Carnival in Ecuador: How to celebrate in Ambato

Diego Arias at the Galapagos Islands


There are two cities in Ecuador where carnival is a must: Ambato and Guaranda! The two cities are so to speak the capitals of carnival in Ecuador. But carnival here in Ecuador is not celebrated as you might maybe know it…

This blog is about Ambato: Ambato is located north of the tourist town of Baños and can be reached from Quito by bus or car in about 3 hours. What is so special about the carnival in Ambato? Which traditions are lived here and how do you celebrate?

The Fiesta de las Frutas y las Flores

flowers in Ambato

In Ecuador, they celebrate carnival so extensively that there are two public holidays in February. These are usually combined with a weekend, since short trips to carnival cities like Ambato and Guaranda are not rare. In Ambato, in February, the Fiesta de la Frutas y las Flores (festival of fruits and flowers) additionally takes place. This date often coincides with the carnival. Thus, the Desfile de las Frutas y las Flores (parade of the flowers and fruits) is for many people an immediate part of the carnival.

Fruits on the carnival parade in mbato

Carnival parades in Ambato

If you prefer to spend the move sitting rather than standing, you should be there early enough. A seat here costs 5 USD per person. It is certainly useful to reserve the seats in advance. Colorful carriages move through the crowd. They are absolutely pompous and fantastically decorated with flowers, fruits and even pastries! The design of the carriages must take months in advance, but the effort and creativity are worth it! By the way, the fruits and flowers that you see here are blessed here beforehand in a Mass (on Saturdays).

Those who want to escape the strong sun during the day can participate in the evening/night parade. The so-called Desfile Nocturno always takes place on Carnival Tuesday. Colourful floral decorations and the numerous colourful costumes appear especially effective during this parade through a fascinating sea of lights!

carnival parade in ambato, ecuador, in the night

Water and foam battles

It is better to avoid very expensive costumes in Ambato at carnival. Costumes are rather unusual at carnival in Ecuador anyway. Only the groups participating in the parade wear splendid, colourful and elaborate clothes that you should not miss to see! This could be due to the fact that you have to be prepared to get completely wet during carnival in Ecuador. Because traditionally, wild but very fun water and foam battles take place here. While the water fights are more common on the coast, the foam fights are common for Ambato. Very few people go home from the festivities without being completely soaked or wrapped in a thick cloud of foam. Also, you would probably hardly be able to recognize costumes under the thick layers of foam anyway.

customs on the parade in ambato

La Vaca Loca ("The Crazy Cow")

The Vaca Loca is common all over Ecuador at numerous celebrations, not only at Carnival and by far not only in Ambato. People decorate a handcrafted cow, which often comes close to the real size of a cow, with numerous fireworks of all kinds. In some places they even do small rodeo fights with the Vacas Locas, because fighting with real bulls is fortunately no longer the rule.

When the cow is lit, you can enjoy a wild, colourful and spectacular firework which is absolutely worth seeing!

The carnival in Ambato is therefore a real experience for many reasons and is really very varied, colourful and exciting. And even those who prefer to escape from the loud and shrill celebrations in Germany will certainly find something exciting to enjoy among the numerous activities.

If you are interested in other celebrations in Ecuador, we recommend our blogs on  the festivities of Quito, the foundation of Quito, and the Fiesta de la Luz !

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