Riosucio is a town that is part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia. It is better known for its biennial carnival, the Carnaval del Diablo (Carnival of the Devil). It’s one of the most popular and important carnivals in all of Colombia and takes place every January of odd-numbered years.
The carnival has its origins in a 200 year old local dispute between the 17th and 19th centuries over two small rival towns that claimed to own the mountain, Cerro Ingrumá, that towers over modern Riosucio. One town was indigenous and the other town was of white Spanish descent with black African slaves. The two priests of the churches in each town unified them into one town, Riosucio, in 1819. In order to keep the rival parishioners in their own churches, a statue of the devil was placed at the boundary between the churches to scare people from crossing it. In 1847, there were still tensions between the communities so the first carnival of unification took place with the devil as its mascot. It’s not a religious celebration worshipping the devil but a celebration of unity.
The town itself is fairly small. There are two main plazas where the town’s two historic churches sit. In the smaller upper plaza, Plaza de San Sebastián, there are lots of colonial buildings with balconies, a gazebo in the center, and of course a church, San Sebastián. The town’s museum is located on this plaza.
A street off the plaza has a few restaurants and bars located in colorful colonial buildings.
The larger lower plaza, Plaza de La Candelaria, contains the other church, La Candelaria, and more colonial buildings. A statue of Simón Bolívar sits in the center. The town’s museum of the Carnaval del Diablo is located on this plaza.
From the steps of the church, you can get a great view of Cerro Ingrumá towering over Riosucio.
To get to Riosucio, Flota Occidental has hourly trips from the bus terminal in Pereira, Medellín, and Manizales. From Pereira and Manizales it’s a good three hours and from Medellín expect four hours. The bus terminal is located just a few minutes’ walk from the upper plaza.
Cootransrio runs chivas to Jardín that cost COP$19,000 one way (as of July 2015). They take roughly three hours down a gravel road that’s very dusty and dangerous at a few points. The chivas leave Riosucio at 8am and 3pm daily, but on Saturdays only at 12pm. From Jardín to Riosucio, they run on the same schedule except at 2pm in the afternoon.
We had a quick coffee at San Siro on the upper plaza. While a fun place with friendly service, the coffee was cold and not very good. They specialize more in alcoholic drinks.
For food, we unfortunately chose a Chinese restaurant across from the bus terminal. First of all, the owner was a jerk. Second of all, there was nothing Chinese available to eat except for shrimp fried rice. It was good and the portion was huge, but the owner’s attitude and lack of choices ruined the entire meal.