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Your Guide to Celebrating the Encarnacion Carnival in Paraguay
Saturday 25th January
Saturday 22nd February
- 1 What is the Encarnación Carnival?
- 2 When is the Encarnaceno Carnival?
- 3 Where is the Encarnaceno Carnival?
- 4 What is the history Encarnaceno Carnival?
- 5 Encarnacion Carnival Parades
- 6 Snow Spray Battles
- 7 Sambódromo
- 8 What is allowed inside the Sambadrome
- 9 Encarnaceno Carnival Seating
- 10 Encarnaceno Carnival Tickets
- 11 Safety
- 12 How to get to Encarnacion?
- 13 Where to stay in Encarnacion?
- 14 What to do and see in Encarnacion?
What is the Encarnación Carnival?
The Encarnación Carnival in Paraguay also known as “Corsican incarnate”, is a month-long celebration of music and dance! It is the biggest and best carnival in the entire country and takes place in the city of Encarnación, over five weekends! Each carnival weekend the city comes alive with spectacular parades and partying. This carnival has unified this city for over a 100 years.
Encarnaceno Carnival is Paraguay’s version of Rio Carnival! And just like the emblematic Rio Carnival, this carnival features dazzling samba parades filled with gorgeous Paraguayan dancers, stunning costumes, incredible floats, carnival queens, and plenty of incredible rhythmic dancing.
While the parades are not as big as the ones in Rio, they aren’t so small either with over 300,000 people attending this carnival celebration and is Paraguay’s biggest tourist attraction. So you better believe that they take carnival here very seriously! So seriously in fact, that they even built their own Sambadrome to host the parades.
Encarnaceno Carnival has nothing to envy with Rio, because while it is smaller than, if you are young and looking for a wild party then you may find it more fun. It has a greater audience participation, shows way more skin, is less touristy and is way more affordable and more authentic than Rio.
People from all over Paraguay and tourists from all over the world descend on this magical carnival not only to embrace the cultural and religious significance of this celebration, but to embrace the samba rhythms and stunning costumes. The parades are largely based on Paraguayan traditions that date back centuries. So history is just as important to this carnival as revelry is.
Do not miss this epic carnival celebration! Not only do the locals know how to party but the Paraguayans put on one hell of a show, while they set out to prove that their Carnival is the greatest show on Earth!
When is the Encarnaceno Carnival?
The amazing thing about this carnival is that you get to experience it not once but five times between over five spectacular nights, between January and February! The 2020 dates for the Encarnaceno Carnival are:
- Saturday 25th January
- Saturday 1st February
- Saturday 8th February
- Saturday 15th February
- Saturday 22nd February
The carnival parades at the Sambadrome begin at 9pm on Saturday night and runs until 2 – 3am on Sunday morning.
Where is the Encarnaceno Carnival?
Encarnaceno Carnival takes place in Encarnación, Paraguay. Paraguay is a small country located in the centre of South America and is the hottest country in the continent. Encarnacion is officially known as Nuestra Senora de la Encarnacion de Itapua. It is the capital city of the Department of Itapua. Encarnación calls itself the “Carnival Capital of Paraguay!”
Encarnación is a relaxing city that sits on the Parana River with numerous beaches nested on the banks giving it a distinct seaside feel. The town looks across the river towards Posadas, Argentina and is about 378 kilometres (235 miles) southeast of Paraguay’s capital city Asuncion.
This quaint city might seem like an unlikely candidate to have the title of ‘Carnival Capital’, however every year when carnival rolls around, this laid back city bursts to life with an explosion of carnival spirit, creative energy, music and dance!
What is the history Encarnaceno Carnival?
Carnival here is tied to the Catholic tradition of having a public celebration which takes place before the onset of Christian Lent. Carnival was introduced to South America by the Spanish and Portuguese around the fifteenth century.
Carnival in Paraguay originally started out as private parties and dances that were generally limited to high society. Of course over time the South Americans turned this feast into a huge party, as South Americans know how to do!
After the harsh post-war period, in the ‘70’s carnival in Asunción began to grow more popular. There were lots of parties, parades and dances. When the extension of the Antonio López Railway line to Villarrica in 1886, and then to Encarnación in 1913, carnival was introduced and installed in the city forever.
The first carnival occurred in Encarnación in 1916 because the railway line brought with it European migrants, mainly Italians, who brought with them their many cultural traditions. One of the traditions was carnival as they longed for celebrations like the ones they had back home. The first carnivals in Encarnación only consisted of men on board brightly decorated vehicles.
Carnival parades began to be held in the city and it was during the 1940’s that carnival began to acquire more strength with local carnival groups becoming the main attraction. In the 50s women started to participate in the parades and the dances and costumes started to become more and more exotic.
In the 90’s the Carnival Commission was created with the aim of making this carnival the biggest and best in the country. Carnival in Encarnación continued to grow more popular and the parades became bigger and better with every passing year with the Sambadrome built in 2014 to accommodate the growing interest in the carnival!
Encarnacion Carnival Parades
Exactly like Rio Carnival, the Encarnacion Carnival is a competition that takes place between different clubs and neighbourhood groups who participate. In total there are five troupes that each have 60-80 participants and four floats. During the parade they have an hour to make their access the sambadrome and dazzle the judges and audience.
They are qualified by jurors, depending on their category in which they compete including being queen, ambassador, best float, best troupe, costumes muse or best music band. These groups spend the entire year training and creating floats and costumes for carnival. Make no qualms, these groups are out here to win!
Each group will perform over the five Saturdays during the carnival season. The parades are filled with colourful floats that advance to the rhythm of Samba beats, accompanied by gorgeous Samba dancers in stunning costumes. The parades continue to get bigger, better and more pompous with every passing year!
Bronzed bodies, sparkly sequins, lots of glitter, lots of flesh, peacock feathers, loud music, elaborate floats, muscle bound men performing acrobatic moves, snow fights, beautiful Latinas shaking their hips , raucous partying, lots of alcohol, lots of fun is just some of what you will encounter during these parades.
You will join thousands of excited carefree revellers who descend on the Sambadrome to be entertained and party and the excitement is completely infectious! The Paraguayans definitely know how to have a good time and everyone comes out to celebrate, both the young and old.
Snow Spray Battles
If you are a local in Encarnación, then you will know that carnival in the Sambadrome is all about how many battles you can get into with a can of snow spray. If you don’t have snow spray you might as well go home! Everyone takes part in this from the kids to the grandparents and it makes carnival a more genuine and personal experience! The vibe is one of magic, enthusiasm and happiness!
For safety reasons we totally recommend bringing some eye protection because the snow spray goes everywhere, it’s totally unavoidable! Also considering bringing some face wipes and some comfortable clothing that you don’t mind getting covered. You are not allowed to bring snow spray in from outside the stadium, you can only purchase it once your inside.
The heart and soul of carnival takes place in the Municipal Civic Centre venue, which is also known as the Sambódromo! Just like Rio Carnival this is a custom built stadium has been hosting the carnival parades since 2014. It Is the only one of its kind in Paraguay and the third largest in the world after Rio and Sao Paulo!
The Sambódromo, is located between Gaspar Rodríguez Avenue and Costanera Avenue and, as well as Aquino Street. It has the capacity to seat up to approximately 12,000 people! It is best described as being one of the most outlandish and longest runways in the world!
Down the middle of the Sambadromo is where the carnival tropes strut their stuff. On either side of the runway are the stands that hold thousands of revellers. There is also a carnival museum located here that displays the entire history of carnival in photographs and memorabilia.
What is allowed inside the Sambadrome
- Food is ALLOWED to be brought inside the venue and it can also be purchased inside.
- Drinks are ALLOWED to be brought inside and can also be purchased inside.
- Alcohol is NOT ALLOWED but can be purchased inside the venue.
- Cans of silly string or snow spray are NOT ALLOWED but can be purchased inside.
Encarnaceno Carnival Seating
The sambadrome is essentially a long street with bleachers on either side. There are 6 sections and the seating options are graderia (grandstands), palco bajo (lower box) & palco alto (higher box). The judges’ box is located halfway. The performers make their way slowly from the start to finish with a quick stop at the judges box.
Generally, the cheapest seats are (1) graderia range from 30’000-90’000Gs, (2) palco bajo range from 30’000-100’000Gs and (3) palco alto which are from 30’000-150’000Gs. There are also VIP and premium stands available that are more expensive at around 110 000+ Gs.
Essentially the more central the seats, the higher the price is amongst all seating categories, but a central graderia seat will be much cheaper than a central palco seat.
TIP: If you are looking to have a great view but do not wish to spend too much money (30’000Gs), then we suggest buying tickets in Graderia N°5. If you are willing to spend money then go for a seat in the centre of Graderia N°3 which will cost around 90’000Gs but is worth it for the excellent views!
Below is a map of the Sambodromo:
Encarnaceno Carnival Tickets
One of the greatest aspects of this carnival is that not only do you get to see some awesome entertainment and have the time of your life. But that it also comes at a fraction of the cost of Rio Carnival. In the popular spirit of carnival it is important that all social classes are allowed participation through the accessible prices of tickets. A ticket to the Sambadrome in Rio can set you back upwards of USD $250, but at Encarnaceno Carnival it can cost you as little as $5.
Tickets can be purchased in advance around the city at the Civic Centre’s Ticket offices from 2pm -9pm. Alternatively they can be purchased online through the Paraguay Ticketea Network. We recommend buying online because many buses will arrive on the day of carnival from all over the country and the queues can be quite long and the places already limited.
Encarnacion is one of the safest cities in all of Paraguay, and has an excellent reputation when it comes to safety, at least by South American standards. Carnival here is completely safe in terms of infrastructure and security. Both the National Police and other private security forces police the event.
The biggest concern really is petty thefts. Scammers will often take advantage of large crowds and pick pocketing may occur. So be aware of your belongings at all times or even leave them back at your hotel and only bring some cash Or check out Amazon and invest in one of these travel safety accessories, like a fanny pack hidden under your clothing to store your essentials in.
Of course we still recommend that you exercise caution, be mindful of your environment and use your common sense and don’t wander off after dark.
How to get to Encarnacion?
Paraguay is an enigma, and this also applies to its transport. Transport here is definitely not as up-to-speed as its neighbours and is more back to basics travel, cramped in rundown buses with no air conditioning. Given that Paraguay is South America’s hottest country, you can ensure that this can make for some sweaty and uncomfortable journeys. Renting a car to get yourself around Paraguay can make travel a whole lot easier or you can always take a taxi. For a quote on a car rental you can go here.
Luckily Encarnacion is a transportation hub! The city sits across the Parana River from Posadas city in Argentina so there are plenty of buses making the short trip between those cities. Regular buses also leave to the capital city of Paraguay – Ascuncion, and also to farther afield destinations such as Ciudad del Este or Buenos Aires in Argentina.
Encarnación is also fairly compact and there isn’t much to see outside the centre so the town is easily walkable. There are many relatively frequent Buses and there are also several taxi stands located near the plaza and bus station if you do wish to travel further afield.
Where to stay in Encarnacion?
Accommodation in Encarnación is home to over 74 qualified accommodation options between hotels, inns, hostels and five camping areas. Accommodation in Paraguay will usually amount to the most expensive part of your trip and especially during carnival is when the hotel prices are at their highest. The towns few hostels get booked up quickly and finding a bed at a lower cost than 80’000Gs is a challenge.
Some great accommodation options at every level of budget include:
The city’s population will quadruple during carnival so it is important to book ahead to get the best availability and price! Check out some accommodation deals for Encarnacion here.
What to do and see in Encarnacion?
“Paraguay is shy but playful. If you are open she will cautiously let you in and show you both her style and her beauty.” Ombretta Zanetti.
Paraguay is totally off the South American tourist trail. This landlocked, low profile, off-the-beaten-track country is predominantly untainted and untouched by tourism. Surrounded by its superstar neighbours Brazil and Argentina, Paraguay is often overlooked. But don’t miss this alluring country or you will miss out on an authentic slice of Latin America.
Encarnación is a Paraguayan tourist hotspot and a stand out destination of choice for those that do travel into this beautiful country. Encarnacion is a place where you can go to unwind, relax and just enjoy a day at the river beach.
Encarnacion is a charismatic and vibrant city that is set on the banks of the Parana River. It is bristling with riverside beaches, boutique cafes, artisanal malls, shopping centres, 27 kilometres of waterfront for leisure and sports and excellent restaurants that would not be out of place in any first world city around the globe.
Encarnacion is frequented by Argentinians who often travel from Posadas across the river, because Encarnacion is a popular and cheap shopping destination.
While you are there we recommend that you visit the Costanera which is a great place to walk along the Parana River. This coastal walk gets busy in the evening when the temperatures drop and local families come out to enjoy a safe and pleasant walk.
You can finish your Costanera Walk at the San Jose Beach and enjoy a refreshing dip in the river. This is the main beach in the city and is very clean and safe! There are lots of water activities taking place on this beach and plenty of great restaurants or bars nearby.
You absolutely must visit the Jesuit Mission ruins which for sure will be one of the highlights of your stay in Encarnacion. There are two former Jesuit Missions worth visiting from Encarnacion, the first and more popular one is La Santisima Trinidad de Parana, simply called Trinidad. The second and less visited one is Jesus de Tavarangue.
Both are worth visiting and are located only an hour away by local bus. These ruins are a testament to the Jesuit missions that existed under the Spanish rule in the 17th-century. The Jesuits were sent to convert the indigenous people to Christianity. These sites were given UNESCO World Heritage Status back in 1993. There are a few hundred of them across South America but these are two of the best!
It’s important to note that carnival takes place during summer and that Encarnacion has hot and humid summers. Being the hottest country in South America temperatures can exceed 40 degrees Celsius during the day. So the best time to explore the town or go for a swim in either in the morning or late afternoon.
Check out Viator who have loads of amazing tours! Or if you are lucky enough to have a longer vacation then definitely check out Tour Radar which has lots of different cool itineraries for longer vacations in Paraguay and South America, where you can just enjoy the good life without the hassle!
Don’t forget to follow us @_carnivaland
Before you go!
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