I had the most amazing experience at Carnaval this year, and not the one you’re probably thinking about. I attended the second biggest Carnaval celebration in South America- in Barranquilla, Colombia.
I had just a weekend to fit in all I wanted to experience, but it was enough to make me want to go back and live it all again next year. We flew into Santa Marta on a Friday night and stayed at the Brisa Loca Hostel in the historic center of town, where we had a beer on a gorgeous rooftop patio overlooking the city. That night I took it slow and went to sleep early.
The next morning my friends and I took a cab to the bus terminal and caught the first bus to Barranquilla. Since it was Carnaval season, the cost was 12,000 pesos when normally it is only 10,000. Naturally there were some complaints from the other travelers about the increase in price.
A co-worker’s sister graciously bought us folding chairs to station along the main parade route. We set ourselves up by 11am, and around 2pm the parade finally began. The lively entertainment went on for the next four hours. Even through the heat and hoards of people, we had a blast!
The best part about Carnaval is that the party vibe doesn’t die out when the parade is finished. The city is electric and everyone is on a mission to have fun. Just around the corner from the main parade route there was a full-blown street party. Who needs walls to dance the night away?
Those in Barranquilla surely don’t. There were people singing, drinking, cheering and twirling to the music until the early morning hours. Sleep? Who needs it? My favorite memory was watching a flour fight. By throwing flower and water all over each other, the partygoers were covered in white foam. Needless to say I slept like a baby that night. Carnaval is an exhausting adventure!
The next day (Sunday) my friends and I went to Casa del Carnaval to pick up my press pass, which I used to score an interview with a Colombian hip-hop group called Chocquibtown. They were inspirational to say the least, and I would recommend their music to anyone who likes this type of music. The band’s members are from the coastal Colombian town of Choco, which is known for its poverty and violence. Check them out here CHOCQUIBTOWN
And then I did the most “touristy” thing I could think of- my friends and I went souvenir shopping. We also had an amazingly delicious seafood lunch before we headed to another street parade. Although this parade was missing the large, elaborate floats from the day before, we danced and drank the afternoon away amongst the energetic locals. The atmosphere in Barranquilla during this time is infectious and addictive. People of all ages and races get together with one thing in mind, which is to celebrate life, love and Colombian culture.
Here a few facts about Carnaval in Barranquilla:
Duration: 4 days before Ash Wednesday
Significance: In November of 2003, UNESCO proclaimed it as one of 28 different “masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity”.
The Carnaval of Barranquilla is second only to the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
1 US Dollar = approximately 1,836 Colombian Pesos.