The first thing you need to know is that much has changed in Medellín over the last few decades. Colombia’s second largest city is now a lively, stylish hub of culture and creativity.
It’s nestled in a narrow valley where cut flowers and textiles are the major trades. And, while a temperate climate makes it a year-round destination, December is one of the best times to visit. Why? Medellín is one of the top places in the world to see Christmas lights, according to a recent National Geographic article.
They’ve been hanging Christmas lights in Medellín for over 160 years. With travel to Colombia on the rise, it’s my pleasure to share what it’s like there during the Christmas season.
Hint: It involves 31 million LED lights. Yes, that’s 31 million lights in addition to over 950 kilometers of rope lighting.
About Medellín’s Christmas Lights
The Christmas lights in Medellín are referred to in Spanish as the “Lighting” (El Alumbrado) or more officially the EPM Lights (Alumbrados EPM). The reason for the latter is that this seasonal event is now organized by the public utility company, Empresas Pàºblicas de Medellín (EPM).
Medellín is the only city in South America that is part of the assembly of illuminated cities of the world – LUCI- (Lighting Urban Community International).
It used to be that the lights officially switched on on December 7 to coincide with Little Candle’s Day, a major holiday in Colombia where people place candles in windows and other places in honor of the Virgin Mary.
But to accommodate a rise and tourism during this season, which can be credited in part to these lights, the dates have backed up a bit. This year, you can see Medellín’s Christmas lights between November 30, 2016 and January 9, 2017. Some of these lights are powered by solar energy, a tradition that started in 2014.
Where to See El Alumbrado
The central node will be located in Carabobo Norte. The monumental figures can be seen in the North Park, which will have free admission. And there are many lights over the river.
Lights are also spread through over 100 parks and neighborhoods. People walk the lights after sundown because it’s still a fairly warm 70° F+ here even in December. Vendors sell cotton candy, glow sticks and other treats while street performers entertain.
It’s a truly special time in the city.
Many recreational parks and museums have free entry for children under 12 years old. If you are going to visit museums in Medellín, the Museum of Antioquia is a must. It’s an art museum which houses a large collection of works by Medellín artists.
More Things to Do in Medellín
And, back to the cut flowers… how amazing are these? The annual flower festival, known as the Feria de Las Flores, runs for ten days in August and is one of the city’s most famous events. Medellín is one of the top suppliers of cut flowers in the entire world.
One of the city’s transportation modes involves cable cars that allow residents to reach the edges of the city while taking in sky-high views along the way.
The myriad of parks are beautiful, including Parque Explora with its aquarium and planetarium.
But there are many parks you must enjoy.
How to Get to Medellín
Have you been to Medellín?
Photos are used courtesy of Medellín.travel, the city’s tourism board, who has graciously sponsored this post.