Medellín’s biggest annual festival starts later this month on Friday, July 28. La Feria de las Flores 2017 (Festival of Flowers) runs from July 28 – August 7. The entire schedule (in Spanish) can be found here.

The 11-day festival is a huge annual celebration of paisa culture. This year is the 60th annual Feria de Las Flores in Medellín.

As usual, this year’s schedule is packed with many events, big and small. This year for La Feria de Las Flores 2017 there are a total of over 125 different events as well as hundreds of additional public and private activities.

I have had the opportunity to attend Feria de Las Flores the last five years and a couple years before that. Below, I will share the three major highlights of this year’s Feria de las Flores 2017 festival, as well as some expat tips so you can enjoy each of these big events.

This guide is for 2017 and we have an updated 2018 guide to Feria de las Flores.

History of Feria de las Flores

The first Feria de las Flores, or flower festival, took place in Medellin in May 1957. It was organized by Arturo Uribe, a member of the Board of the Office of Development and Tourism.

The festival lasted for five days with an exposition of flowers displayed in the Catedral Basílica Metropolitana.  The first silleteros parade also took place with about 40 men from Santa Elena carrying on their backs flower arrangements to the exposition site

The following year in 1958, the month of the festival was changed to August. This was done to celebrate the independence of Antioquia.  Over the next 60 years, additional events were added to the festival, which increased the duration to the current 10 to 11 days.

August 5 - Marc Anthony headlining Metro Concert of Concerts, courtesy of Metro Concierto de Conciertos

August 5 – Marc Anthony headlining Metro Concert of Concerts, courtesy of Metro Concierto de Conciertos

Saturday, August 5 – Metro Concert of Concerts

7 pm

There is an inaugural Flower Festival concert on July 28 with six performers that may be worth going to. However, this is not the biggest concert during Feria de Las Flores.

The big concert this year during Feria de Las Flores is headlined by Marc Anthony along with Wisin, Daddy Yankee and Silvestre. This year is the third year in a row with Marc Anthony as this concert headliner.

The concert is being held at the large Estadio Atanasio Girardot sports stadium in Estadio. It is scheduled to start at 7 pm but keep in mind concerts in Colombia typically start late.

Expat Tips:  We recommend buying the more expensive “Platino” tickets and arrive earlier than normal. Platino tickets sell for 395,000 pesos. You’ll get in faster (possibly saving an hour or more of waiting in line).

In my experience, big concerts in Colombia are not always well-organized. And the most impressive I have been to in Colombia was seeing Shakira in Barranquilla.

1932 Ford from last year's Classic Car Parade

1932 Ford from last year’s Classic Car Parade

Sunday, August 6 – Classic Car Parade (Desfile de Autos Clasicos)

10:30 am to 2:30 pm

Each year an estimated one million people see the Desfile de Autos Clasicos (Classic Car Parade). This year is the 22nd year of the car parade.

Paisas have some very old cars that are in excellent condition. And some Colombians come from all over the country to participate. Every year, they dust the cars off and dress up in costumes to go for a drive in the classic car parade. Last year 300 vehicles participated.

The vehicles in Desfile de Autos Clasicos are in several categories, including

  1. Old vehicles – cars which are at least 35 years old. And they must retain their original specifications.
  2. Classic vehicles – cars which are at least 50 years old. And they must retain their original features and specifications.
  3. Street rod vehicles – cars which are at least 35 years old and retain the completely original exterior and all accessories, emblems and mirrors. Inside parts and mechanicals can change but these should not be noticeable from the outside.
  4. Hot rod vehicles – cars that were completely changed in the mechanics, suspension and body. This includes finishes such as paint and upholstery typically very different from the original. There is a limit of 25 cars in this category selected by a committee.
  5. Vehicles produced, assembled or distributed in Colombia – cars included in this category must be at least 35 years old and at least 95 percent original.

In addition, there is a special category for military Jeeps and Volkswagens.

1931 Buick from last year's Classic Car Parade

1931 Buick from last year’s Classic Car Parade

Car Parade Route and Expat Tips

The parade route this year starts at the El Colombiano building along Avenida Regional. It goes on Calle 29 Sur to Avenida Las Vegas where it goes south to the Envigado bridge. And turns around to go north on Avenida Las Vegas.

And then it goes to Aguacatala to turn west on Avenida 80 until Avenida Guayabal at Parque Cristo Rey. The route then goes north on Avendia Guayabel until Calle 30, where the route goes east on Calle 30.

After passing the large Bancolombia building turn right on Avenida Las Vegaa. And the route then goes south to the Aguacatala roundabout and to Avenida Regional north to Universidad EAFIT, which is the end of the parade.

It is easier to see on a map. So, the car parade route can be seen in the map below.

Map of Classic Car Parade route, courtesy of Desfile de Autos Clasicos

Map of Classic Car Parade route, courtesy of Desfile de Autos Clasicos

1957 Ford Thunderbird from last year's Classic Car Parade

1957 Ford Thunderbird from last year’s Classic Car Parade

Expat Tips:  The route this year is different than in previous years. This year the longest stretch of the route is along Avenida Las Vegas from the big Bancolombia building in El Poblado to the bridge in Envigado.

In my experience, it is usually best to go to the longest stretch of the route as the crowd is more spread out. With an estimated crowd of one million people viewing this car parade, we recommend going early to make sure you find a place with a good view and some shade.

Also, keep in mind there will be many vendors walking along the parade route selling drinks and food.

Desfile de Silleteros

Desfile de Silleteros

Monday, August 7 – Flower Parade (Desfile de Silleteros)

2 p.m.

Desfile de Silleteros is a parade where paisas of all ages carry flower displays on their backs, for hours. Everyone from little kids to women and men in their 60s and even older can be seen carrying the flowers. This year there will be a total of about 500 silleteros in the parade.

There are bleachers along one side of the parade route where you can buy tickets for seats, otherwise you will need to stand.

Tickets for the Flower Parade normally sell out very fast each year, as there is a limited number. Furthermore, tickets this year cost 100,000 pesos at Ticket Express, including the service charge.

Carrying a traditional silleta

Carrying a traditional silleta

This is a one of a kind parade where paisas of all ages carry flower displays on their backs, for hours. Everyone from small children to women and men in their 50s and 60s can be seen carrying the flowers.  And in addition to silleteros there are dancers as well in the parade. You also will see all ages participating in the parade.

All ages participate

All ages participate

The flower arrangements are made at the nearby pueblo of Santa Elena. And they are entered in a competition in various categories. In addition, there are many commercial displays, which are advertisements made of flowers.

Dancers with colorful dresses

Dancers with colorful dresses

Flower Parade Route and Expat Tips

The parade this year will be held along essentially the same route as last year. This is a 2.3 km route on the Guayabal Avenue corridor north to south, to Calle 10 and then to Plaza Gardel, between the Olaya Herrera airport and the South Transportation Terminal. A map from last year is found in the infographic here.

Expat Tips:  More than any other parade during Feria de Las Flores 2017, the crowds gather in huge masses for the Flower Parade. We recommend either arriving to find a spot along the route hours in advance or buying a ticket to enter the side of the street with bleachers.

Even with a ticket, you’ll need to arrive early if you want to get a good seat in the bleachers. And this year if you have a ticket, on the day of the parade you will only be allowed entry from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. After this time, you reportedly will not be allowed to enter.

The past couple of years, I didn’t need a ticket, as I was able to get a press pass from the city as a freelance writer covering the parade. This permitted me to be on the street with the parade to take some good photos. But press passes are becoming more difficult to get due to reporters from all over the world coming to the city to cover the flower festival.

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 16 of the top things to see and do in Colombia:

  1. Cartagena – Oozing history, romance and sun-drenched beaches, the allure of historical Cartagena is hard to resist.
  2. Caño Cristales – the most beautiful river in Colombia, which has also been called the most beautiful river in the world by some people.
  3. 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.
  4. Las Lajas Sanctuary – the most beautiful church in Colombia, which has also been called the most beautiful church in the world.
  5. Parque Tayrona – known for its beautiful beaches and the world’s highest coastal mountain range.
  6. San Agustín Archaeological Park – the largest group of pre-Columbian monuments and megalithic statues in South America and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  7. 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.
  8. Ciudad Perdida – the site of an ancient city in Colombia that is older than Machu Picchu in Peru.
  9. Salento and the Cocora Valley – Salento is a picturesque pueblo in Colombia’s coffee region and nearby Cocora Valley is one of the most striking landscapes found in Colombia.
  10. 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.
  11. Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados – a popular national park in Colombia located in the heart of the Colombian coffee region.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Carnival in Barranquilla – the second largest carnival in the world.
  15. Medellín’s Christmas lights – Medellín’s annual world-class Christmas lights known as Alumbrados Navideños.
  16. Medellín’s Feria de Las Flores – Medellín’s world-famous flower festival each year.
Desfile de Silleteros

Desfile de Silleteros

The Bottom Line – Feria de las Flores 2017

What about all the other events at Feria de las Flores 2017? Some of the other events may be of interest to some expats like the Classic and Vintage Motorcycle Parade on July 29, the Chiva Parade on July 30 and the Vintage Bicycle Parade on August 5. But these are smaller events. And many of the other smallest events at Feria de las Flores 2017 aren’t really worth going to in my experience.

The three big headliner events during Feria de las Flores each year are the big metro concert, the classic car parade and the flower parade.  And we have provided details for each of these above along with expat tips.

This year will be my eighth Feria de las Flores and I can’t wait!

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