Colombia has maintained an important tradition for the past three centuries. This tradition is the Barranquilla Carnival, one of the most important fairs and festivals in the country. Over 4 days, every neighborhood, corner and street of Barranquilla is filled with rhythm, dancing and color.

What is the Barranquilla Carnival?

You cannot miss The Barranquilla Carnival in your next visit to Colombia
Credit: Gloria Villa / Carnaval de Barranquilla S.A.S.

The Barranquilla Carnival is one of the most important festivals in Colombia

The Barranquilla Carnival is one of the most important cultural and folkloric celebrations in the country. Each year, the city celebrates the most representative expressions of Barranquilla identity and the Caribbean people of Colombia. In 2003, the carnival was declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, and in 2008 as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.

The Barranquilla Carnival is celebrated between the 18th and the 21st of February in Barranquilla. However, a pre-carnival is held since January 21st. The official opening of this festival start ten days earlier, and during these days, locals and tourists can enjoy the warm and joyful environment that Barranquilla is popular for.

The pre-carnivals start in Plaza de la Paz where the mayor of Barranquilla gives the Carnival Queen keys to the city to the carnival. Later, along with Rey Momo (One of the carnival characters) and the kings of the Children's Carnival, she reads the Bando, a "decree" that begins the fairs and festivals of the carnival with the night parade of La Guacherna.

The official celebration of the Barranquilla Carnival starts with traditional events in the ‘Cumbiodromo - Vía 40’, such as the Battle of the flowers, the great Parade of tradition and folklore, the Orchestra Festival, and the Great troupes Parade, and more. The celebration officially ends with the Death of Joselito Carnival.

How did the Barranquilla Carnival start?

Enjoy one of the most important fairs and festivals in Colombia, The Barranquilla Carnival| Colombia Travel
Credit: Charlie Cordero / Carnaval de Barranquilla S.A.S.

The Barranquilla Carnival dates back to the colonial period.

The beginning of these fairs and festivals dates back to the time of the Spanish conquest, as this kind of tradition comes from Europe and was introduced little by little by the Spanish and Portuguese in America.

However, the Barranquilla Carnival also has its origins in celebrations held in Cartagena during the colonial period. At the time, the afro-descendants used to take to the streets dances and songs, playing typical musical instruments and wearing special costumes.

Learn about the marimonda costume, the most representative from the Barranquilla Carnival | Colombia Travel
Credit: OSTILL is Franck Camhi /

The marimonda is one of the most representative characters of the Barranquilla Carnival

Among the most traditional costumes of the Barranquilla Carnival is the marimonda. It represents the cheerful spirit of the man who is born in Barranquilla, and serves as a mockery of the ruling class of the late 1800s. Another one is the garabato, which is used in the Garabato dance, where it portrays an encounter between life and death. Also, the monocuco, which symbolizes the joy of the carnival spirit, and the mascara de torito, which is the most representative of the Congos dances.

Get ready to enjoy Barranquilla Carnival

Enjoy the 500 folkloric groups in the Barranquilla Carnival
Credit: Jairo Cassiani / Carnaval de Barranquilla S.A.S.

In the Barranquilla Carnival you will be able to enjoy 500 folkloric groups.

As is tradition, Barranquilla, the capital of the Altántico region and the fourth biggest city in Colombia, will be hosting this celebration. For this year’s edition of the Barranquilla Carnival, you’ll be able to enjoy more than 500 folkloric groups that bring color, joy, dance and music during your stay in “The golden door of Colombia” as the city is also known due to its port.

Surround yourself with the spirit of the carnival along with the presentation of the troupes, groups of dancers with costumes, colorful cumbia dances, and carnival floats. During your visit, you can also enjoy the performances of great local and international artists.

And, for the great finale during the fairs and festivals, don’t miss the “Entierro of Joselito Carnival”. This character that symbolizes the happiness that, after celebrating the Barranquilla Carnival for four days, finally passes away.

Additional information for the Carnival

  • Litanies Encounter: This event is a tribute to the Colombian oral tradition in which groups of ‘storytellers’ entertain the families of Barranquilla with their charming stories and verses.

  • Popular dances: The groups that participate in the Barranquilla Carnival pay homage to the dances of the garabato, the marimonda, and the monocucos among others.

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Find out what else you can do in Barranquilla

This Caribbean jewel is located between Cartagena and Santa Marta. It offers not only plans within the city, but also some that involve the sunny beaches. In this Colombian destination, you will be able to visit the Caribbean Museum, a place that will surround you with the fascinating history and culture of the Colombian Caribbean coast.

Visit Barranquilla during the Barranquilla Carnival| Colombia Travel
Credit: El Gran Malecón del Río

Discover the Gran Malecón del Rio,  where you can see the Magdalena River.

In addition, you can also visit the mediateca Macondo, dedicated to the former Nobel Prize in Literature, Gabriel García Márquez. There, you will find some editions of his best work and can even sit and read one of his novels. Also, you can’t miss taking a walk in the Gran Malecón del Río, located on the avenue of the river in Barranquilla, the point where the Magdalena river flows into the Caribbean Sea.

Don’t think about leaving without having a taste of the Caribbean region’s delicious gastronomy, especially traditional dishes such as bollo de yuca, the arroz de lisa, the sancocho of guandú and fried specialties such as empanadas and patacón.

Discover: Follow Colombian dishes all the way from the marketplace over to your plate

What are you waiting for? Discover this Caribbean coast city in Colombia, and enjoy the Barranquilla Carnival, which is the second largest in the world!