The carnival in Oruro, Bolivia, is South America’s second biggest carnival after Rio, attracting around 400,000 visitors, 35,000 dancers, and 6,000 musicians. Having been lucky enough to witness South America’s third biggest festival at Lake Titicaca, the festival of the Candelaria, only a few weeks before, I was thrilled that our visit to Bolivia coincided with Oruro’s carnival as well. IMG_7456 IMG_7598 IMG_7600 The Oruro carnival was declared by UNESCO as an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” and it is a marathon of festivities that lasts for four days. The main parade is on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday. It is called ‘La Diablada’ (the ‘Dance of the Devils’), and is an extraordinary parade that showcases dancers in extravagant costumes and masks. We managed to get some good seats for the parade so were able to see the spectacular dancers and costumes from up close. IMG_7453 oruro carnival men IMG_7660 oruro carnival masks No carnival parade is the same without some ladies in sexy outfits and while the outfits in Oruro are nowhere near as revealing as the ones in Rio, the men in the crowd seemed to have liked them. Whenever some lovely Bolivian ladies came past the men in the crowd went crazy and called for ‘besos’ (kisses). When the ladies then threw air kisses at them they were ecstatic. I’ve said it before, but men are so easy! 🙂 IMG_7424

oruro carnival single girls IMG_7426 oruro carnival single girls 2 The most popular crowd pleasers were not the sexy Bolivian ladies though, but some guys in bear costumes (the osos). Whenever the bears danced past us the whole crowd went wild and chanted “Oooso, ooso, oso…”, until they performed a little dance. Aren’t the bears adorable? They reminded me of the Ewoks from Star Wars actually.oruro carnival ozo The parade lasts for a staggering 20 hours and goes on for over 4km. I just don’t know how the dancers and musicians managed to keep their energy levels so high under the beating sun and at an altitude of 3,700 m above sea level, but they did and managed to cheer on the whole crowd. IMG_7572IMG_7517In the build up to carnival the whole of Bolivia breaks out into water and foam fights and Oruro is no exception. Having been hit by numerous water bombs and foam in Sucre for weeks, I came to Oruro prepared with ammunition in form of canned foam (espuma), because as you can imagine blonde gringas are a prime target. The foam fights were actually hilarious (if you have foam yourself that is – some Spanish tourists in front of me didn’t and they weren’t very amused when they got covered in foam!). I thoroughly enjoyed my endless fight against some Bolivian guys next to me and once we all ran out of foam we shared some beer together – that’s what you call maintaining good diplomatic relations I think. 😉 IMG_7668 IMG_7670

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If you take part in the madness it is great fun!

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Told you that blonde gringas are a prime foam target!

Have you been to Oruro carnival? Would you say yay or nay to a foam fight?

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Note: Very sadly, this year’s festival ended in tragedy when a bridge over the main parade road collapsed resulting in a number of deaths and injuries. However the carnival organisers and participants decided to continue the parade the next day as a tribute to those who lost their lives, including with participation from the band who were most affected as many of their musicians were under the bridge when it collapsed. Our condolences to those who were affected by the tragedy.

About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

38 Thoughts on “Oruro carnival – Fun, Frivolity, and lots of Foam Fights

  1. Great pics! looks like great fun, love South American carnivals!
    The Crowded Planet recently posted…Shobak CastleMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on March 25, 2014 at 4:11 pm said:

      Me too. I grew up in Germany and we have carnival there too, but as you can imagine it is quite different to the South American ones. 🙂

  2. Wow a twenty hour parade, that sounds crazy, the photo opps for this sound fantastic!
    noel recently posted…Airport art in San Francisco,Travel Photo Mondays #37My Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on March 25, 2014 at 4:14 pm said:

      They really are Noel. Sadly because of all the foam I didn’t bring my DSLR camera, but hopefully I still managed to capture the moment with my iPhone and point and shoot camera. 😉

  3. Carnival! Yay! Love the colors and the vibe!
    Corinne recently posted…Singapore’s Signature Dish – The Chili CrabMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on March 25, 2014 at 4:16 pm said:

      Thanks Corinne. I absolutely loved the athmosphere. Everybody, including the participants, had so much fun!

  4. Wow – the costumes and colors are amazing!!
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  5. I have a plan to travel and see all carnivals around the world. This one is also in my list now 😀

    • Tammyonthemove on March 27, 2014 at 12:39 pm said:

      That sounds like an awesome plan. I have only been to carnival Germany, Rio and now Bolivia, but there are so many more places that are supposed to be amazing.

  6. Those are fantastic pictures capturing Carnaval! It looks a lot more put together than what we saw in Banos and Cuenca!
    Emily recently posted…Dune Buggying, Sandboarding and Being Stuck in HuacachinaMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on March 29, 2014 at 8:49 am said:

      Thanks Emily. Yes, Oruro carnival is the second biggest carnival after Rio and they put a lot of effort into it. It definitely shows.

  7. Oh my gosh.. Those little osos! I love them!
    Kelsey recently posted…Spring in Madrid + Blog updates + *Lettr Giveaway*My Profile

  8. I love some of those costume, though on some of them the masks kind of freak me out.. Not sure if I could do the foam party but the festival looks like a blast!
    Taylor recently posted…Grand Canyon Less TraveledMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on March 29, 2014 at 1:45 pm said:

      Yes, some of the masks were a bit spooky actually, especially when they come really close to you when you are trying to take a photo. 🙂

  9. Amazing pictures here. You really captured well how much fun locals were having! It’s such a colorful carnival! I love their costumes and smiley faces!
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  10. Really great pictures! Sounds like a fun place to celebrate Carnival.
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  11. Love all the colorful costumes. Can’t imagine being at a parade for that many hours. However, it seems they make it fun for everyone using foam and water to entertain the crowd. Sounds like you had a blast!

    • Tammyonthemove on March 31, 2014 at 9:20 am said:

      You can actually go for a break whenever you want. Your seats are booked for the whole day. We left a few times for lunch etc.

  12. Wow! The photos are fantastic. The bears as sooo cute! Is it held on fixed date every year, March the 2nd?

    P.S. It’s terrible that the carnival ended with such a tragedy…
    Elena recently posted…Making friends at Monkey Forest in UbudMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on March 31, 2014 at 9:24 am said:

      Thanks Elena! I think carnival each year is on slightly different dates, but always around the same time (Feb-March). All celebrations around the world usually fall on the same weekend though. So Rio carnival and German carnival for example are all at the same weekend.

  13. That looks like so much fun -so colourful! I would love to go and have a foam fight 😀
    Claire recently posted…Those final days in Ghana–Awkward moments and a perfect weekendMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on April 1, 2014 at 3:49 pm said:

      The foam fights are just hilarious. You just need to close your mouth, otherwise it is not very pleasant. 🙂

  14. Looks like a really fun carnival!
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  15. Lovely photos! You can tell that everyone is having great fun and loving it! 🙂
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    • Tammyonthemove on April 3, 2014 at 3:19 pm said:

      The dancers and the people in the crowd all had so much fun. It was such a joy to watch the spectacle.

  16. Love it!! You’re right, it looks very similar to the one I posted about in the south of Colombia. Gotta love those foam fights; I was quite the target too!

    Really love the costumes, especially of the lovely ladies; so colourful and fun!

    I really think it must have something to do with the sunny weather than inspires all these beautiful colours and events! 🙂
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  17. Wow, what fun! Love the shots.
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  18. Wonderful! on October 23, 2015 at 5:02 pm said:

    I really love your photos! The Oruro Carnival 2016 is going to be the next 6th february

  19. Hi Tammy,

    Love your post about the carnival, it looks amazing! I will be in Bolivia for the carnival this year but was wondering where to get the tickets for the parade?
    Also would you recommend any hotel/hostel?

    Thanks!

    • Tammyonthemove on January 11, 2017 at 7:28 am said:

      Hi Dani, we stayed at a friends house, but you can get tickets and hotels through local tour operators. We got ours in Sucre, but you should be able to get them in any other city too. For hotels you can also try HostelBookers or booking.com. Good luck and have fun.

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