Colombia’s Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT) have added to the country’s many tourism circuits one titled Cumbia Route and Sounds of the Caribbean. The route encompasses 23 municipalities in every coastal department (Atlántico, Bolívar, Cesar, Córdoba, La Guajira, Magdalena, Sucre) and for the traveler 1,300 km of musical adventure and cultural immersion.
“Taking advantage of the musical richness of the Caribbean, and inspired by the film ‘Encanto’, we created this Route to boost the artistic and cultural activity of the coast, contributing to the economic reactivation, generation of employment, as well as the increase in the flow of visitors,” stated Minister of Culture Angélica Mayolo.
From the rich percussion and flute sounds of San Jacinto’s gaiteros to ceremonial chants and beating of drums in Wayúu communities, the Cumbia Route represents both ancestral and contemporary music, including the brassy Big Band sound of El Carmen de Bolívar (Bolívar), made legendary by the 20th Century composer and conductor “Lucho” Bermudez (1912-1994).
Among the many towns steeped in musical richness are Soledad, Puerto Colombia, San Basilio de Palenque, María La Baja, San Jacinto, San Juan Nepomuceno, El Carmen, Mompox, San Pelayo, Puerto Escondido, Lorica, Riohacha, Santa Marta, El Banco, Ciénaga, Aracataca, Sincelejo, Ovejas, Galeras, Barranquilla, Valledupar, Montería and Cartagena.
The route also includes the promotion of local fairs and festivals, gastronomy, handicrafts, luthiery, and learning about ancestral knowledge.
“Through this cultural tourism project we hope to keep contributing to the safe economic reactivation of Colombia’s Caribbean, joining forces with local governments to integrate value chains that are an essential part of the region’s tourism activity, strengthening also tourism infrastructure in municipalities,” highlighted Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, María Ximena Lombana.
The Colombian Caribbean aims to recover an estimated 533,000 non-resident visitors, increase of more than 150%, per department, over pre-pandemic numbers. The department with the highest tourism growth projection for non-resident tourists is Atlántico, and its capital Barranquilla. “We are betting on cultural tourism as a tool to make visible the identity of our regions, promote the richness of cultural heritage, encourage cultural and creative industries, and generate new opportunities for host communities through sustainable tourism,” added Lombana.
According to an international survey conducted by ProColombia in 2018, salsa (42%) and cumbia (38%) are the two musical styles foreigners most associate with the country. For those more familiar with the chart-topping hits of Carlos Vives, or accordion-wielding maestros of the Vallenato Legend Festival (Rafael Escalona, Alejo Duran, Emiliano Zuleta to name a few), the capital of Cesar, Valledupar, is also an obligatory stop on this musical circuit.
Colombia’s musical tapestry also encompasses the distinctive rhythms and dances of the coast’s African heritage – bullerengue, chandé, and mapalé – interpreted today by descendants of slaves and who safeguard their traditions in palenques, the first free towns in South America.
Among the great contemporary voices to emerge from the watershed that is the lower Magdalena River is that of Sonia Bazanta Vides, known to international audiences as “Toto La Momposina.” With her mesmerizing stage presence and dazzling interpretation of cumbia and other tropical genres, the songs of Toto La Momposina are an essential part of any playlist when touring Colombia’s Caribbean, and home to one of the region’s best-preserved colonial enclaves: Mompox.
To know which destinations are includes in this tourism route visit: