Barranquilla, Colombia – Carnaval

The town of Barranquilla is on the coast of Colombia, in-between Santa Marta and Cartagena. It is known for hosting Carnival as each country in South America has one city that hosts. Barranquilla is also where Shakira is from. Fun fact!

Photo from Wikipedia
Photo from Wikipedia

I went to Barranquilla shortly after my trip to Palomino. I went with a couple friends from Germany and Canada. It was a treat to travel with people I had spent so much time with. We stayed with a lovely couple from Bogota and Ireland. They live in a beautiful apartment in the city and were so willing to let us stay with them. There were 2 Australian guys, 2 Scottish women, and the three of us that I mentioned earlier.

The day after Christmas Colombians start celebrating Carnival. You can imagine the four day celebration in February is quite a buildup and people look forward to the event. There are parades every day and all night parties. Families enjoying each other’s company and they are so open to travelers and want to make sure that you like their city and have a good time.

Every day before we went out I painted everyone’s faces. Any excuse to face paint and I am all over it.


In the morning we would start celebrating at 11am and then continue through the whole night. It was hard for me to keep up, reminded me of college. There were foam fights in the streets. People here use foam and literally spray your whole body so you can’t wear or have anything on you that you don’t mind getting destroyed. They also throw flour on you right after which hilariously makes a person look like they have aged 30 years, just like a 80 year old person. All of this is entertaining as the Colombian people know how to have fun and not take life too seriously. The people never get mad when you spray them with foam or flour; they know it’s for carnival and all in good fun. Tourists however, I think get a little offended.

All of this madness is going on while the parades are taking place. The parades were beyond gorgeous in terms of the costumes and dance moves. The first parade we went to was traditional where the women wear dresses that oddly resemble table clothes. I don’t think I will ever look at table cloths the same ways again.

The face painting never ended!

The parade on the last day was my favorite because it was more modern, with more glitter, larger head dresses and intense dance moves! I can imagine it’s quite hard to dance while walking. The energy of these parades is so intense. The thing I love most about it was the smiles literally on every single persons face. The people are so genuine, loving, and just are having fun. The women are gorgeous and come in every size. The women here just work it regardless of their shape and are so proud to be who they are. You can feel it from their energy and that is something I admire and feel that in the US women do not do as much. Not only that but every age was represented in these festivals. There were 80-90 year old woman in the same sassy costumes getting down dancing to modern music because it is a part of their culture and they love to do it. They also have 3 year olds dressed up in the same costumes and the same dance moves along in the parade as well. Some of them wear close to nothing clothing and dance quite scandalously, however it is a part of the culture here and not considered inappropriate or offensive, very interesting.

At night time we found the best place with live music and dancing. It was a 5 block party in the street with cumbia music and dancing all night long. The streets are packed, I was constantly running into people that I have met from my travels and it was a bunch of hippies dancing and enjoying each other’s company. At one point the streets were so packed and we were travelling around like sardines in circles going around a roundabout. There was a band in the center of the round about where the band was and literally for hours we were just going round and around laughing, cheering and singing to the music. I have never experienced anything like it.

What I took away from Carnival is that people love to party with their families, love to share everything that they have, and want to make sure everyone is having a good time. Colombia feels so warm and much like a community. If you are alone, lost, or need something, you can count on a Colombian helping you. This feeling of welcoming and loving people who are strangers is so beautiful and something that I hope and aspire to take with me for the rest of my life!

To get to Barranquilla, go to the Santa Marta bus station and take a bus for $8,000-10,000 MIL ($4-5 USD). It is super easy, inexpensive and about $30,000 MIL ($15 USD) cheaper than if you go through the hostels. Once in Barranquilla they drop you of far away from downtown. You must take a taxi downtown for about $10,000 MIL ($5 USD) if you want to stay in Barranquilla for Carnival, book early! Months early for hostels and maybe 2 months early for Foch surfing. So many people did day trips from Cartagena or Barranquilla and were unable to stay for the night. However I did meet some people that stayed not be floor of restaurants because the owners but mattresses down for people to use! Colombian hospitality is amazing!


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