Don’t have a lot of money to travel in December? Go to Boyacá!

By Paula Saavedra Pinto December 16, 2022

December’s a great time to travel in Colombia, but it can get expensive. Here’s how to have fun and keep costs down.

Tunja’s annual Aguinaldo Boyacense lights up the city. Photo: Cineltunjo, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The holiday season is a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family. Sadly it can also be an expensive time of year, particularly if you want to travel. That is why the Aguinaldo Boyacense in Tunja is a good option. Tourists can enjoy looking at Christmas lights, participating in different public activities, and eating delicious food without breaking the bank. 

The event is the oldest popular festival in the country and it is going to take place in Tunja’s Plaza de Bolívar between December 15 and 22. There plenty of different activities to choose from. In these seven days people can see parades of floats, troupes, parades, costumes, sports competitions, children’s contests, and musical festivals. They can also participate in the novenas, which are devotional prayers that are practiced for nine days to obtain some grace or ask for a certain intention.

READ MORE: Christmas songs in Colombia

One of the costumes that stands out is the Matachin, a devil with a mask that does satirical dances and plays with children in the streets of the city. It is inspired by the Italian matachines who made parodies of war dances. There are different groups that participate in the parade of floats, all competing for their originality, creativity and beauty. Locals and tourists alike cheer the ones they like the most. 

Seeing the fireworks contest is a treat at night. While people look at the sky they can enjoy traditional desserts like ‘brevas con arequipe’ or ‘cuajada con melao’. I​​f adults feel cold, they can take a typical hot drink of aguardiente, cinnamon and sugar, a canelazo. It costs approx COP$2,500. 

In the mornings (from around 10 am) people can see the launches of the programs people from Tunja have prepared for the festivities. Different neighborhoods and sectors, companies, and institutions collaborate to put together a mix of events. For example, there are exhibition halls where people can see paintings, sculptures, mixed techniques and mixed arts. Those activities are free. Don’t miss the ‘arepas boyacenses’ that cost approx COP$3,500 each. 

Various orchestral and choral events take place in the afternoons in the Plazoleta de San Laureano, near the cathedral. These usually start around 12.30 pm. Afterwards, you can eat traditional hearty plates such as ‘mute’, ‘cuchuco con espinazo’’ or ‘cocido boyacense’ that cost around COP$8,000. Also, watch out for the movie projections – Cine Familiar at 3pm on a couple of days – in the Major Bicentennial Theater. It’s a three-minute walk from Plaza de Bolívar, so tourists are not going to spend money to get to the places.

In the afternoon, people can also see the floats, in which the children participate, and see presentations of plays. At night, the group of family or friends can go to the Christmas novenas. It is typical to taste custard, fritters and Christmas dishes to the rhythm of Christmas carols. The novenas are sometimes held at San Antonio Church, Neighborhood San Antonio and people can get there in six minutes on foot. 

The Secretary of Culture and Tunja Mayor’s Office invite artists to sing until late for tourists who want to dance and don’t want to sleep early. You’ll have to pay to see the bigger names, but many concerts are free. 

In terms of accommodation, people can stay at El Cid Plaza, Boyacá Plaza, or Boutique Santuario. Prices range from COP$76,500 to COP$140,000 per night and they are super close to Bolívar Plaza, the place where the events take place.  

In conclusion, tourists will be able to enjoy the holiday season without spending a lot of money, and also find out more about Boyacá.