Can’t make it to Rio this year? For our new Festival Friday, let us take you on a whirlwind tour of Gualeguaychu carnival, one of the most popular in Argentina. Nothing to envy to Brazilian carnivals!

gualeguaychu carnaval 3 dancers

Three carnival dancers

Where is Gualeguaychu?

When we spent time in Buenos Aires in January/February, all the talk was of weekends in a place that went by the strange name of Gualeguay. What was that about? We asked around. The best Carnival this side of the Brazilian border, we were told. So, one sunny January afternoon, we headed to the Retiro bus station in Buenos Aires to see for ourselves.

carnival gualeguaychu dancing girl

Shake it!

A three-hour bus ride later, we disembarked in Gualeguaychù at lunchtime. At first sight, the place didn’t look like much. One of those sleepy South American towns; dusty streets around a plaza, a river flowing muddy waters, a few hammocks slung across the patios.

Not a soul around, in the blistering hot early afternoon. Only a few lone activists, holding spraypainted banners protesting against a local paper plant. We wandered around trying to find a bed for the night, but all rooms were full.

carnaval de gualeguaychu red girl

Red surprise!

Eventually, we found beds in a dingy little place, a few blocks from the dusty plaza. The owner sat on the step, sipping mate from a silver gourd, and dismissed our offer to show passports with a wave of his hand. Vete al rio, he said. Go to the river. So, that’s where the action was.

gualeguaychu carnaval blue man

One of the kings of the parade

Gualeguaychu Carnival Action

Hundreds of people were lying around the riverbank when we arrived, swimming, dancing, playing and listening to music. A few trago carts were about; some people nibbled choripan, others sipped bottles of icy-cold Quilmes. The sun moved slowly, lighting the muddy waters of the Rio Gualeguaychù. With every passing hour, the music grew louder, people started dancing, more and more descended to the riverbank. At sunset, the place was packed.

gualeguaychu carnival queen of hearts

The Queen of Hearts?

Walking back across town, the feeling was to be in a completely different place. The sleepy village of lunchtime had become party central. Streets were packed with sellers toting silly hats and performers spinning fiery koi. Music blasted out of the patios. We followed rivers of people to the Corsodromo, the arena where the Carnival parade would soon take place.

gualeguaychu carnival photo

Can I take a picture?

The party began around midnight. Soon the arena was drowned by cheers and drumrolls. When the float of the first comparsa paraded, the festive mood was palpable. The audience was up and dancing, singing along, taking photos of the beautiful dancers and portly King Momo, the patron of Carnival, surveying the celebration from the top of the float.

The party continued through the night, each float more colorful then the last, the beats getting faster and faster, the atmosphere more and more joyous. It was the time to let my hair down and dance.

gualeguaychu carnival cat girl

Cheshire cat float

Practical Info: The Gualeguaychù Carnival is every Saturday night in January, February and the first week of March. Entrance tickets to the Corsodromo vary with the date, from $60 to $150 (Argentinian pesos, not dollars!) There are several hostels, campsites and hotels in Gualeguaychù. Or head down to the river and sleep under the stars! 

For more crazy Carnival stories from around the world, read our Battle of the Oranges and our Carnevale di Venezia posts!

gualeguaychu carnival red and black

Another pretty dancer

carnival gualeguaychu pink princess

So, what’s the fuss about?

gualeguaychu carnaval orange feathers

Beautiful people all around

carnival gualeguaychu goddess

The Carnival Swan

gualeguaychu carnival music guy

The King of Music

carnival gualeguaychu green girl

Come dance with me!

carnaval de gualeguaychu man purple

Purple madness

carnaval de gualeguaychu man worried

Well, let me see…

gualeguaychu carnival white feathers

Crazy Carnival night

 

 

18 Responses

  1. Em

    Wow, great pictures. Its sounds like you a had a fantastic time. Nice article 🙂

  2. Samantha

    Haha that is a strange name indeed. What a crazy festival though, would definitely not feel bad missing out on Carnaval if you went to this one instead. Some of those costumes are just amazing!

  3. Michael Huxley

    Trying very hard not too stare too long at some of those photos! ;D I’d never heard of this town or carnival, thanks for highlighting it! Will add it to the itin on my next visit!

  4. Adrian of Adrian's Travel Tales

    Wow! Just wow! I have had going to Carnival (in one country or another) but I love the idea that this is a smaller town and more intimate. Plus, it lasts a whole month so you don’t have to worry about making it to just a few days. Such a great post! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Jessica

    Looks like quite the party! I haven’t heard of this town or carnival either but have believed that Carnaval de Oruro in Bolivia is Rio’s biggest rival when it comes to carnival celebrations, guess not! Thanks for sharing, great pics!

  6. Brianna

    Looks like an amazing festival. I certainly am not brave enough to wear some of those costumes though!

  7. Christine

    Beautiful photos as usual! Looks like a super fun festival. It’s funny that everyone equates Carnival with Rio but there are so many other fun carnivals out there! We had a great time in Veracruz, Mexico!

  8. Alba Luna

    Lovely pictures! I love Carnival, if I happen to be during that time in Argentina I’ll be sure not to miss this one! Thanks for sharing =)