Oruro Carnival...
Bolivia's most celebrated festival

Oruro Carnival. Oruro, Bolivia
Oruro Carnival- © Bolivia Travel / Viceministerio de Turismo

In the Andes mountains of western Boliva, in the heart of the Altiplano, Oruro carnival (Carnaval de Oruro) has become Bolivia's most renowned and largest annual celebration.

Its centrepiece and opening dance is La Diablada, or "Dance of the Devils’", an extraordinary parade that showcases demonic dancers in extravagant costumes of unbelievable beauty and quality. It's basically a symbolic dance representing the victory of Good over Evil.

However, the Diablada is only one of the many dances and costumes used during the Carnaval parade, eighteen other types of dances are performed, including Morenada, Potolo, Pujllay, Tinku, Kullawada, Tobas, Caporales, Llamerada, Antawara, Awatiri, Wititi, Intillaqta, Waca Waca, Suri Sikuris, Kantus, Sampoñaris and others.

Lama lama or Diablada is also performed yearly in Puno - Peru - on the shores of Lake Titicaca, as part of the celebration of the Virgin of Candlemas (Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria), where it's known under the name of Diablada Puneña. The origin of this dance is still a matter of dispute between Bolivia and Peru.

The mining town of Oruro - capital of the Department of the same name - is the epicenter of this religious celebration featuring music, dance and crafts, lasting for seven days every year.

The 4km-long entrada (entrance procession) takes place on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday and features 20,000 dancers and 10,000 musicians in 150 bands, so many people that the parade lasts up to 20 hours.

Carnival of Oruro was inscribed by UNESCO in 2008 - originally proclaimed in 2001 - as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. It certainly is one of the most interesting carnivals in America, reflecting indigenous traditions that have shaped the continent as a whole, way before the arrival of Spanish conquistadores.

Oruro Carnival Masks . Oruro, Bolivia
Oruro Carnival Masks - © Bolivia Travel / Viceministerio de Turismo

Called Jururu (Uru Uru) in ancient times, the area that is now Oruro was a religious pilgrimage center of the Andean world for the Uru people. Today's carnival has its origins in the great festival of Ito celebrated by them since pre-Colombian times, over two thousand years ago.

The Spanish forbade the Uru rituals in the 17th century, but they continued disguised as Catholic liturgy. Andean gods were integrated into Christian images, the Andean divinities were worshipped as Catholic saints.

Originally, the celebration revolved around honoring Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Tio Supay (Uncle God of the Mountains). Due to Spanish and Christian influences, Pachamama became a Virgin Mary figure of sorts over time, while Tio Supay basically took on the role of the Devil.

While Bolivia's population follows the Christian faith imposed on them, the most significant religious rituals are still shaped by Andean folklore and ancient pagan gods, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the Carnaval de Oruro, also known as the Devil’s Carnival. It's one of the most important festivals in South America.


- Book at least three month in advance.
- Be prepared for the cold! Allow yourself time to get acclimated to the altitude. Oruro seats at an altitude of 3,709 meters (12,159 feet) above sea level.
- Watch what you drink , chicha hangovers are not the easiest ones.
- Leave your valuables behind.

Find out about how to get to Oruro and where to stay.

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