Medellín’s biggest annual festival starts in August on Friday, August 2, 2019. The La Feria de las Flores 2019 (Festival of Flowers) runs from August 2 – August 11 in 2019.
The 10-day festival is a huge annual celebration of paisa culture. This year is the 62nd 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.
As usual, this year’s Festival of Flowers schedule is packed with many events, big and small. And in 2019 there is expected to be 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 seven years in a row and a couple years before that. Below, I will share the two major highlight events of this year’s festival, as well as some expat tips so you can enjoy each of these big events.
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.
2019 Feria de las Flores – the Medellín Flower Festival Schedule:
Here is a list of the highlight events of this year’s 2019 Feria de las Flores:
- August 2 – Inauguration Concert of Feria de las Flores – Sector Obelisco – 6 pm
- August 6 to 11 – Exposition of Orchids, Flowers and Crafts – Jardín Botánico
- August 7 – Chiva and Flower Parade (Desfile Chivas y Floras)
- August 10 – Classic Car Parade (Desfile de Autos Clasicos) – 10:30 am
- August 11 – Desfile de Silleteros (the Flower Parade) – Avenida Guayabal – 2 pm
There are hundreds of other smaller events. The entire schedule isn’t yet available but this article will be updated when the full schedule is published.
The two biggest events are the Classic Car Parade and Desfile de Silleteros and we provide details below with expat tips.
Also, Feria de las Flores normally has a large concert but this hasn’t been scheduled yet. Last year’s concert was headlined by Marc Anthony along with J Balvin, Silvestre Dangond, Manuel Turizo, Christian Nodal and Pipe Bueno. Last year was the fourth year in a row with Marc Anthony as the big concert headliner.
Saturday, August 10, 2019 – 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 24th 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 this year is expected to be the same as last year. This 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 expected to be 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 11, 2019 – 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 normally available from Ticket Express.
Last year the cost was 99,000 pesos plus 12,000 pesos for home delivery. And you were limited to buying four tickets per person. Tickets normally go on sale only a few weeks before the the Flower Parade.
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 flower parade this year is expect to be held along the same route as in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
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.
In 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 I bought tickets in advance.
Other Expat Tips for 2019 Feria de las Flores
Here are eight additional expat tips for Feria de las Flores 2019.
- 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.
- 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 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 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: 2019 Feria de las Flores – the Medellín Flower Festival
The two big headliner events during Feria de las Flores each year are the classic car parade and the flower parade. So, we provided details for these two big events above along with expat tips based on my experience going nine times in the past.
What about all the other many events at the 2019 Feria de las Flores? We provided a list above of some of the other highlights.
Some of the other events may be of interest to some expats such as the Feria de las Flores Inauguration concert on August 2 and the Chiva Parade on August 7.
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 10th Feria de las Flores and I can’t wait!
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Editors note: updated article completely on April 1, 2019 with information about the 2019 Feria de las Flores.