Medellín’s biggest annual festival starts in August on Friday, August 3, 2018. The La Feria de las Flores 2018 (Festival of Flowers) runs from August 3 – August 12. And the entire 2018 schedule (in Spanish) can be found here.
The 10-day festival is a huge annual celebration of paisa culture. This year is the 61st annual Feria de las Flores in Medellín. And the theme this year is “Medellín Florece” or “Medellín Blooms” in English.
As usual, this year’s Festival of Flowers schedule is packed with many events, big and small. And for this year there is a total of over 400 different events between public and private events for La Feria de las Flores.
I have attended Feria de las Flores the last six 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.
Note this guide to Feria de las Flores is an update for 2018 of our popular guide to last year’s 2017 Feria de las Flores.
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.
Feria de las Flores 2018 – the Medellín Flower Festival Schedule:
Here is a list of the highlight events of this year’s Feria de las Flores:
- August 3 – Desfile Infantil de Silleteros (Children’s Flower Parade) – La Floresta – 10 am
- August 3 – Inauguration Concert of Feria de las Flores – Sector Obelisco – 6 pm
- August 3 to 7 – Plaza de Floras (North Zone) – Parque Norte at noon – 11 pm
- August 4 – Súper Concierto de Feria de las Flores – Estadio Atanasio Girardot sports stadium – 8 pm
- August 5 to 10 – Plaza de Floras (West Zone) – Aeroparque Juan Pablo II – noon to midnight
- August 7 to 12 – Exposition of Orchids, Flowers and Crafts – Jardín Botánico – 8 am to 8 pm
- August 7 – Chiva and Flower Parade (Desfile Chivas y Floras) – Avenida Guayabal – 1:30 pm
- August 8 to 12 – Plaza de Floras (South Zone) – Ciudad del Rio – noon to midnight
- August 11 – Classic Car Parade (Desfile de Autos Clasicos) – 10:30 am
- August 12 – Desfile de Silleteros (the Flower Parade) – Avenida Guayabal – 2 pm
There are hundreds of other smaller events. The entire 2018 schedule (in Spanish) can be found here.
The three biggest events are the Súper Concierto, Classic Car Parade and Desfile de Silleteros and we provide details below with expat tips.
Saturday, August 4 – Súper Concierto de Feria de las Flores 2018
There is an inaugural Flower Festival concert on August 3 at 6 pm at Obelisco with several performers that may be worth going to. However, this is not the biggest concert during Feria de Las Flores.
The big super concert this year during Feria de las Flores is headlined by Marc Anthony along with J Balvin, Silvestre Dangond, Manuel Turizo, Christian Nodal and Pipe Bueno. This year is the fourth year in a row with Marc Anthony as the big concert headliner.
This large concert is being held at the large Estadio Atanasio Girardot sports stadium in Estadio, just like last year. And the concert is scheduled to start at 8 pm. But keep in mind concerts in Colombia typically start late.
Súper Concierto Expat Tips: We recommend buying the more expensive “Platino” tickets and arrive earlier than normal. Platino tickets sell for 284,000 pesos this year including a service fee. With a platino ticket you will get in faster and possibly save an hour or more of waiting in line.
Also, in my experience, big concerts in Colombia are not always well-organized. And the most impressive concert I have been to in Colombia was seeing Shakira in Barranquilla.
Saturday, August 11 – 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 23rd 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 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 this year is the same as last year. It 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.
The classic parade route is easier to see on a map. So, the car parade route can be seen in the map below.
Expat Tips: The classic car parade route this year is the exact same as last 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 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.
Sunday, August 12 – 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. Similar to last year, this year it’s expected that there will be 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 are available from Ticket Express and cost 99,000 pesos plus 12,000 pesos for home delivery. And you are limited to buying four tickets per person.
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.
Flower Parade Route and Expat Tips
The flower parade this year will be held along the same route as in 2016 and 2017.
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 Bus Terminal. Here’s a map of the route:
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.
Other Expat Tips for Feria de las Flores 2018
Here are eight additional expat tips for Feria de las Flores 2018.
- 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. Note that there will be many vendors along the parade routes selling beverages and snacks.
- Use sunscreen and hats for events outside.
- Bring an umbrella, you never know when it may rain.
- 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 event for emergencies.
- You should carry you ID with you – your cedula if you have one or a copy of your passport.
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:
- Cartagena – Oozing history, romance and sun-drenched beaches, the allure of historical Cartagena is hard to resist.
- Caño Cristales – the most beautiful river in Colombia, which has also been called the most beautiful river in the world by some people.
- 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.
- Las Lajas Sanctuary – the most beautiful church in Colombia, which has also been called the most beautiful church in the world.
- Parque Tayrona – known for its beautiful beaches and the world’s highest coastal mountain range.
- 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 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.
- Ciudad Perdida – the site of an ancient city in Colombia that is older than Machu Picchu in Peru.
- 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.
- 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.
- Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados – a popular national park in Colombia located in the heart of the Colombian coffee region.
- 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.
- 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.
- Carnival in Barranquilla – the second largest carnival 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.
The Bottom Line – 2018 Feria de las Flores
The three big headliner events during Feria de las Flores each year are the big super concert, the classic car parade and the flower parade. So, we provided details for each of these big events above along with expat tips.
What about all the other many events at the 2018 Feria de las Flores? We provided a list above of several of the highlights.
Some of the other events may be of interest to some expats such as the Feria de las Flores Inauguration concert on August 3, Desfile Infantil Silleteros on August 3 and the Chiva Parade on August 7. A complete schedule of the 2018 Feria de las Flores events (in Spanish) can be found here.
But many of the smaller events at Feria de las Flores aren’t really worth going to in my experience.
This year will be my ninth Feria de las Flores and I can’t wait!
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Editors note: On July 20, 2018, tickets went on sale from Ticket Express for bleacher seats for the Desfille de Silleteros (Flower Parade) for 99,000 pesos each, so updated this article with this information.
Editors note: On August 2, 2018, updated to add a section of major events during Feria de las Flores as requested by several readers.