As Colombia continues to emerge butterfly-like out of its turbulent past into one of Latin America’s most interesting places to explore, now is the time to delve into some of the country’s secondary cities.
First the local hangout of notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar, and then renowned as the ‘Silicone Valley’ of Latin America for the impressive number of augmented chests, Medellin has had a hard rep to shake. Now, Colombian artists and architects such as Giancarlo Mazzanti are creating projects that not only serve to repair the fractured scars of society, but also transform the city into one of the world’s most fascinating architectural laboratories.
Dehouche’s insider tip is to combine a foray into Colombia’s emerging art and architectural scene with Medellin’s week long Flower Festival that falls towards the beginning of August. At an altitude of 8000ft, Medellin is actually the perfect climate for year-round flower production and justly deserves its title as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’. Even for those with less than green fingers, the festival is one of those joyous celebrations of life and nature which should not be missed. Highlights include the Parade of the Selliteros, where the Paisas (people from the north west of Colombia) come to town carrying boxes of flowers that stretch up to 6 ft aboard their backs. The tradition comes from when people from the countryside surrounding the main cities used to carry huge loads of flowers on their backs to sell, with some boxes weighing over 100lbs. Although the Silleteros Parade is no longer just a means of getting the flowers from A to B, it is still a spectacular sight to see. The riot of colour and heady scent combines with the clop of horses hooves during the Cabalgata, the largest horse parade in the world, which opens the festival. The city then goes into party mode for a week with live bands performing all over the city, accompanied by dancing and partying in the streets. Jump on board one the colourful ‘Chivas’ buses which crawl through the parade and you will be guaranteed to experience a tidal wave of the famously warm Colombian hospitality in the form of numerous swigs of Aguardiente that is guaranteed to be proffered in your direction. (Two things to note on this front- Firstly, you can’t say no. Secondly, Aguadiente, a form of local moonshine made from anise flower, should at no point be confused with ‘Agua’, however one trails off on the final syllables).
With a dash of the magic realism defined by Colombia’s Noble Laureate and literary genius Gabriel Garcia Marquez, at one point over 100 immaculately restored, turn-of-the-century antique cars emerge out of nowhere to roll over the carpet of fallen flowers lining the streets. The magic of reality indeed.
Contact luxury travel specialists Dehouche to book you a fabulous trip to Colombia that will have you snaking under the skin of this exciting destination to explore a country very much on the move.