Like its neighbouring Latin American countries, Ecuador has a wonderfully colourful festival calendar, with all manner of events taking place across the country throughout the year. Each celebration is a unique expression of the rich culture and history, and many are hinged on the strong Roman Catholic beliefs that are so much a part of the people and their daily life. Here we look at four of the best annual events that transform Quito’s already vibrant streets into something wholly unmissable.
Canaval is a national celebration that takes place the week before lent each year. In preparation for 40 days of abstinence, the Ecuadorian’s party with wild abandon and Quito’s already buzzy atmosphere becomes even more alive with the music, food stalls and general jostle. This unbarred festival-atmosphere is widely known for the water fights that ensue; whether you’re a friend, foe or total stranger, expect to be doused by ‘diabillos’ (little devils) throwing a mixture of water, flour, paint and foam on anyone who crosses their path. There’s only one option if you find yourself in Quito during the Carnaval, and that’s to get stuck in to the revelry and enjoy this unique experience (oh, and make sure you don’t wear your favourite clothes).
A relative newbie to Quito’s events listing, the annual Jazz Festival has been running since 2005 and sees the city erupt to the beat of jazz, including blues, soul and funk. People flock from far and wide to celebrate this musical genre by visiting the variety of shows, jam sessions, exhibitions, movies and workshops on offer. The main venue is the beautiful Teatro Nacional Sucre, but you’ll also discover events taking place at indoor and outdoor satellite venues across Quito. It’s a great way to explore the city to the intoxicating sounds of modern jazz and Latin American music.
Fiestos de Quito
Probably one of the most treasured events in the city each year, Fiestos de Quito translates as the ‘Founding of Quito Festival’. As the name would suggest, this long-standing favourite is a colourful reminder of the founding of the city by the Spanish on 6th December 1534. While the festival takes place on the founding day, the build up to 6th December each year is quite phenomenal, with late November dominated by carnivalesque pomp that you could easily mistake for the festival itself. The carnival queen will be selected, and colourful ‘chivas’ (open top buses) make their merry way around the city, complete with music and lively dancing. As a nod to its Spanish founders, you’ll find bull fights at the Plaza de Toros and Flamenco dancers clicking and twisting their way across the streets, as well as DJs, local musicians and spirited block parties. City business may come to a standstill during Fiestos de Quito, but the city itself certainly does not.
A highlight in almost every calendar across the globe, New Year’s Eve is nothing if not an excuse to party – but it can often fall a little short of expectation. Not in Quito. The end of the year in Ecuador’s capital is every inch the effervescent celebration we all dream of. Magnificent firework displays light up the midnight sky, while revellers start burning life-size effigies called Ano Viejos (meaning ‘old year’) which represent people seen to bring negativity to the world. This ritualistic burning tradition is as unique to this bit of the world as eating 12 grapes on the stroke of 12; a mini midnight feast that is only the tail end of an evening stuffed full of delicious food and plentiful drink. Vivacious, weird and wonderful, New Year in Quito is one that sets the bar high.