There are few events that embody the spirit of Medellin as well as the annual Flower Festival, or Feria de las Flores. What began as a quaint and colorful celebration in 1957, has blossomed into a 10-day affair with over 400 programs including parades, dances, concerts, and craft seminars. At the forefront, the festival celebrates the region’s wildly diverse flora — with over 3,000 different kinds of orchids and other plant species. Don’t be fooled, Medellin’s Flower Festival isn’t just a hoopla for romantics and botanical nerds, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the wider thriving culture of Antioquia. You’ll see locals donning Panchos and classic paisa hats, arepas being consumed in ungodly quantities, and bottles of Aguardiente (the city’s go-to liquor) clanking on street corners while bachata music pulses from rooftops. If you’re visiting Colombia during the summertime, the Flower Festival is one of the best ways to get an authentic taste of the culture. Here’s a brief guide to help you make the most of your time in the City of Eternal Spring.
Dates and Location
Dates: The festival is usually held in late July or early August of each year. In 2018, the festival will start on August 3rd and finish on August 12th.
Location: The festival takes place all over the city of Medellin. The inauguration is held at the Sector Obelisco (near the soccer stadium), and other events take place at Ciudad del Rio, Jardín Botánico, Parque Norte, and in Santa Elena. The finale takes place at Avenida Guayabal near El Poblado.
The festival puts on a dizzying number of parades that would exhaust most casual travelers. Here are some of the event’s highlights.
La Plaza de Flores – A parade that involves everything from flower arrangements to dances and concerts. During the festival, its location bounces around between the places mentioned above.
Orquídeas, Flores, y Artesanías – An exposition that takes place in the Jardín Botánico. Wander through one of the most beautiful sites in Medellin and stumble across stunning exhibits of flowers and arts and crafts.
Desfile de Autos Clasicos y Antiguos – Certainly one of the highlights of the festival, this parade sees classic cars covered with elaborate flower structures. The people accompanying each car dress up in garb from that particular era, making it a fun tour through Colombia’s history.
Desfile de Silleteros – The event’s culmination on the final day is by far the most important. In Spanish, silla means seat, and historically speaking, silleteros were slaves with chairs on their backs who bore the burden of carrying cargo ranging from produce to important dignitaries and the elderly. Today, silleteros carry beautiful flower structures to celebrate freedom from slavery.
For the complete run-down of the festival’s events including dates, times, and locations, check out the official brochure.
How to Get There
From the José María Córdova international airport in Rionegro, getting to Medellín is a pretty straightforward 30-40 minute drive with added beautiful views as you descend into the Aburrá Valley. A personal taxi will cost 70,000 COP, or about $24. A colectivo is a shared van that will cost 17,500 COP, or just over $6, and drops you off at San Diego Mall. Finally, the cheapest option from the airport is to grab a bus. It’s only 9,500 COP or just under $4 and will drop you at either the Nutibara Hotel or San Diego Mall.
Within Medellin, the metro line is fairly convenient and connects all the important spots of the festival. Uber is also relatively cheap with plenty of drivers around the city — but it’s technically illegal, so use it at your own risk.
Where to Stay
Casa Kiwi – One of the best budget hostels in the area. The vibe is laid back with extremely friendly staff, while the common areas are decked out with plants and hammocks, and the rooftop bar and pool area boast good views.
Coolto – Another budget option in the heart of Poblado that doubles as an art studio. The first floor hosts a permanent art exhibit of rotating pieces, making a cool, creative place to pass the time.
Airbnb – Always a good option while traveling, Airbnb’s in Medellin are particularly alluring with their natural aesthetic and phenomenal views. This cozy apartment is air-conditioned, nestled in a quiet area, and with easy access to bars and nightlife.
Kolor Hotel – A funky boutique hotel with thematic room decorations and tranquil courtyards. This hotel feels like an Airbnb, but has all the amenities of a high-end resort.