The Petronio Alvarez Music Festival! August 7-23, 2023

Afro-Colombia & The Petronio Alvarez Music Festival

Cali & Medellin, August 17 – 23, 2023 (7 nights)

Trip Summary

Join us to embark on an extraordinary journey to Colombia to learn about the heritage & traditions of African Descendants of Colombia. Explore and learn of the history and present day expressions from the Pacific Coast to the Caribbean. Our trip begins in Cali, to explore this vibrant city and to attend the renowned Petronio Alvarez Music Festival, entering its 24th year! Become immersed in the rhythms of Pacific Colombia. Rhythms such as the marimba and chirimia are amazingly vibrant and mesmerizing. After Cali, we’ll travel to Medellin to learn about the rhythms emerging in this region; from hip hop to a “riff” on Afro-Pacific sounds. We’ll even take a private dancing class in Medellin!



  • Travel to Cali to explore the vibrant capital of Valle de Cauca
  • Enjoy a salsa dance class and immersion in the salsa dancing of Cali
  • Attend workshops held by musicians in the Petronio Alvarez Festival
  • Attend the Festival del Pacifico Petronio Alvarez to sway to the rhythms of Pacific Colombia
  • Tour the Medellin’s Comuna 13 neighborhood and learn about social transformation
  • Explore Botero’s Medellin
  • Enjoy a fun salsa dancing class!
  • Take a drum workshop with a local ensemble!
  • Visit Guatape, a stunning town  and region, outside of Medellin

Trip includes:

  • Accommodations
  • Expert Guides and/or Academics
  • Comfortable / Secure Transportation
  • Welcome and Farewell Dinners
  • Breakfasts
  • Meals according to itinerary
  • Water on Van/Coach
  • Airport Transfers
  • Entry Fees




Itinerary at a glance



Day One,  Arrive Cali, Evening of Rumba and Salsa! (Evening snacks)

Enjoy an evening that begins with an education on the history of salsa music in Cali. Then, we’ll continue by visiting some of the famed salsa and rumba dance halls and bars! Our first stop is at the beloved Habanero where a live orchestra will invite us to get ready to rumba! Then we’ll go to Zaperoco, where Cali’s top salsa musicians unite and where no one wastes time talking; get ready to DANCE!  It is here, where everyone who LOVES salsa music goes to dance!


Day Two, Cali City Tour, Salsa Dance Cultural Immersion (B, L)

Today, explore the cultural landscape of Cali. We’ll visit the Museum of Anthropology La Merced, The Museo de Oro Calima, the Historic Center and the bohemian neighborhood of San Antonio. We’ll enjoy a traditional lunch of Pacific Colombian cuisine. In the afternoon, we’ll explore the singular cultural landscape of Cali: salsa dancing and the salsa culture. We will enjoy a salsa dance class, ourselves, as well as visit the world renowned salsa group: Swing Latino. We’ll watch them, as they train for their next competition in the International Salsa Competition. In the evening, we’ll attend the sensational “Ensalsate” extravaganza (think Tropicana or Copacabana!)


Day Three, Local Food and Craft Market and Percussion and Marimba History Overview and Hands-On Workshop, Evening at Petronio Alvarez Music Festival (B, L)

In the morning, visit the vibrant and bustling local food market to learn about the foods and ingredients from Cali, where much of their food comes from the Pacific Coast, via the port of Buenaventura. Here, you will see and taste fruits you’ve never seen before! And, we will enjoy some delicious “arepas con queso”! Across the street from the market is the Craft Store, where we’ll shop for  lovely Colombian crafts.

In the afternoon, we meet with renowned ethno-historians to learn about the history of the marimba in Colombia. The Marimba de Chonta has been declared Cultural Patrimony of Colombia, with origins in Africa. We won’t only learn, we’ll also enjoy a fun and interactive percussion and marimba workshop. We might even become future contestants at the Petronio Alvarez Festival!

At night we’ll attend the Petronio Alvarez Festival, where we’ll sway to the rhythms of the “marimba de palma chonta”, a mesmerizing sound and beat.

The Petronio Alvarez Music Festival was founded in 1997, with the objective to create a space to unite musicians from Colombia’s Pacific Coast region, with the objective to celebrate and maintain this important cultural expression and legacy. It has since become a beloved and significant Festival,  highlighting, celebrating and  elevating musicians from Guapi, Timbiqui, Tumaco and other regions. There are specific musical categories: marimba, chirimia, violines de Cauca and “libre”, or freestyle.  All compete to be named the best in their category.

Day Four, A morning of birdwatching,  Petronio Alvarez Music Festival (B, L)

In the morning we’ll visit a wonderful park to enjoy a morning surrounded by nature and birds. Colombia has one of the greatest habitats, lending to bird diversity in the world. Come find that bird that is still on your list!

Returning to our hotel, we’ll rest before attending the Petronio Alvarez Music Festival. We’ll visit food stands and other cultural elements of the Festival, before listening to more of the incredible Afro-Pacific sounds. There is nothing like the Petronio Alvarez Festival!


Day Five, Welcome to Medellin! Silletero Culture and Fernando Botero (B, L)

We’ll be met at the Medellin airport and transfer to the community of Santa Elena, to learn about and experience the “Silletero” Customs and Culture, found only in this region. This is all about flowers! We’ll enjoy a typical lunch in the region. The mountain air is crisp and clear here. Arriving in Medellin, we’ll tour the city center and learn about the importance of Fernando Botero, who was born here. Hotel check in, and evening at leisure.


Day Six:  Comuna 13, Proyecto Son Bata, Drum Workshop, Local Lunch (free time to walk around the neighborhood) (B, L)

Today we’ll visit Comuna 13, a neighborhood in Medellin that has transformed itself from a center of conflict to a center of art, music and dance. We’ll visit with community members to learn about how this transformation has come about and what it means to them today. We will gather with members from Proyecto Son Bata and we’ll enjoy our own drumming workshop! Overall, we’ll learn about public transportation, education, culture and the arts and the urban, socio-economic renewal of Medellin, a global model of urban and social renewal.


Day Seven, Guatape, Return to Medellin (B, L, D)

Today we’ll visit the colorful and charming town of Guatape. We’ll walk the town and learn about the architecture, town layout, zocalos, in the Spanish style. Lunch in town. We’ll also visit an amazing natural phenomenon, a huge rock formation and enjoy the views here. We’ll also enjoy a fun boat ride to see the views from the water. Return to Medellin for a fun farewell dinner.


Day Eight: Extend in Medellin or Return Flights Home






Photos from this trip


















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