Gaucho week in Montevideo – Easter

Traditional food, handmade goods, and South American cowboys riding wild horses. It's the Semana Criolla - Montevideo's Easter gaucho festival.
By Karen A Higgs
Montevideo gaucho festival - by Montecruz Foto
Last updated on April 4, 2023
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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. It’s been going on for almost a century.

As usual it’s hard to find any centralised information about the event, let alone anything in English. So here are a few tips. Please note times may change from year to year.

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 Sunday evening before Easter and finishing the following Sunday.

Montevideo gaucho festival - by Montecruz Foto

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. And all taxi drivers know where to take you.

The event opens daily from Sunday to Sunday from midday till late evening. Gauchos show off their riding skills (known as jineteadas)  during the day. Gauchos from other South American countries (including Argentina, Chile and Brazil) also compete.

There is live music (including folclore but often also rock and other crowd-pleasing genres) and traditional dancing generally around 6pm. You’ll get to see some of Uruguay’s classic artists playing at times between 6-11pm, as a general guide.

There’s entertainment specifically for children usually including a show every day at 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.

Uruguay Gaucho Festival – The real deal

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.

You can buy tickets at the door. Prices depend on the seating area (the Palco Oficial and Tribuna have the best seats). Children under twelve enter free but must need to pay if they occupy a seat. The most expensive tickets are usually 10-15 USD dollars.

Check out these great photos of the Semana Criolla from The Guardian.

Photos by Montecruz Foto

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6 Responses

  1. Dear Karen. It’s a real pleasure to read because i learn each time new things. Concerning immigration , our family had left Aix-en-Provence to immigrate to Uruguay. Unfortunately following the end of our father’s contract we had to return to France again. We traveled aboard a transatlantic ship called “Cabo San Roque” the trip lasted 14 days. I was sad to leave this country that i loved so much. At this time i was a teenager. I wanted to go back later but the life takes over the studies, after the job and the family etc…i found a old map.
    A big hello from Aix-en-Provence .

  2. Hello Karen,

    My husband and I are coming to Uruguay for the first time in April. It’s been on our TO VISIT map for a while but seeing your passion on your YouTube channel helped us to decide that we shouldn’t delay it any longer!

    I have ordered your main book and the one on Montevideo (they are arriving Monday through Amazon, where I will be sure to leave reviews) to help us make decisions about where to stay, what restaurants, etc. We arrive early on Monday 6th and fly out lunchtime on Tuesday 14th. I know this will not be long enough to sample everything that makes Uruguay so special – I’m a teacher so holiday dates are somewhat fixed! Therefore, I would really appreciate your advice about how to best spend our time. We’re not really beach people but we DO love wine, food and culture.

    I was thinking:

    1. 2-3 nights in Montevideo itself (probably the old town)
    2. 2-3 nights in an Estancia (a couple of hours away maybe – I look forward to perusing the matrix in your book)
    3. 2-3 nights in wine country

    It doesn’t need to be in this order though. For instance, I would hate to miss Gaucho Week. As you point out on this page, official info is hard to come by. When is it in 2020? I have seen elsewhere that the 6th, 7th and 8th are bank holidays. Are we better in the big city or out in the country during this period? I think I read somewhere on your site that the city is very quiet at these times?

    Could you suggest the best possible order for the three main things we want to do (above). I appreciate this may be determined by what choice of estancia, wineries, etc we make but a rough idea would be helpful. Your books will then help us fine tune.

    Regards,

    David Lowbridge-Ellis
    Wolverhampton, UK

    1. Hi David, your plans sound great! As mentioned above, “The Semana Criolla lasts a week during Easter (or Tourism Week as it is known in secular Uruguay), starting on the Sunday evening before Easter and finishing the following Sunday”, so you will be arriving at the start of Gaucho Week in Montevideo. Perfect timing! Come stay with me at my guesthouse which is in the Old City! Your order looks just great. Btw, fellow blogger, congratulations on a great site – I can’t wait to look around it more closely. All the best, Karen

      1. Hi Karen,

        We’re planning to come to Uruguay at a similar time, but for 2 weeks or so. We’d love to see Fray Bentos, as well as the Gaucho festival (and a bit of diving if possible!), so would really appreciate any guidance you can give on an itinerary to try and do that. Does the Tristán Narvaja Street Market take place during the Easter week? We’d really like to do that (maybe on 4th April), but I wasn’t sure if it was on with the holiday? I’m looking forward to getting your books, but thought this may be a bit of a specific request! Many thanks, Jenny

        1. Hi Jenny, you’ll find the books will answer all your doubts but just so you know, the Tristan Narvaja Sunday market is open all Sundays, unless the day is falls on a non-working public holiday like New Year’s Day. Sorry to be the bringer of bad news but there’s no diving in Uruguay 🙁 Do come and join us in our Discover Uruguay Facebook group if you are are on that platform, and sign up for our monthly newsletter (link in the footer of this page). Stay in touch! — Karen

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