South American Carnavals

Carnaval, also called carnival, is celebrated in many places throughout South America. Carnaval, as spelled in Portuguese, is a 4-day celebration. It starts on Saturday and ends on Fat Tuesday (Mardi-Gras). Dates change every year, this year it is going to be from Saturday, March 1st till Tuesday, March 4th. Carnaval is always a noisy, energetic celebration of music and dance and exhibitions. 

Each country celebrates carnival differently but it carries the same spirit of party and good energy. Here are some examples of Carnaval celebrations: 



Barranquilla – Colombia

Billed as the second largest carnival in South America, the grand parade of Barranquilla’s carnival has it all – group after group of folkloric dancers and singers wearing colorful costumes; very unique floats (or carriages as the locals call them); and finally, a cast of characters that may be unmatched anywhere in the world.



Dominican Republic

Two of the main characteristics of this Carnival are its flashy costumes and the loud music played during the celebration. Some of the most known parades of this country is the one held in La Vega, which is one of the biggest in the country, and the National Parade held in Santo Domingo. It was here where the first Carnival of the Americas was held, and it is also one of the biggest in the region. 

One of the main attractions are its masks, which are very elaborate and colorful. The elaborate costumes used in the parades are satires of the Devil and are called “Diablos Cojuelos”.




La Diablada Carnival, takes place in the city of Oruro in central Bolivia. It is celebrated in honor of the patron saint of the miners, Vírgen de Socavon (the Virgin of the Tunnels). Over 50 parade groups dance, sing and play music over a five-kilometer-long course. Participants dress up as demons, devils, angels, Incas and Spanish conquerors. There are various kinds of dances such as caporales and tinkus. The parade runs from morning until late at night, 18 hours a day, during the 4 days of carnival.




A common feature of Ecuadorian Carnival is the diablitos (little devils) who play with water. The practice of throwing or dumping water on unsuspecting victims is especially revered by children and teenagers, and feared by some adults. Throwing water balloons, sometimes even eggs and flour both to friends and strangers passing by the street can be a lot of fun but can also annoy unfamiliar foreigners and even locals.

Although the government as well as school authorities forbid such games, it is still widely practiced throughout the country.



Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

A beautiful show takes place across Rio during their Carnival Season, with samba schools parading in the Sambadrome (“sambódromo” in Portuguese). Called “One of the biggest shows of the Earth”, for good reason, the festival attracts millions of tourists, both Brazilians and foreigners who come from everywhere to participate and enjoy the great show. Samba Schools are large, social entities with thousands of members and a theme for their song and parade each year.

The whole city feels a party ambiance not only from the Sambadrome parade, but from many other activities that takes place over four days. This parade is definitely one bucket list item for anyone interested in cultural events from all over the world.

While every Carnival is different one of the things that South American Carnivals have in common is that their Carnival is a spectacular show, high on performance, and artful displays that are designed to inspire shock and awe from it's spectators.

Aside from the parties that occur right across the country over the Carnival season They often have two types of parades which can be classified as local Street Carnival Parades and the National Competition.

The Street Carnival Parades are for the local population, Carnival is of course an opportunity for them to let their hair down, forget their troubles and celebrate life.

Whilst the National Competiton provides a much needed outlet and platform for the creative disciplines to be displayed, this includes, music, dance, costume creation and more.

This makes the Carnival a great option for people who want to sit on the sidelines and watch the Fun as well as for those people who want to experience the Carnival by getting involved by actively taking part in the parades by joining a Carnival Groups

Our advice would be not to be put off by difference of language, learn a few of the essential phrases that you will need to get by and then jump on a plane!

The Keen eye will spot influences within the carnival that are Colonial, African, Latino, and Native American.