One of the best festivals in the world is getting ready to kick off its fifteenth year in Cartagena. We’re talking about the Hay Festival in Cartagena, an event that promotes culture, arts and sciences through talks, concerts and inclusive events for the whole community.

What is the Hay Festival?

The Hay Festival in Cartagena is an international edition of the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts, an event created in the small town of Hay-on-Wye in the district of Wales. The festival in the United Kingdom was first held in 1988 and was created by Normal and Peter Florence. It’s held annually between May and June and lasts about 10 days overall. During this time, people from across the globe, particularly from Europe, gather in this small town to enjoy group talks, book signings, speeches, and various literary events.

Since its inception, the Hay Festival has been considered one of the best festivals in the world.

Since 1996, the event has started to replicate in other cities across the world, such as Arequipa, Dubai, Segovia, and Queretaro, among others. It was first held in Cartagena in 2006 as a response to the founders’ interest to invite Colombian Nobel Laureate, Gabriel García Márquez. In the same manner, the arrival of the festival to Cartagena is due to the different venues for events that the city has and also the modern and colonial infrastructure that makes it famous.

Enjoy Cartagena during the Hay Festival | Colombia Travel
Photo by: Charly Boillot

The colorful streets of Cartagena are the perfect backing for your photos

How did the Hay Festival start in Cartagena?

The Hay festival was made possible by public and private contributions as well as the infrastructure fund of the city of Cartagena. With support of Cristina Fuentes La Roche, festival director, the Hay Festival in Cartagena has been institutionalized as one of the most important meetings of literature, art, culture and regionally relevant topics. Furthermore, the festival has positioned itself amongst the best festivals in the world.

Discover: Don’t miss the International Book Fair in Bogotá

Initially, the Hay Festival in Cartagena was focused only on literary achievements. With time, it has evolved into a festival interested in fostering dialogue and showcasing current issues from different viewpoints. The idea is to link new formats, contents, and activities to develop them differently and artistically in relation to the medley of topics found in the books. For this matter, Cartagena has an excellent portfolio of non-traditional and traditional venues such as the Convention Center Julio César Turbay Ayala, The Adolfo Mejía Theater and Casa 1537, among others.

According to Peter Florence, one of the Hay Festival founders, each edition of the festival should adapt to its venue. For this reason, the also take the events to the colorful and colonial streets that make tourists fall in love with the city. In this way, the festival in Cartagena fosters integration of new generations and different communities, resulting in more than 55,000 attendees taking part in the event since its inception.

Over its fourteen years in Cartagena, significant international figures such as as Carlos Fuentes, Carmen Aristegui, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Salman Rushdie, and more have been invited to the event.

Enjoy a walk at night in Cartagena | Colombia Travel
Photo by: Sebastián Sanint

Let yourself wonder with the colonial architecture of Cartagena

Get ready to enjoy the fifteenth year of the Hay Festival in Cartagena

The fifteenth edition of the Hay Festival in Cartagena will be held from January 30th to February 2nd of 2020. This year, the festival will feature personalities such as Margaret Atwood, Paolo Giordano, Fernando Trueba, Gael García Bernal, Nicole Krauss, and J Balvin, among others.

Over four days, 140 guests, musicians, historians, scientists, artists, and intellectuals from various disciplines will arrive to Cartagena to discuss journalism, literature, history, economics, activism and the environment, as well as other topics of interest. As a result, the events that make up the Hay Festival in Cartagena this year will be extended to seven more municipalities in the region through its Hay Festival Comunitario program. Moreover, it will hold versions in Jericó on January 25th and 26th and in Medellín from January 29th to February 1st. A very tempting offer to the tourists that also want to discover small Colombian towns with great history and traditions or cosmopolitan cities with a wide touristic offer.

Discover: Medellín Flower Festival

Additional Information of the Hay Festival in Cartagena

  • One of the central themes of the festival in Cartagena this year is science and the environment. For this reason, ethnobotanical anthropologist Wade Davis will attend to talk about his latest publication “ONE RIVER: Explorations and discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest”. From the United States to one of the best festivals in the world comes the popular science reporter Jennifer Ackerman, who will share her findings on bird intelligence, as she narrates in her most recent book “The Genius of Birds

  • From the field of literature this year the Hay Festival in Cartagena will be hosting Margaret Atwood, recognized for her television adaptation of the acclaimed series "The Handmaid’s Tale". Recently, the author won the Booker Prize.

  • Two great economists will attend this year to Cartagena. The American Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, who will talk about how to rethink the current capitalist model. Additionally, Cambridge professor of development economics Ha-Joon Chang will attend, discussing inclusive economy models.

  • From the entertainment world, Mexican actor Gael García Bernal and Spanish actress Maribel Verdú will arrive to Cartagena to take part in discussing the characters they have played and their upcoming film projects.

Discover all the activities you can do in Cartagena| Colombia Travel
Photo by: Sebastián Sanint

Cartagena is also a great destination for a relaxing vacation

Find out what else you can do in the city

Cartagena is a must-see destination for travelers visiting Colombia. In addition to enjoying one of the best festivals in Colombia, some of the activities we recommend during your visit are:

  • Boat trip to some of its closest islands to Cartagena such as Rosario Islands, Barú, Cholón, and Playa Blanca, where you will find beautiful beaches to enjoy different water activities and delicious cuisine.

  • Discover the wonderful streets and urban art of Cartagena on two wheels. Take a bike tour and learn about the history and culture of this city.

  • Bird watching and photography experience at the Barú National Aviary, for expert or amateur photographers who enjoy wildlife tourism.


Don’t miss the fifteenth year of the Hay Festival in Cartagena and enjoy all the wonderful tourism that this destination offers throughout the year.