As it’s virtually unknown to people outside of Uruguay, in Montevideo you’ll get to experience one of the most authentic carnivals in the world.
6 reasons why carnival in Montevideo is unique
Montevideo has the world’s longest carnival*. It goes on for 40 days between the last week of January and, depending on the weather, the first days of March.
Because of an overshadowing by the Rio carnival plus a lack of information in English, there are very few tourists at carnival events, other than a few Argentinians and Brazilians. So events are never too crowded and it’s a totally local experience.
Unlike Rio, it’s also a family-oriented experience. Kids run around unsupervised, get their faces painted and find you at the end of the evening. Twenty-somethings hang out with their friends over a beer. Families bring picnic blankets and deck chairs to some of the bigger venues.
It’s very affordable. Seats for the parades cost around 220 pesos (that’s less than 8 USD), and the cost is the same and less for the tablados. Tablados in some neighbourhoods are even subsidised by the government with seats for 2 USD. You can buy fairground-style food and drink at reasonable prices.
Uruguayan carnival dancers are less “streamlined”, shall we say, than Brazilian samba dancers. It’s so refreshing. Carnival in Uruguay is all about having a good time and not about physical perfection.
You can experience carnival preparations any day of the week all year round. The drumming comparsas are out on the street practising every week, murga rehearsals are open to the public, and if you get really lucky the most popular murgas occasionally present shows from previous years in theatres. (Contemporary artists like Jaime Roos and Pitufo Lombardo fuse carnival sounds into their music.)
The Llamadas parade
Goes on for two nights in February.
One of the younger Murgas to have come through in the last few years – Cayó la Cabra
The Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo. Buy it for just 10 USD and get the Guru’s recommendations regarding the best and worst of carnival. Let me be honest, some parts of carnival are really great, but others are … cheesy, shall we say? There are only so many sequinned choreographies that one can take. Also includes Carnival terminology