Medellín’s biggest annual festival starts in August on August 2, 2020. La Feria de las Flores 2020 (Festival of Flowers) runs from August 2 to 9 in 2020 and is not cancelled due to coronavirus.
The 9-day festival is a huge annual celebration of paisa culture. This year is the 63rd annual Feria de las Flores in Medellín. Also, this festival is the most important social event for the city of Medellín. And the Flower Festival is one of the best ways to get an authentic taste of the local culture.
Last year there were over 400 different events between public and private events for La Feria de las Flores. However, in 2020 the format of the Flower Festival may be different due to coronavirus.
I have attended Feria de las Flores the last eight years in a row and a couple years before that. Below, I will share the three major highlight events of this year’s festival, as well as some expat tips so you can enjoy each of these big events.
Coronavirus Impacts on Feria de las Flores?
Medellín’s Mayor Daniel Quintero Calle announced on April 26 that Feria de las Flores is not canceled. There is still time, as it is over three months away with a schedule between August 2 and August 9.
It may not be the same as previous years but Medellín plans to have the Flower Festival in 2020. The Mayor said:
My team just asked me if the Flower Fair is canceled. I said: no, not at all. It may not be the same, but we will not stop.
I am here to tell you that we came out of this, we are going to overcome this crisis, adapt, build again, move forward.
Feria de las Flores in addition to being a tourist attraction in the city, is an important source of income for Medellín. Last year alone, it attracted 26,186 foreign tourists who spent $22.9 million USD.
In 2019, the majority of tourists for the Flower Festival arrived from the United States (48 percent), Mexico (10 percent), and Panama (8 percent) and resulted in a hotel occupancy of 80 percent, compared to an average occupancy of 63 percent throughout the year in city.
It is still too early to know by the date of Feria de las Flores what restrictions will remain in Medellín due to coronavirus. But the mayor also said on April 27:
We will not stop holding Feria de las Flores, however it will not be the usual one for crowds, we will use technology, we will be creative. We are not going to let our farmers lose the production of flowers, because that is what they live on. We are going to think of strategies such as floats that travel throughout the city so that people applaud them and admire them from the balconies.
The decision to hold the Flower Festival in 2020 was made taking into account that the cultivation of flowers and making the silletas must start now.
However, local authorities are already thinking about how this will be done this year, taking into account that it is not known if in three month by late July what measures such as compulsory quarantine will continue.
History of Feria de las Flores – the Medellín Flower Festival
The first Feria de las Flores, or flower festival, reportedly took place in Medellin in May 1957. It was intended to host a tribute to the thriving flower business in the Medellín area. And it was organized by Arturo Uribe, a member of the Board of the Office of Development and Tourism.
This first flower festival was referred to as the “Flower Party”. And it lasted for five days with an exposition of flowers displayed in the Catedral Basílica Metropolitana. In addition, the first silleteros parade 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 each year.
2020 Feria de las Flores – the Medellín Flower Festival Schedule:
Here is are some the highlight events expected for this year’s 2020 Feria de las Flores:
- July 31 – Inauguration Concert of Feria de las Flores
- August 8 – Classic Car Parade (Desfile de Autos Clasicos)
- August 9 – Desfile de Silleteros (the Flower Parade)
There are normally hundreds of other smaller events including some that start before July 31. Normally there are over 400 events for Feria de las Flores.
So, it can be overwhelming to decide what are the best things to do each day. We don’t yet know how many events will be held in 2020 and what the format will be.
The three biggest events normally are a Súper Concierto, the Classic Car Parade and Desfile de Silleteros pared. And we provide details below with expat tips for these three events.
Súper Concierto de Feria de las Flores
A concert hasn’t yet been scheduled for 2020. The 2019 Súper Concierto de Feria de las Flores was headlined by Marc Anthony along with Ozuna, Carlos Vives, Maluma, Alex Fernandez Jr., Becky G, Yeison Jimenez and Jaycob Duque. The was the fifth year in a row with Marc Anthony as the big concert headliner.
The concert last year was held at the large Estadio Atanasio Girardot sports stadium in Estadio. It is scheduled to start at 6 pm but concerts in Colombia typically start late. And get there early due to lines.
Expat Tips: We recommend buying the more expensive “Platino” tickets and arrive earlier than normal. Platino tickets sell for 312,000 pesos. You’ll get in faster (possibly saving an hour or more of waiting in line). Tickets for the concert this year were on sale at Tuboleta.
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.
Classic Car Parade (Desfile de Autos Clasicos)
Each year an estimated one million people see the Desfile de Autos Clasicos (Classic Car Parade). This year will be the 26th year of the classic car parade. In addition, you can see our photos from last year’s Desfile de Autos Clasicos (Classic Car Parade)
Paisas have some very old cars that are in excellent condition. And some Colombians even come from all over the country to participate in this very popular parade. Every year, they dust the cars off and dress up in costumes to go for a drive in the classic car parade. Last year over 300 vehicles participated.
The vehicles in Desfile de Autos Clasicos are in several categories, including
- Old vehicles – cars which are at least 35 years old. And they must retain their original specifications.
- Classic vehicles – cars which are at least 50 years old. And they must retain their original features and specifications.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Classic Car Parade Route and Expat Tips
The car parade route for 2019 was different than in 2018 and hasn’t been defined for 2020.
The route last year started at the El Colombiano building and it went to Avenida Las Vegas where it went past the Viva Envigado mall and turned right after the Exito and then right on Avenida Regional and went north for a long ways up to the road that leads to the underground of Parques del Río.
At the point the route took the tunnel to Carrera 62 and then went to Calle 45A to Avenida Ferrocarril to the roundabout of San Juan surrounding taking the exit again towards the Avenida Ferrocarrill by Plaza Mayor and continued until the roundabout of 33 turning right taking the bridge of Avenida 33 to Avenida Regional and the Autopista Sur.
The route continued south on Autopista Sur to the Simón Bolívar bridge on Calle 63 and went over this bridge to the roundabout of Envigado to Avenida Las Vegas South continuing to the Envigado Police Station on Calle 43 Sur to Carrera 49 running parallel to the Avenida Regional to finally enter SOFASA, which was the end of the parade route.
The classic parade route last year is easier to see on a map. So, the 2019 car parade route is on the map below.
Expat Tips: The longest stretches of the route last year were along Avenida Regional and Autopista Sur.
In my experience, it is usually best to go to the longest stretches of the route, as the crowd tends to be more spread out. And with an estimated crowd of about one million people viewing this car parade, we highly 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 car parade route selling drinks and food.
Flower Parade (Desfile de Silleteros)
Desfile de Silleteros is a parade where paisas of all ages carry flower displays on their backs on wooden silletas, for hours. Everyone from little kids to women and men in their 60s and even older can be seen carrying the flowers. Las year there was a total of about 500 silleteros in the parade.
Also, you can see our photos from last year’s Desfile de Silleteros.
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 quickly each year, as there is a limited number. Tickets were on sale for 2019 on the Ticket Express website but were sold out in the first week in August. You could use a credit card or debit card to buy tickets online.
The price in 2019 was 108,000 pesos per ticket plus 12,000 pesos for home delivery and tickets will be sent to you home from August 5 to August 8. Or you could pick the tickets up in the Premium Plaza mall for a cost of 10,000 pesos and tickets were available from August 7 to August 10. In addition, you were limited to buying four tickets per person.
Furthermore, on the day of the flower parade you were only permitted to enter the bleacher area from 9 am to noon. After that time you won’t be permitted to enter. So, you need to go early. The bleacher areas are near Plaza Mayor in El Centro and on the road below the Parques del Río park.
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. In addition to silleteros there are dancers as well in the parade. You also will see all ages participating in the parade.
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. These arrangements can also reach up to 170 pounds.
History of Desfile de Silleteros (Flower Parade)
The tradition of silleteros has its roots back in the 19th century when people in the rural areas in Antioquia used these silletas (chair-like) devices to carry the sick and elderly.
Santa Elena flower growers were the first to use the silleta to carry flowers, vegetables and herbs to market in Medellín. And they used the silleta to take food and household items they bought in Medellín back to their homes.
The first Feria de las Flores, or flower festival, reportedly 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. And the idea behind this event was to help promote the flower industry in Colombia. Colombia is the second largest flower exporting country in the world after Holland.
The first festival in Medellín lasted for five days with an exposition of flowers displayed in the Catedral Basílica Metropolitana. In addition, the first silleteros parade 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 61 years, additional events were added to the festival, which increased the duration to the current 10 to 11 days.
Flower Parade Route and Expat Tips
The route for 2020 hasn’t been defined yet. The route for the 2019 Desfile de Silleteros flower parade was different than in 2018. It started at the institución Educative Santa Elena and went on Avenida Regional by the Medellin River until Carrera 61 to Calle 44 to Carrera 57 and past Plaza Mayor and arrived at Palacio de Exposicions y Convenciones de Medellín.
This route was completely different than the past few years and is seen in the below map.
Expat Tips: More than any other parade during Feria de Las Flores, 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 to the bleachers, you’ll need to arrive early if you want to get a good seat in the bleachers. Last year if you had a ticket to the bleachers, on the day of the parade you were only allowed entry from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. After this time, you weren’t able to enter. It’s expected to be similar this year.
In the past, I didn’t need a ticket, as I was able to get a press pass from the city as a 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 much more difficult to get due to reporters from all over the world coming to the city to cover the flower festival.
In 2014, I didn’t I didn’t buy a ticket in advance. I walked along the parade route. And close to one of the stands I saw tickets being sold and only paid a few dollars over the face value.
I arrived about 90 minutes before the parade started. And I was able to get a good seat in the stands with an excellent view of the parade. In addition, there were vendors in the stands that were conveniently selling drinks and food.
In 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 I bought tickets in advance.
Other Expat Tips for 2020 Feria de las Flores
Here are eight additional expat tips for Feria de las Flores 2020 based on previous years, which we will update when details for the 2020 Flower Parade are announced:
- Watch your belongings. Unscrupulous people take advantage of large events to commit crimes. Take particular care with smart phones, which are the most commonly stolen items in Medellín. See our article about security for more safety tips.
- Attend events with comfortable clothes. It can be hot so dress appropriately.
- Hydrate well, particularly when attending events outside such as the Desfile de Silleteros and Desfile de Autos Clasicos. Also, there will be many vendors along the parade routes selling beverages and snacks. No glass bottles are permitted at events.
- Use sunscreen and hats for events outside.
- Bring an umbrella, you never know when it may rain in Medellín.
- Use public transport such as buses, taxis and the Medellín Metro system to get to events, as parking is limited.
- Remember there are trained personnel at all the events for emergencies.
- You should carry your ID with you – your cedula if you have one or a copy of your passport.
- Avoid consuming alcohol in excess.
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 Feria de las Flores in our list of the top 20 tourist attractions in Colombia.
The Bottom Line: 2020 Feria de las Flores – the Medellín Flower Festival
The three big headliner events during Feria de las Flores each year are normally the classic car parade, the flower parade and the big Súper Concierto.
It is too early to say what restrictions will be in place by the end of July due to coronavirus for Feria de las Flores. This is three months away and hopefully the quarantine will be lifted by then.
Will international flights be resumed by then? Will the quarantine be fully lifted? This obviously depends on what happens with coronavirus in Colombia over the next three months.
The bottom line is that Medellín still plans to have Feria de las Flores in 2020. But the format may change. We will update this article when more details for the 2020 Feria de las Flores are released.
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