Traditional festival and Celebrations in Ecuador

The traditional festivals and celebrations in Ecuador have been characterized by being a mixture of colors and sensations where you can witness the multiculturalism and diversity of the country. There are two categories: indigenous and mestizo. The traditional indigenous festivals were inserted in colonial times and are known as the equinox and solstice festivals.

If you are visiting Ecuador at this time of the year, you cannot skip these festivities full of culture, colors, joy and traditions.

Traditional Festival of the Inti Raymi

Also called Fiesta del Sol, it is a traditional festival. It is celebrated by the Kichwa peoples of Ecuador.

Its largest celebrations are held in Otavalo, The Middle of the World and Cayambe.

Celebrated on June 21, this day the sun is closer to the earth, making the day shorter and the night longer. This is the gratitude to the Pachamama and the Sun through music, dances, and rituals, for the harvests of that year.

Its most representative character is Aya Uma or better known as Diablo Huma. It shows the syncretism of Andean and Western culture. Likewise, he is responsible for guiding the group and is characterized by his courage. On the other hand, the Aruchico wears a hat with several colored ribbons, flashy shawls, and a singular mask of wire mesh.

How to get to Inti Raymi in Otavalo and the Middle of the World?

By public transport from Quito, you can take a bus at the North Terminal of Carcelén with a stop in Otavalo, from there you can walk to Plaza Simón Bolívar.

To get to the Middle of the World, you can take a bus from the Ofelia station to the Middle of the World

Corpus Christi

This festival is celebrated in Pujilí and Cuenca in the month of June. In Pujilí it is known as “The Octaves of Corpus Christi”, which was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Ecuador in 2001. Its name comes from the Latin words ‘Corpus’ (body) and Christi (Christ). It is a celebration that mixes the Catholic faith and indigenous culture.

Some of the characters are:

  • Officials: tamboneros and pingulleros (musicians)
  • Bartenders: indigenous people who are aware of liquors
  • Cooks: men and women who prepare great feasts with mote, potatoes guinea pigs, rice, etc.
  • Ropacatig: dress and undress the dancer
  • Butler: a person who spends on food and drinks
  • Dancers: women wearing very colorful and meaningful clothing
  • Banda de Pueblo: after the tamboneros and pingulleros comes the Banda de pueblo.

How to get to Corpus Christi in Pujilí?

You must take a bus from the Quitumbe Terminal to the south of Quito ($ 2- $ 4) to Pujilí; the estimated time is 2h30, from there a taxi to the city center.

Yamor in Otavalo

This festival is held in Otavalo at the end of August until the first week of September. It is about the gratitude to Mother earth (Pachamama) for the fecundity of the lands together with the devotion to the Virgin Mary of Monserrate.

Their main drink is Chicha del Yamor, which is a sacred drink made with seven varieties of corn. This word comes from the word Yak which means wise and from Mur which is grain. The celebration consists of a parade of floats, dances, music and great celebrations of people who come together again; The Yamor Queen is also chosen and the crossing swim is made in Lake San Pablo

How to get to Otavalo?

By public transport from Quito, you can take a bus at the North Terminal of Carcelén with a stop in Otavalo, once there you can take a cab to downtown .

Traditional mixed race festivals

Diablada of Pillaro

It is celebrated in the city of Santiago de Píllaro from 1 to 6 January. Legend has it that the comparsas represent the repudiation that the indigenous felt for Christianity and the Spaniards. This rejection arises because of the inclusion of a new religion, the physical and psychological mistreatment of indigenous people.

Basically, in this festival you can see dances and chants performed by the traditional comparsas from the rural communities to the center of Píllaro. That is why the celebration can last up to 8 hours.

Its main characters are the devils, as they represent slaves in colonial times. With their joy, eye-catching masks, red outfits, and various colorful ornaments, which are the most important symbols of the parade, attract the attention of every visitor. ¡ Surely you will love this party!

In 2009, Diablada de Píllaro was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Ecuador.

How to get to the traditional festivals of Pillaro?

From the Quitumbe Terminal in the south of Quito, you must take a bus bound for Píllaro. Approximate time 2h30m.

Pilgrimage of the Virgin of the Swan

It takes place from the parish of El Cisne to Loja in August. It is one of the largest pilgrimages in America. For this reason, every year hundreds of pilgrims walk as they pray, thank, and bring gifts for their “Churona”.

According to legend in 1594 the area of the Swan was affected by pests and drought causing famine in the villagers. Desperate they left their lands, but on the way, they were presented with the Virgin Mary and asked to build a temple. Mary the Virgin in return had promised to help them with food for the whole year, and so it was. Once the temple was built, the rain fell, and the crops grew. Since then, the Virgin is venerated and celebrated every year as a form of gratitude.

How to get to the traditional festivals of the Swan?

From the Quitumbe Terminal to the south of Quito, you must take a bus to Loja in an approximate time of 12h30m.

"Mama Negra" in Latacunga

The popular festival of La Mama Negra is held in Latacunga between the months of September (from 23 to 28) and November (for the independence of the city of Latacunga). In 2005 it was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Ecuador.

Its main character is La Mama Negra, personalized by a man with a mute mask accompanied by striking and colorful garments, leading the party mounted on a horse; represents a freed slave who carries two characters behind her horse and a baby in his arms.

One of the theories of the creation of this festival is that after the eruption of the Cotopaxi volcano, a procession was held as part of gratitude to the Virgen de las Mercedes for the protection that she had given to the city.

Mama Negra's costumes:

  • Mask
  • Skirt
  • Necklaces
  • Handkerchiefs
  • Espadrilles of various colors

Other characters of the celebration:

  • The Angel of the Star
  • The Captain
  • The Moorish King
  • Clowns
  • Nightgowns
  • Cholas
  • Ashangeros

How to get to Latacunga from Quito?

From the Quitumbe Terminal, you must take a bus in the direction to Latacunga. The duration of the trip is approximately 2 hours.

"Pase del Niño Viajero" in Cuenca

It is held in Cuenca on December 24.

It is one of the most important religious manifestations in the country. The streets of the Historic Center of Cuenca where a procession takes place from the Church of the Heart of Jesus to the Church of Carmen. In this festival, culture and traditions are expressed in various ways through folklore.

This festival begins on the first Sunday of Advent and ends on Shrove Tuesday, with the participation of the popular classes and the peasantry, and hundreds of tourists who go to enjoy this special celebration.

It has its beginnings in Europe where Saint Francis of Assisi celebrated in a striking way the Nativity of Jesus in a striking way; Since then, it has been celebrated in many countries around the world, including Ecuador. The symbolic elements that have been highlighted in this festival in Cuenca is that its participants, mostly children, wear religious and profane costumes.

Its main character is Jesus the Infant himself, who is dressed in very elegant suits of silk, velvet, and shiny gold and silver embroidery.

How to get to Cuenca?

From the Quitumbe Terminal south of Quito, you must take a bus to Cuenca. The approximate time is 8 hours.

You can also go by fight to Cuenca, at an approximate time of 1h

Festival of the Fox Hunt

This traditional festival dates to 1972, when some students at the riding school were invited to the Rancho San Vicente de la Policía in Quito for this test, but by then it was not known. Immediately, the first hunt was between the current sector of the ‘Y” and Av. de la Prensa in Quito. The first fox of this competition was André Oviol. However, the first winner was Hugo Serrano who took Zorro’s tail to the city of Ibarra.

Currently this event is held in Ibarra in the month of October. In 2009 it was declared as a National People’s Day by the Ministry of Tourism.

Evidently, this is a horse race where riders snatch the fox tail from the winner rider of the previous year. It has natural obstacles, segments of speed, driving and dexterity of riders.

In addition, national and foreign tourists can enjoy the exquisite Ibarra and Ecuadorian cuisine, as well as dances and musical presentations.

How to get to Ibarra from Quito?

Departing from Quito, you can take a bus from the Carcelén Terminal to the North of the City to Ibarra.

Over the years, the carnival in Ecuador has developed in a very particular way. In these celebrations carried out throughout the country, parties, parades, floats, games, banquets of traditional food, dances and fun have been added. Its purpose is to bring together all families and friends to have a good time together. Carnival “is played with everything you find” from water, cariocas, flour to eggs.

Carnivals in Ecuador

Carnival of Guaranda

All the families gather to celebrate between parades, dances, laughter, games and wet, it is celebrated in the month of February in Guaranda, Province of Bolivar. 

For bolivarenses it represents the myth of the eternal return, it is to fulfill the life cycle, which every year is revived. 

How to get to Guaranda?

From Quitumbe terminal, you must take a bus to Guaranda. The approximate time is 4h30m.

Flower and Fruit Festival, Ambato

It is celebrated in Ambato, province of Tungurahua, where its streets become a sea of ​​colors. Unlike the other carnivals, it is celebrated with flowers and dances. And it is celebrated 40 days before Easter. You will find a parade of floats full of flowers and fruits; where additionally the election of the Queen of Ambato, the Blessing of bread and fruits are made.

After 1949 after the earthquake that shook the city of Ambato and the entire province of Tungurahua, ambateños celebrate the guts that the residents had to get up after this tragedy. They have been celebrating this carnival for more than 66 years, which is attended every year by more than 30 thousand people.

In 2009 it was declared as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Ecuador for its prominence and importance in the imaginary and cultural identity.

Typical food that you can taste during this carnival:

  • Pinllo bread
  • Ficoa ice cream
  • Purple Colada and Wind Empanadas
  • Pinllo hen
  • Empanadas de Morocho 

How to get to Ambato?

From the Quitumbe terminal, you must take the bus to Ambato in an approximate time of 2 hours.

Ecuadorian New Year’s celebration

The special thing about the end of the year in Ecuador is the way in which Ecuadorian men dress and act. Every year men put on dresses, make up their faces and dance in front of the cars that circulate through the streets. In addition to this, incredible ‘’monigotes’’ are created and a few minutes before 12 o’clock they are burned, adding dinner among family or friends and dances to say goodbye to the year and receive the other in a joyful way.

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