Though Colombia has many famous festivals such as the Barranquilla Carnival, the Black and White Carnival in Pasto, and the Feria de Cali, it also has plenty more unusual events that most people haven’t even heard of. Whether celebrating donkeys, foodstuffs, or other quirks of life, here’s our pick of the best.
An entire festival dedicated to a deep-fried corn snack stuffed with a fried egg: only in Colombia! The arepa de huevo (a flat corn cake with egg) is a staple of Colombian coastal cuisine, and was first created in Atlantico department, itself more famous for the Barranquilla Carnival. Every year – usually in June or July – the small town of Luruaco, which is considered the true birthplace of the arepa de huevo, holds a festival celebrating their famous fried treat, which includes contests for the best, biggest, and even most innovative arepa.
The small coastal town of San Antero is home to arguably the strangest-of-the-strange when it comes to Colombian festivals: the San Antero Festival of the Donkey. What started out as an Easter parade, with a donkey carrying Judas to a bonfire, soon became something much more unique and different, as locals dispensed with the religious element and simply celebrated the donkey instead. It’s a five-day festival every Easter, which features a donkey parade, with donkeys in costume, and even a King and Queen donkey of the festival!
Villa de Leyva is one of Colombia’s prettiest little towns, and it is also home to one of Colombia’s best festivals: the Kite Festival, or Festival of the Winds. Held every August – when the winds are at their strongest in the region – the festival is three days of fun for kite-lovers everywhere, and features kite-flying contests, and prizes for the best homemade kite, team flying, and long-distance flying.
Every year on January 1, San Andres Island witnesses a very special and unique event: the Crab Festival. Locals prepare various special dishes made with crab – including rice and crab, crab cakes, and crab empanadas – and, as with any Colombian Caribbean festival, there’s drinking and dancing aplenty too.
This festival is dedicated to the iconic Jeep Willys which are so uniquely connected to the cultural identity of Colombia’s coffee region; first imported to Colombia from the USA post-World War II, the jeeps soon became intrinsically linked to the area, and they are celebrated annually in the small town of Calarca (as well as in many other towns in the area) with parades, and competitions to see who can load their jeep the most or perform the most dare-devilish stunts.
The pretty little town of Tibasosa is generally not a place that many tourists tend to visit, but it has a claim to fame with its Feijoa Festival. Feijoa is a tasty local fruit (some say it tastes like bubblegum) which is grown in abundance in the areas around Tibasosa – every year, locals gather to pay homage to the source of so many local jobs. It’s not every day that you can spend three days celebrating a fruit.
Villeta, near Bogota, claims to be the ‘Sweets Capital’ of the region, and every year holds a festival dedicated to panela – raw sugar cane used as a sweetener throughout Colombia. The panela theme is a loose one, and the festival features parades, folk music performances, and they even crown the Queen of Panela.