Victor Hugo, the man whose most famous work has become the glamorous mainstream face of martyrdom, once told us:
“Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left.”
Well, sorry Victor, because this month sees Argentina- a country wracked by the biggest political carnival we’ve seen in decades– flipping the bird at this pretty little aphorism and joining the sensational parades of sequins and sexy people taking place all over the world. Argentina is obviously balling with the best of them and next weekend is a four-day weekend (the 16th and 17th of February are national holidays) so here are five of the best carnivals that this country is bringing to the table, just in case love of the homeland stopped you heading to Rio this year.
Carnaval de Tilcara (Jujuy)
Throughout its 500 year lifespan, carnival in the province of Jujuy has resolutely kept its pagan swag. Festivities start on Saturday with the disinterment of last year’s carnival devil, a symbolic figure buried at the end of last year’s festivities in a hole called “the mouth of the Earth-Mother” to signal the end of the shameless debauchery licensed by the figure’s resurrection during carnival season. Festivities see streets and shops occupied from afternoon to evening with dance, music played on traditional instruments and general “merriment”.
At the festival’s close, the devil is buried once more alongside tokens of cigarettes, liquor and streamers, to keep him safe and intoxicated until carnival comes around again next year.
Details on how to go dig up, bury, or party with, the world’s favorite fallen angel:
WHEN: 11th – 18th February (apart from the 13th. Apparently carnival takes a breather that day, which figures: what chump messes with the devil on the 13th?); 6th – 9th March. Highlights are Saturday 14th, when the devil is officially disinterred, and March 9th, when he’s put back in his party grave.
WHERE: Tilcara, Jujuy.
HOW: Approximately 17 hours by car from downtown Buenos Aires; coaches are available from around ARS $1300 from Retiro to Jujuy province and take between 20 and 24 hours (time for some pre-game and post-recovery); return flights from the Aeroparque airport to Jujuy will set you back around ARS $6000 at time of writing.
DAMAGE: We can’t say we know it’s free, but…
Carnaval de Gualeguaychú (Entre Ríos)
Dubbed “Carnival City”, the Gualeguaychú festival is listed alongside Rio and Venice as one of the most significant carnivals on the planet. The Entre Ríos town about three hours from the capital boasts a 40,000 capacity open-air arena in which three groups will compete throughout the duration of the month.
WHEN: 7/14/15/16/21 and 28 of February
WHERE: Corsódromo de Gualeguaychú
HOW: Just under three hours by car; Buses from Buenos Aires leave from Retiro terminal and arrive at the Gualeguaychú bus station about 3 hours later.
DAMAGE: Tickets available for 200 pesos on the 7th, 21st, and 28th; 220 pesos on the 14th, 15th, and 16th. Children under 10 get in for 40 pesos. Tickets can be bought in advance from their online ticket office.
Carnaval de Corrientes (Corrientes)
Get a seat at the arena in the Corrientes capital to see carnival at its supposed birthplace. Near both Brazil and Paraguay, it strikes a balance between absorbing some of that Brazilian carnival euphoria everyone seems so crazy about whilst retaining a distinct home-cooked Argentine flavor. Watch out for the water fights.
WHEN: 7/8/9/10/11/15 and 16 of February
WHERE: Corrientes, capital of the eponymous province.
HOW: Just over 8 hours by car from downtown Buenos Aires; return coaches from Retiro terminal to Corrientes from ARS $744 and take upward of 12 hours; flights available for nearly ARS $4000 from the Aeroparque airport to Resistencia (in Chaco), 20 minutes from Corrientes by car.
DAMAGE: Tickets cost from ARS $80 for general entry, to ARS $270 for VIP; available online here.
Carnaval de Lincoln (Buenos Aires Province)
Carnival season sees parades in the city of Lincoln leading up to headline acts announced for every night of carnival. If you are a fan of the larger-than-life caricature statues lurking outside bars and souvenir shops all across Buenos Aires city, then head to Lincoln: The parades are famous for their use of a particular style of huge moving puppet (alongside the glitter and the pretty people) introduced by an old Teatro Colón scenographer and quickly adopted as Lincoln’s carnival trademark.
WHEN: 7/8/13/14/15 and 16 of February
WHERE: City of Lincoln, in the Buenos Aires province.
HOW: Just under four hours by car from downtown Buenos Aires; buses available from ARS $250 return, journey takes upwards of approximately 5 hours.
DAMAGE: Ticket price doesn’t seem to be readily available. Again, take from that what you like.
HYPE: Watch the carnival’s live feed or catch up on the last few days’ extravaganza here.
Carnaval de la ciudad de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires)
Lastly, for those too poor/employed to take a couple of days off for provincial debauchery, carnival will be coming to basically every city neighborhood near you. City celebrations this year are set to involve street parties and up to 200 parades of murgas– costumed bands of marching percussionists and dancers- so, love them or hate them, make your peace now.
WHEN: Starting early February, festivities will run Saturdays 7pm-2am, and Sundays and public holidays 7pm-midnight.
WHERE: Ciudad de Buenos Aires
HOW: Parades are within one shake of a colectivo‘s tailpipe in these areas. The real question is probably how to avoid them. The answer is to stop being such a buzzkill, Buzzkill.
DAMAGE: None- unless you take particular exception to murgas, in which case damage done will depend on your psychological fortitude.
Lets keep the scandal this month down to vulgar displays of devil-may-care extravagance, please.
For additional information on other carnival celebrations around the country, check out this guide.