3 Lesser-Known South American Festivals

South America Travel Posted on 01/09/2016

In South America, few festivals get the same attention and hype as Carnival in Rio. However, contrary to much of the world’s belief, Carnival is a region-wide celebration, with each country taking on its own rendition of the popular party. If you find yourself traveling through Colombia, Argentina, or Bolivia make sure not to miss these 3 lesser-known South American festivals.

1. Barranquilla, Colombia

A close second to Rio’s Carnival is Barranquilla, Colombia’s festival. Located close to the Caribbean Sea, it’s no wonder this festival in South America comes as a popular second to Brazil’s. During Carnival season, Barranquilla is filled with neon lights, grandiose decorations, overwhelming colors, and music. Leading up to Ash Wednesday, the city is filled with traditional parades including:

  • Battle of the Flowers parade –  highlight considered by many.
  • Sunday’s Parade of Tradition
  • Monday’s Parade of Fantasy
  • Festival of Orchestras, and
  • Tuesday’s “Death of Joselito Carnaval”

Traditional dancing and cumbia music will fill your ears as you dance your way through this city’s take on Carnival. No doubt, a unique South American festival.

2. Gualeguaychu, Argentina

With Argentina and Brazil being rivals in many aspects, it’s no mystery as to why Argentina also goes “all out” when it comes to celebrating Carnival in the months of January and February. This specific festival in South America has gained international recognition setting itself next to some of the best Carnivals in the world (Rio de Janeiro, Venice, Colombia).

In Gualeguaychu, there’s even their own take on the Brazilian Sambro Dome, called the corsódromo, where impressive dancers show off their moves to crowds reaching as many as 40,000 people.

This is one of the South American festivals that is by far the most important cultural, social, and economic event for the area of Gualeguaychu bringing in a wealth of foreign currency from all over the world.


3. Oruro, Bolivia

It may be second nature to associate Carnival in a tropical climate while enjoying sandy beaches and sipping on fruity cocktails. Welcome to Carnival in Oruro, Bolivia – the highest Carnival celebration sitting at 3,710 meters above sea level that is (literally) breathtaking…and the complete opposite of other popular festivals in South America.  

This particular Carnival has been celebrated for over 2,000 years and has gained international recognition being proclaimed as a “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2001”. This festival celebrates the 3 primary climates of Bolivia – the tropics, the high mountains, and the lush valleys. The entire festival stretches across the entire country as different provinces and towns celebrate this historical holiday.


If the crowded beaches of Rio don’t interest you, check out any of these 3 lesser-known South American festivals, and you won’t be disappointed. 

Check dates ahead of time as they change every year for each location. Contact us & learn more to experience one of these carnivals yourself!

Questions? Write to Us