Carnival is one of the most fun times of year in Argentina. In the summer months from January to March, the country goes wild for festivals, parties and parades related to this popular South American celebration. We let you in on how to experience carnival like a local.
In the months that carnival is on, and even in the lead up to them, you will randomly hear drum beats coming out of parks and near train tracks all over the country. This is the unmistakable sound of the murga, a certain type of regional street performance that incorporates music, dance and theatre. Watch from the sidelines as participants young and old revel in the fun and frolics of carnival.
You might catch the murga rehearsals, but miss the real deal, so on carnival weekend, make it your business to ask around wherever you are to see where the party’s at. If you’re in the capital Buenos Aires, many murgas and street parties take place around one of the city’s main arteries, Avenida Corrientes. If you go to the junction with Callao, you are sure to find yourself immersed in the celebrations, and you will know that there is a murga close by if you see streamers and colourful spray and foam on the ground.
If you want to experience the real deal, there’s nowhere else that should be on your list other that Gualeguaychu. This city in Entre Rios province is about 230km (143 miles) north of Buenos Aires, and is the place to be for an authentic carnival celebration. Expect elaborate floats, performers in extravagant outfits and costumes and a parade, where teams battle it out under the categories of choreography, costume and float to be crowned the winner of the carnival.
To get yourself in the mood for dancing and perhaps even romancing, get involved with the local beverages. Taste the spirit of Brazil, where the most famous carnival in the world takes place, by sipping on a caipirinha or a caipiroska, or go local and set yourself up with a typical Argentine bevvy of Fernet and Coke.
If you want to really get out of yourself and into the party mood, why not head to one of the city’s feria americanas (second-hand shops), or a cotillon party shop, and deck yourself out with an appropriately ridiculous costume. Argentines love fancy dress, and you will be guaranteed to make more friends if you stand out from the crowd.
The weekend that carnival takes place on usually falls in the middle of February, and is a long weekend. Some people go away, while others choose to stay put, but do be warned that this is the height of summer, and so one of the best ways to celebrate carnival is often by not celebrating it, and instead finding a place to cool off and escape the heat. Many apartment buildings have swimming pools, but if you don’t have Argentine friends to invite you, there are lots of public pools where you can take a dip.
If you really can’t handle the heat or the madness of the city around the time of carnival, why not head out to the country? Argentines love the campo, or countryside, and there are plenty of little towns and villages to rent a house in. Be warned though, because of this love of getting into the great outdoors, traffic out of the cities around carnival can be terrible, and what should be a four-hour journey can end up turning into a mammoth 15-hour trek.