Adventures In Antioquia: How To Party Like A True San Carlitano

San Carlos, Colombia Water Party - Festival del Agua

Thanks to Spanish Adventure’s excellent location in San Carlos, Antioquia, just four hours from Medellín, the school offers great insight into the area’s hidden gems. From remote hikes to tourist attractions, Spanish Adventure makes sure that its students’ travels are far from typical.  

This week the language school celebrated the Fiestas del Agua (in English, Water Parties) in our very own San Carlos.   

Spanish Adventurers enjoyed the magical water of the San Carlos River during the  Fiestas Del Agua !

Spanish Adventurers enjoyed the magical water of the San Carlos River during the Fiestas Del Agua!

San Carlos is a complex municipality. It feels tiny, thanks to a “downtown area” that spans only 1.10 square kilometers. In reality, San Carlos is fairly sizable, boasting a total population of nearly 25,000 people spread out over 747 (!) square kilometers of farmland.

Thanks to a robust hydropower industry, no less than thirty percent of the country’s energy production comes from this seemingly small, rural town. Six rivers, countless waterfalls, and endless natural swimming pools are scattered throughout the area. The water here is magic.

And the country knows it: This year San Carlos celebrated the second annual Water Parties. During this weeklong extravaganza, not only do San Carlitanos get the chance to celebrate and show off their incredible water sources, they also get the chance to show off their party skills. Of course, it’s not only San Carlos residents who take part—thousands of people from around the country travel long hours to join the festivities. 

Ready to celebrate the water like a real San Carlitano? Here are Spanish Adventure’s top tips for getting the most out of the Fiestas del Agua:

1. Get Your Darty On (i.e. Don’t Skip The Weekday Events!)

The Fiestas del Agua last an entire week for a reason: Weekday events are full of hidden gems that make getting absolutely wrecked over the weekend all the richer. This year Spanish Adventure was lucky to enjoy several weekday events.

On Wednesday, the whole town gathered at La Planta (the plant), which is a popular beach area on the San Carlos river, as well as the site of the first energy plant in the town. While La Planta no longer functions as an energy plant, it is one of the best weekend hangout spots in town. Plus, it was the perfect place to get up close and personal with San Carlos’ magical water, complete with beer-drinking, snacking, and kite-flying!

Homemade kites spread wisdom: “We will not have a society if we destroy the environment.”

Homemade kites spread wisdom: “We will not have a society if we destroy the environment.”

Thursday, “Youth Day”, was dedicated to the youth! Spanish Adventure headed into the main square to check out the giant inflatable water games that took over the town for a day. Kids and teens lined up to get their fill of inflatable fun while adults claimed tables at El Kiosko Principal (in English, this literally translates to “the main coffee kiosk”) to enjoy the party vibes.

“Día Joven” (“Youth Day”) during the Water Parties in San Carlos, Antioquia.

“Día Joven” (“Youth Day”) during the Water Parties in San Carlos, Antioquia.

We returned again to the square on Friday in order to enjoy a phenomenal folk dancing show comprised of groups from around Antioquia—and beyond. One dance group had even traveled for over 24 hours in order to perform at the Fiestas!

It may be hard to gauge what’s happening when, so be sure to check in with the tourist information booth. You can find it centrally located in the main square.

Folk dancing in the main square during the Water Parties in San Carlos, Antioquia. People from all over the country came to show off their moves.

2. Prepare For Late Nights.

Many of the festival's big events take place in San Carlos’s main plaza, which locals call “el parque” (in English, “the park”). The crux of the festival was a concert from one of the most popular Colombian artists: Sylvestre Dangond. Sylvestre did not disappoint, but even more impressive was the sea of Colombians singing along to every single song. 

According to the schedule of events, Sylvestre was slated for 10 pm on Saturday night. Somehow it seemed common knowledge that in actuality, the superstar was performing in Medellín that night, and would not go on in San Carlos until 3 am. 

Colombian singer Sylvestre Dangond onstage and onscreen in San Carlos during  the Fiestas del Agua.

Colombian singer Sylvestre Dangond onstage and onscreen in San Carlos during the Fiestas del Agua.

We discovered that Sylvestre was worth the wait, but if late nights really aren’t your thing, there is dancing to be had beforehand. For early-evening dancing, stick to the main square—the local dance clubs and bars don’t get going until at least 1 am.  

3. Don’t Be Scared To Chat With Locals!

They may be involved with their festivities, but Colombians aren’t cliquey. If you present yourself with an open mind, plenty of kids and adults will be excited to hang out. This is true both during the lower key events, like at the river, and certainly once the sun goes down and the booze comes out.

San Carlitanos and Water Party-goers gather atop a hilltop at  La Planta  to fly kites during  Las Fiestas del Agua .

San Carlitanos and Water Party-goers gather atop a hilltop at La Planta to fly kites during Las Fiestas del Agua.

If someone offers you shots of aguardiente (the most popular liqueur in the Colombian andes), don’t be surprised—offering shots all around is customary here. Still, there’s no pressure to accept the shots if you’re not feeling it, and no one will be offended if you say no!

For a list of handy Spanish phrases to make chatting with locals all the easier, check out our Spanish Adventure Slang Dictionary.