La Feria de Cali 2019 (Cali Fair), Colombia
December 25 - December 30
The annual Feria de Cali or Cali Fair in Colombia has grown into one of South America’s most important salsa festivals with fireworks, colourful parades, free music concerts, culture & art events, beauty pageants and more, starting on Christmas Day until the end of the year.
Colombia’s third-biggest city is already a mecca for salsa lovers where you can dance in salsa clubs at night while during the day, wandering its streets, you’ll hear salsa, cumbia and vallenato tunes coming out of shops and homes. It’s perhaps no surprise then that every year Cali starts its Cali Fair with Colombia’s biggest salsa event called the Salsódromo parade.
But it’s not only salsa you can enjoy here. During the six days of the Feria de Cali, the city bursts with cultural celebrations ranging from other major parades, such as the carnival and vintage car parades, to sports events, music memorabilia fairs, lots of local street food and a whole range of music concerts many of which are free.
Celebrated since 1957, the Feria de Cali now attracts some two million visitors and showcases the cultural and musical diversity of the region’s majority Afro-Colombian population. It has turned into what is widely regarded as the country’s most important cultural and traditional event.
What to expect at La Feria de Cali 2019
Usually there’s a big firework display on Christmas Eve, but the official start of the Cali Fair is the day after, on Christmas Day. The opening concert (concierto inaugural) on the 25th marks the start of many other concerts to follow during the Feria de Cali, yet the most important event that day – and of the entire week – is the salsa marathon called Salsódromo.
For Colombia’s biggest fiesta, visit its Barranquilla Carnival in February.
The Salsódromo is a spectacular salsa parade over a length of one kilometre where spectators on tribunes can watch demonstrations of hundreds of national and international salsa dancers. This is a five-hour event which takes half a year to prepare. Only the best salsa dancing schools and other renowned dancers and dancing groups are invited to take part.
On Boxing Day you can literally taste the Afro-Colombian culture during the Feria Artesanal y del Emprendimiento or Fair of Artisans and Entrepreneurs, with plenty of food stalls and handicrafts. That day there’s also the Cali Grand Prix sports fair, while in the evening music concerts by the best local bands make sure you end the day on a swinging note.
Although the Feria de Cali is called a salsa event, music lovers can also enjoy performances by famous musicians of different musical styles including cumbia, vallenato and other typical Colombian styles. The Súperconcierto or super concert on the 27th in the football stadium Pascual Guerrero is the music highlight of the Cali Fair. Some of the world’s biggest Latin names perform here which last year included the American all-time top selling salsa artist Marc Anthony with two Grammy and six Latin Grammy awards under his belt; Mexican singer Ana Gabriel with her different music styles of Spanish rock, Latin pop and Mexican ranchera; and the American salsa singer Victor Manuelle, alongside many home-grown Colombian stars.
Another prominent part of the Feria de Cali is its not-to-be-missed Carnaval de Cali Viejo on the 28th, a number of carnival parades under different themes. You can watch here the beautiful mix of the different traditions and artistic expressions of the Spanish and Afro-Colombian cultures with stunning costumes, rousing music and an explosion of colour.
While in Colombia, visit also Cartagena. Check out Mike East’s Things to Do in Cartagena: from Dawn to Dusk.
Other notable events include the Desfile de Autos Clásicos y Antiguos on the 27th, a classic and antique cars parade where car lovers from all over the country descend to Cali in their old Mustangs, Corvettes, Cadillacs or even older automobiles; and the Encuentro de Melómanos y Coleccionistas, held over several days, where old music records, instruments and souvenirs of the biggest names in salsa’s music history are sold and bartered.
La Feria de Cali programme 2019 and pricing
For a full overview of the Cali Fair’s programme, download the Feria de Cali PDF programme. It’s in Spanish but the day-to-day listings on pages 4 – 14 are both in Spanish and English.
All the events on 26, 29 and 30 December are free, while on 25, 27 and 28 December most events are free but some are ticketed.
History of La Feria de Cali
This year’s 62nd edition of the Feria de Cali dates back all the way to 1957, the year after a big explosion rocked the city claiming the lives of hundreds of people. The city officials decided then to plan a big fair for the next year in order to lift the spirits again of its mourning citizens and to inject new life in the local economy. Even though the origins of the Feria de Cali may have been tragic, it hasn’t at all prevented its participants to revel in its exuberant and fun festivities.
La Feria de Cali 2019 dates
The annual Cali Fair always starts on Christmas Day, running from 25 to 30 December over six days.
Other things to do in Cali, Colombia
December to March is the driest period of the year in Colombia with pleasant temperatures and the best time for visiting the country. As many Colombians take holidays then, this is also the liveliest time of the year. Whilst visiting the Cali Fair, other things to do in Cali include exploring the city through its many themed walking routes, including:
Ruta Histórica, Cultural, Patrimonial y Religiosa, lasting about 2.5 hours and taking you past Cali’s most important churches, theatres, boulevards, monuments and other buildings and sites of interest;
Ruta de Naturaleza Urbana Rio Cali, or Cali’s urban nature route, which takes about an hour and a half;
Ruta de la Salsa y el Sabor, where you can learn basic steps during a brief salsa dancing class in combination with a historical salsa route that includes the Jairo Valera Museum;
Ruta MIO Cable, which takes you on a two-kilometre-ride by urban gondola transport with panoramic views above the poorer parts of the city where, as a tourist, you would and perhaps should otherwise not venture, in addition to visiting the MULI Museo Libre de Arte Público de Colombia containing some 230 art murals and photos of which some were found at the gondola’s terminal and three stations.
For more details, visit one of the tourist information points in Cali (see below).
La Feria de Cali photo gallery
Cali Colombia hotels
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For more information on La Feria de Cali 2019:
If you speak Spanish, visit its official Spanish-only website or use Google translate to retrieve some of the information.
Once in Cali, you can also visit the city’s tourist offices or Puntas de Información Turistica at: Centro Cultural (Plazoleta Jairo Varela), Terminal de Transporte, and Bulevar del Rió.
Alternatively, browse the official Colombia tourism website.
All images courtesy of La Feria de Cali, unless mentioned otherwise.
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