Ready to dive into Uruguay’s unique culture? Join the culture vultures at Tekoa tours. Uruguay and Montevideo tours that show you the best (and most unusual) things to do. Like experiencing carnival with a Uruguayan, an authentic tango joint frequented by locals only or a football game.
Tekoa was founded by local Gabriel Santellan after working for over a decade with a UK travel company. His partner Clare is from New Zealand.
Montevideo carnival tour 2024 with the Carnival Whisperers
Uruguay celebrates the longest carnival in the world. It starts with a number of parades and continues with nightly shows called tablados that the locals just love. And the whole thing goes on for forty nights. Carnival in Uruguay is totally different to the Brazilian version. Ours is family-oriented, has virtually zero tourists, a touch of politics and a lot of humour. You have to check it out. Your tour guide will be a local carnival enthusiast. We affectionately call them the “carnival whisperers” because they’ll be telling you what’s happening throughout the show by whispering the details, so as not to bother the locals around you.
Tekoa offers two tours: to a Carnival show (late January to early March) and to rehearsals and one-off shows (rest of the year).
Carnival shows take place in different local clubs and sports centres which turn into tablados for the duration of carnival. Anything from four to up to eight different carnival music, drumming and dancing groups will perform on a stage for the audience. Your tour will be completely private, for you and maximum one person more. You’ll be picked up at your accommodation. As you ride to the venue, you’ll hear about the history of carnival, the different carnival genres and the specific groups you will see perform that evening. At the venue, there’s a chance to buy something to drink and typical street food. You’ll see that the crowd is full of families and almost everyone has a mate and thermos flask with them. Mate is a caffeine-based tea that locals drink with a metal straw from a gourd. As part of the ritual, your guide will prepare some mate for you to try at the tablado. So, two Uruguayan cultural baptisms for the price of one!
Tango music & dancing tour
Most people are taken by surprise to hear that tango is a quintessential Uruguayan form of music and dance (as usual, those flashy Argentinians have done a better job at marketing). But it’s more accurate to say that tango is rioplatense, that is, from the region encompassing the area on both side of the Río de la Plata river, that is, Buenos Aires and Montevideo. There are no “for export” tango shows in Uruguay. The tango scene in Montevideo is much friendlier than Buenos Aires and it’s easy to navigate by yourself. But if you’d like company at the tango milonga, take a class and learn about the history of tango through a local dancer’s eyes and experience, Tekoa has a guide (a dancer himself who speaks great English) who will share some of the secrets of tango in Montevideo.
Uruguay football match 2024 & soccer history tour
Uruguay hosted the first ever World Cup in 1930 and La Celeste, as Uruguay’s national soccer team is known, has won more international football cup titles than any other in the world. Not bad for a country of just three million. There are two football museums in Montevideo – the National Football Museum in the Centenario Stadium where the first World Cup was won, and the Peñarol Museum in celebration of the achievements of Uruguay’s most popular football team. Both are enjoyable to visit, even for non-football fans like myself. However, the lack of English signage makes a private tour a great idea. And why not plan to see a game? The Uruguay football first division plays between February and early December (in 2024 there will be a break during the Copa America). Tekoa will get your tickets and make sure you get safely there and back. Plus you’ll have a captive Uruguayan guide—who speaks your language—by your side to quiz throughout the game on all things Uruguay!
What you should know
Tours in English, Portuguese and Spanish. Tekoa guides are thrilled to show the best and most curious of Uruguayan culture.
Book a carnival tablado tour for any night from the start of carnival (usually the final week of January) to the end of February 28. Depending on the weather, carnival may even extend into the first days of March – to be announced closer to the dates. Carnival dates are usually out mid year. If the weather forecast is for rain or strong winds, the tablado will be cancelled since most of them take place outdoors. The only tablado has indoor facilities only opens on Fridays and Saturdays. So if you want to ensure your carnival show tour, book a tour for Friday or Saturday, or give yourself flexibility in case of a raincheck.
Book a carnival rehearsal tour if you are here in December and January before carnival starts. Here the rest of the year? There’s always something carnival-related going on in Montevideo. Contact Tekoa to find out.
The difference between a carnival show and a rehearsal Rehearsals take place in local clubs and sports centres. Some are in the open air in public parks or just on the street. It’s a relaxed atmosphere. You’ll be watching the actual rehearsals of one particular carnival group. So they won’t be wearing make-up or costumes. They may also repeat the same scene or line over and over. But this is a super authentic experience and one that the locals love too. Dozens and even hundreds of people attend rehearsals of the most popular groups.
Premier league football match dates are only announced one week in advance. And only then are tickets available. But there’s always a great game on on a weekend. Ask Tekoa for their recommended match unless you have a team preference.
Carnival and tango tours are private tours Noone else will join your group. Prices vary but to give you an idea, 2024 carnival tablado tours are 230 USD for an individual tour. The cost for a couple is 125 USD per person.
Looking for a different cultural experience? Contact Clare and Gabriel at Tekoa. They have a huge number of contacts for gastronomy, wineries, history, architecture and other tours. They’ll be delighted to put together a custom tour just for you.
Transfer and city tours Tekoa offers airport transfers and city tours of Montevideo, Colonia del Sacramento, Punta del Este or wherever you want.