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Carnaval, which is celebrated each year in February or March the week before Lent, is Latin America’s version of Mardi Gras. The celebrations that take place in Ecuador the four days preceding Ash Wednesday may not be as crazy as some countries, but if you happen to be in the area during this holiday it is worth checking out.

During the four days before Ash Wednesday, Quito is almost a ghost town. Many of its residents head to the coast to soak up the sun. Atacames is particularly busy. Children run around at all hours of the night, spraying the random passerby with foam in a can while their parents are busy dancing in one of the many bars along the beach. The main component of any carnaval celebration in Ecuador is abundant water, used for soaking people. Beware, foreigner, as you are a very attractive target. Without a doubt you will be drenched with water and silly string by hoards of children. Quito is no exception. It can be vexing, but try to accept that it is simply their way of celebrating this holiday.

If you prefer a bit dryer holiday weekend, head to Ambato, where water throwing is prohibited. Here, the huge festival is called Fiesta de la Fruta y de las Flores. This event is filled with colorful parades, bullfights and handicraft exhibits.

Another town that has an impressive carnaval celebration is the town of Guaranda, located in the central Andes. Usually this is your average sleepy Ecuadorian town, nothing remarkable for a tourist. However, carnaval transforms it into a four day non-stop party, filled with parades, music and fun. Also the locals tend to be very hospitable, many prepare large feasts and invite anyone on the street into their homes to celebrate with them.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Ecuador: Fiestas de Quito, Holidays and Fiestas, Good Friday, The Day of the Dead in Ecuador, Fiesta de la Mama Negra, Ceremonia de Reseña o Vísperas and New Year's Eve.

03 Sep 2012

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