Traditional food, handmade goods, and South American cowboys riding wild horses at a festival of rural gaucho traditions in Uruguay, raves The Guardian and really, Montevideo’s Semana Criolla or Gaucho Week every Easter is not to be missed.
As usual it’s hard to find any centralised information about the event, let alone anything in English.
So here are a few tips.
Uruguay’s Gaucho Festival
The Semana Criolla lasts a week during Easter (or Tourism Week as it is known in secular Uruguay), starting on the Saturday evening before Easter and finishing the following Sunday.
The event opens daily with Gauchos showing off their riding skills (known as jineteadas) from 2pm and 7pm. There are also live music shows in the evening.
In 2016, 90 gauchos from four different countries (Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Brazil) competed.
In previous years there have been three stages with live folk music (folclore) and traditional dancing generally around 6pm, and some of Uruguay’s classic artists playing at times between 6-11pm. This is a general guide only.
There’s entertainment specifically for children usually including a show every day around 5pm. Look for “espectaculo infantil”.
Check out the stands selling typical country-style food (think meaty), handmade crafts, gaucho attire (get yourself some bombachas!) and horse-riding gear.
This year’s Semana Criolla is the 92nd of its kind.
Uruguay Gaucho Festival – Definitely not for tourists
If you’re thinking, this is for tourists, think again. Just like carnival (or even the coming of Mick Jagger), in Uruguay, gaucho gatherings are strictly for and by the locals.
When to go
Check the programme for 2017 (in Spanish)
Parades are “desfiles”. “Montas” are rodeo style bucking broncos. “Pruebas de rienda” are the opportunity for gauchos to show off their how they handle their horses through barrel racing.
Note that there are no events programmed for Friday (my own gaucho contact tells me that there will be events all week including Friday, so do not despair if you can only make it on Friday).
How to get to the Rural del Prado
The show takes place in the Rural del Prado, Montevideo’s principal agricultural expo venue, in the Prado neighbourhood. It is a 10-15 minute taxi ride or 30 minute bus ride from the city centre.
There are frequent buses. Check out the Montevideo travel map regarding how to get to the Rural del Prado walking or by bus. They have kindly already marked in your destination. If you can’t work out how to use this very useful site, check my notes on how to the Montevideo travel map Como Ir.
And all taxi drivers know where to take you.
Getting tickets (it’s still a bit of a mystery…)
You can buy tickets at the door. But if you can I recommend buying tickets in advance (in advance in Uruguay means the day before 🙂 ) to get the best seating.
According to the Montevideo government website you can also buy in the super market Tienda Inglesa and branches of Red Pagos and Red UTS (caveat: today I have been to Red Pagos and RedUTS and neither had the event in their ticket system. And another contact tells me that last year Tienda Inglesa only started telling tickets several days into the event! Ahhhh, Uruguay!)
Prices depend on the seating area (the Palco Oficial and Tribuna have the best seats). Children must pay if they occupy a seat. The most expensive tickets are usually the equivalent of 10 USD dollars or less.
Check out these great photos from 2016’s Semana Criolla from The Guardian.
Photos by Montecruz Foto
Find out about other Uruguayan holidays and festivals