be until January 31.

Editors note: updated on November 30, 2020 with updated information.

Editors note: updated on December 23 with information that Medellín’s Alumbrados lights are suspended until January 3.

Editors note: updated on November 17, 2021 with information about the 2021 Medellín Christmas lights that are from December 3, 2021 until January 10, 2022.

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