There are a lot of Colombian holidays, especially what are known as “Festivos” that typically fall on a Monday.
On festivos, banks and shops are generally closed, including supermarkets. However, a handful or restaurants and other smaller stores may be open, but it depends. It’s much harder to find what you need on a Colombian holiday than on a Sunday, so it’s best to make shopping plans in advance.
Below: From the Christmas lights down by the river in Medellin.
Booking flights and hotels on the weekend of a festivo can be difficult. Driving to and from a tourist destination almost guarantees extremely heavy traffic and long waits on the roads to and from the major cities. On the mountain passes, traffic can come to a virtual standstill for up to hours. So if you do decide to leave the city for a long weekend, it’s best to avoid leaving during the rush on the Friday and especially returning in the afternoon on the following Monday afternoon.
The following are the official national holidays of Colombia:
January 01 – New Year Day
January 06 – Epiphany
March 19 – St. Joseph (Feast of St. Joseph)
April 21 – Maundy or Holy Thursday
April 22 – Good Friday (Holy or Great Friday)
May 01 – Workers or Labour Day
June 02 – Ascension of Jesus
June 23 – Corpus Christi
June 29 – Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
July 01 – Sacred Heart
July 20 – Independence Day
August 07 – Battle of Boyaca
August 15 – Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
October 10 – Columbus Day
November 01 – All Saints or Hallows Day
November 11 – Independence of Cartagena City
December 08 – Immaculate Conception
December 25 – Christmas Day
As many festivos fall on a Monday, those who can often go for a long-weekend to their farms or even make a trip to the coast. It can be a good day to see the cities if you’re visiting, because traffic will be much lighter than on normal days, but remember that museums are often shut on Mondays.
I’ve been a bit surprised by Christmas and New Year celebrations here, expecting them to be conservative and about faith when instead, they’re intensely tacky and noisy. Basically, an excuse for a party. There tends to be more violence and driving can be more dangerous, especially at night. People go a little crazy and I suggest you be careful. May sound over the top, but I really don’t enjoy these times of year here in Colombia and prefer to get out of the city if possible.
In general, December is not a month I’d recommend for visiting Colombia, especially the major cities. The roads are congested and pollution builds up.