Carnaval, Throughout Ecuador
Carnival celebrations now take place throughout the world in the days and weeks leading up to the beginning of Lent but nowhere are they more impressive than in South America. Traditionally the festivities began about three years before Easter but every year they start a day earlier so if you are in Ecuador around this time be prepared to party – hard. As well as the street parades and parties, however, there is a strong traditional element too with Ecuadorian food and drink on the menu all over the country as well as native music and dance. It’s a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture so don’t miss it.
Mama Negra Celebrations, Latacunga
One of the biggest celebrations in the country, the Mama Negra festival takes place on November 7th each year. Somewhat akin to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Latacunga becomes a riot of colour with both locals and visitors participating in the mayhem. A pagan celebration which dates back to the Spanish conquest, the Mama Negra festival commemorates the revolt of the black servants against their white masters. The agreement reached stated that they continued working if the Spanish governor dressed as a black woman every November 7th. Tradition has prevailed and many men still dress up as black women during the festival.
Founder’s Day, Quito
Unique to the nation’s capital, this festival which is also known as Dias de Quito is officially celebrated on December 6th but like most other Ecuadorian celebrations it has now turned into a week-long event. Bullfights, street parades and concerts take over the streets but the highlight of the festivities, particularly for visitors to the city, are the Chivas – open-air party buses which travel throughout Quito complete with live music and as much drink as you can manage. And for the die-hard party animals among you it’s widely known among the locals that this festival serves as a warm up to the month long celebrations in the lead up to Christmas.
Fiesta del Yamor, Otavalo
A two week long celebration taking place at the beginning of September in the highland of Otavalo, this is another traditional festival which is certainly worth incorporating into your Ecuadorian adventure if at all possible. Parades, music, dancing, fireworks displays and the renowned crowning of the Reina de la Fiesta ensure that the two weeks are as jam packed with things for locals and visitors to see and do. If you can’t make it to Otavalo for the first two weeks in September, however, fear not. This is quite a party hotspot with two more big festivals taking place in June. On the 24th they celebrate the feast of St. John the Baptist and on the 29th it’s the turn of St. Peter and Paul and despite the religious origins, these celebrations are as wild as any other in Ecuador.
The nightlife in the capital has really taken off in the last decade or so as is the case in all of Ecuador’s major cities so regardless of where you’re visiting, be prepared to party after sunset. In fact, most people don’t even wait until after sunset. With a huge selection of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and cafes popping up throughout the cities, the choice is immense. And, to give you an idea of what these establishments are about, Max, one of Quito’s newest nightclubs, plays home to 5,000 revellers every night with a number of different rooms playing a variety of music so that’s what you’re up against folks, you and four thousand nine hundred and ninety nine other party animals dancing into the early hours of the morning.