Although carnival in Uruguay is the quintessential festivals and during February there are celebrations and parades throughout the capital cities of the country, the opportunities to experience the national rural and folk traditions aren’t so abundant. However, we offer you here the list of some popular festivals in Uruguay, suitable both for the whole family and for groups of young people, who remember the gaucho culture in the times of colonization and during the first decades of independent life, where guests will not only be able to enjoy themselves but also deepen their connection with the Creole roots of the country.
Remember that, unlike other Latin American countries with greater indigenous presence, in Uruguay the mythical ancestor is “the gaucho” and all the traditions that surround it. It’s not without reason that the Uruguayans say that we do not grant favors: we offer “a gaucho”.
The popular festivals in Uruguay are suitable to go as a family and for groups of young people / Source
1. Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha (Tacuarembó)
Located in the center of Uruguay, about 400 kilometers from Montevideo, the city of Tacuarembó every year becomes the core of the country’s gaucho traditions during the “Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha”, a celebration that takes place annually between March and April, prior to Tourism Week (Holy Week). Surrounding the city’s Laguna de Las Lavanderas, mud huts from the colonial period are created every year -they even hold competitions- and for six days there are bonfires, arenas, country activities, equestrian shows and concerts, some folkloric payadores and traditional dance performances, while others are a bit more modern, but always related to popular culture.
Whoever makes it here will have the opportunity to visit Eden Valley, a small town 23 kilometers from the city of Tacuarembó, where a picturesque train station and a museum of the tango singer and actor Carlos Gardel await, since the theory of most Uruguayans is that “the creole thrush” was born here.
When: The 2018 edition of the Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha will be the 32nd and will take place from Tuesday March 6 to Sunday, March 11. More information available on the website www.patriagaucha.com.uy.
2. Festival del Olimar (Treinta y Tres)
On the banks of its river, Olimar, the city of Treinta y Tres (33), at the beginning of each year hosts Tourism Week (Semana Santa) and about 30 thousand people in what is probably the largest folk festival in the country. The members of the famous folk duo Los Olimareños, José “Pepe” Guerra and Braulio López, natives of this city, are usually included in the program, together with other representatives of Uruguayan popular music, which is also combined in several days of stage performances with rock, pop, and cumbia modern national bands.
Furthermore, about 35 kilometers from the city of Treinta y Tres, travelling by route 8 and then by a picturesque ballast road, the Quebrada de los Cuervos offers visitors the opportunity to hike through the mountains, through a nature reserve where you can even can camp or rent cabins.
When: The 2018 edition of the Olimar Festival will be the 46th and will take place from Saturday, March 24 to Sunday, April 1 (to be confirmed). For more information, call the Intendencia de Treinta y Tres (+598 4452 2108) or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
The Olimar Festival is probably the biggest folk event in the country
3. Beer week (Paysandú)
Although the name suggests an Oktoberfest in German style, don’t get confused. The name of this traditional festival in northern Uruguay refers to the Norteña brewery, which has worked for decades in this part of the country and is the main sponsor of this festival that takes place during Tourism Week (Semana Santa) on the shores of Uruguay River – the “paterno”, as the sanduceros call it – offers several days of shows in the amphitheater that is located there, with seating capacity for 20,000 people. During this time of year, there are also dozens of eclectic stands complementing the event, which are installed with selections ranging from Uruguayan artisanal and rural crafts to curious novelties.
The north of Uruguay also offers several thermal water spas: Guaviyú, Daymán, Arapey and Almirón -the latter’s distinguishing feature is that it has salt water. The best time to visit them is mid-season, which coincides exactly with the the dates during which this festival is celebrated.
When: The 2018 edition of Beer Week will be the 53rd and will take place from Saturday, March 24 to Sunday, April 1. More information available on the website www.paysandu.gub.uy/semana-de-la-cerveza.
Beer week is celebrated in an amphitheater that has capacity for 20 thousand people / Source
4. ExpoPrado (Montevideo)
In spring, for about 10 days, the Uruguayan agricultural community comes together in the Prado neighborhood in Montevideo, thanks to the International Exhibition of Livestock and International Agro Industrial and Commercial Exhibition (ExpoPrado), which combines exhibitions of all kinds and equestrian activities with stages and cultural performances.
Although the Prado neighborhood is not present in most tourism brochures in Montevideo, it has several other attractions near the ExpoPrado site, such as El Rosedal (located on Av. Delmira Agustini, Av. Buschental, at that time of the year it’s roses are all in bloom), the Botanical Garden (access door on the street April 19 1181) and the Museum of Fine Arts Juan Manuel Blanes (Millán Avenue 4015), which includes a small Japanese garden in its facilities.
When: The 2018 edition of ExpoPrado will be the 113th; its date had not yet been confirmed at the time of writing this article, although it is estimated that it will be, as every year, in the month of September. More information on their website www.expoprado.com.
The ExpoPadro is a fair that offers very varied activities, especially for children / Source
5. Heritage Weekend (the entire country)
Once a year, the doors of offices, companies and other non-traditional sites in Uruguay are opened so that the public can learn about its interior and history, while museums, plazas and other frequent transit sites organize special exhibitions and shows for visitors.
It was held for the first time in 1995 under the name “Heritage Day” and has since evolved to characterize a different theme every year, which in previous years has included various topics such as tango, Uruguayan architecture and national theater, and figures such as the national hero José Artigas, the plastic artist Joaquín Torres García and the historian Horacio Arredondo, among others.
When: The 2018 edition of Heritage Weekend will be the 24th; Its date had not yet been confirmed at the time of writing this article, although it is estimated that it will take place during the last four months of the year. More information is available on the website www.patrimoniouruguay.gub.uy.
6. Nostalgia Night (The entire country)
Unlike the previous festivals, Nostalgia Night has no connection to the rural traditions of the country nor is it pure city, but rather, as the name suggests, is related to the typical Uruguayan melancholy for times that have gone by, so we decided to include it in this list.
Its celebrated on the night of August 24 across the entire country – and on August 25 in Uruguay its a holiday under the Declaration of Independence so few people have to get up early – and the music playlist is focused on the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, although recently music from the 90s and early 2000s has also been added. The celebration was held for the first time on August 24, 1978, when Dj Pablo Lecueder, the owner CX-32 Radiomundo during that time, organized a party with oldies, which was the theme of his radio program “Old hits”, and over the years the event has been replicated in other dance clubs and venues.
Although the official name (” Nostalgia Night”) is coined by its creator, those who visit Uruguay at the end of August will have dozens of choices for parties with music from all decades. And on August 24 being young is not a requirement to let loose, in fact it’s the day of the year when adults of all ages come out to dance, some even dressed up in afro wigs and dressed in sparkles and sequins like “Saturday night fever”.
Nostalgia Night is celebrated on August 24 and is the day of the year in which more adults of all ages come out to dance / Source
If you wish to include original tours in your itinerary that allow you to experience authentic Uruguayan popular culture, don’t miss the Uruguay4u tours catalog, which includes the Estancia Tour that leaves from Montevideo as well as the Tuscan BBQ and Olive Experience from Punta del Este. Reservations are made online and include a team of experts available to offer the best travel tips for your destination.
*Yapa: South American adverbial phrase that means in addition.
Por: Carina Fossati, Uruguayan, journalist, and author of the blog Hills To Heels