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Argentina & Uruguay Style!

Every January and February, at the very height of South America's hot summer, the nighttime is awakened by an uninhibited celebration of festive color, light and sound. Feather and sequin-adorned dancers, colorful fantastical floats and—over all—an infectious percussive drumbeat that draws spectators lining the streets into the party. Carnival time!

Photographers have long wished for special access to the spectacular Carnival celebrations in the New World. Rio de Janeiro is the largest and best known, but its size and fame create numerous obstacles for photographers—unruly crowds, restricted access, difficult-to-obtain press passes and hours of waiting in long, hot lines.

In Argentina, just to the north of Buenos Aires in Gualeguaychú, one of the world's largest, yet least known, Carnival festivals takes place annually. Here, the exotic beauty and extraordinary creativity of Carnival is safely revealed for our cameras—with VIP access to the glittering pageantry and close proximity to the stunning dancers that is virtually unattainable at the event in Rio!

Floats of dazzling color and otherworldly description reach dizzying heights as tall as multi-storied buildings. Covered with ostentatious fluorescent feathers and blanketed with flowers, the floats are works of art. The costumes of the dancers easily rival the floats! Often handed down from generation to generation and ornamented with up to 2,500 brilliant feathers and an immeasurable amount of sparkling beading—sequins, pearls and stones individually embroidered in place—these "fancy costumes" can weigh up to 175 pounds. It's hard to imagine this much costume could still leave so much skin exposed!

We are in a prime location to photograph to the Afro-Caribbean beat and explosive rhythm of percussion "orchestras" whose increasing tempo drives the dancing troupes into a frenzy of perpetual motion. Giants and ogres, warriors and witches, kings and queens, saints and serpents—all gyrating to the throbbing beat—stream past our cameras in Gualeguaychú's Corsódromo. The hypnotic spell of so much music and movement becomes equally infectious for the surrounding spectators!

Traveling across the Rio de la Plata into Uruguay, equally little-known and surprising Carnival events take place. Street parties or murgas display an electric flamboyance that nearly rivals their Argentine counterpart. Here, in the colonial districts of Montevideo, African heritage is emphasized and freedom from oppressive slavery is celebrated. The drum call of the tambores—an echo of Africa—and the vibrant costumes fill the senses with a rhythm and joy that demands to be photographed. Many of the dance groups come from Brazil to practice here before the Rio Carnival in March. After the parades, the party often continues with the crowds joining the costumed performers to dance in the streets long into the night.

Between the revelry of Carnival celebrations, we devote ample time to scenic subjects. At a cattle estancia, gauchos ride their magnificent horses for iconic images of ranch life. Colonia del Sacramento with its picturesque winding cobblestone streets, the colorful boats along the Paraná River Delta, and the myriad architectural wonders along the narrow walkways of Recoleta Cemetery provide quieter, but photogenic, interludes. And travel to Buenos Aires would not be complete without discovering its heart and soul—the tango. We photograph specially-arranged dancers in the photogenic outdoor backdrop of the city's legendary Tango District. Sinuous and passionate, the alluring movements and dramatic postures of the dancers enthrall our lenses. Each photographer has an opportunity to find that perfect angle to capture the essence of the tango.

The pageantry of Carnival with every bit of the magic, color, artistry and cultural imagery as in Rio—but less commercial and with far easier access for photographers—awaits during a custom-designed Photo Safari to Argentina and Uruguay.

Day 1

Depart from home.

Day 2 (Jan 27)

Arrive in Buenos Aires this morning and enjoy a dayroom at our centrally-located hotel. Depart in early afternoon for Gualeguaychú—about 3 hours away. (An earlier arrival day for relaxation in Buenos Aires is recommended.) (D)

Day 3

We leisurely explore the photogenic resort city of Gualeguaychú—famous for its Carnival and tourist beaches. In the afternoon we visit the "workshops" where Carnival performers, seamstresses and dressers prepare the costumes. After dinner it’s time to visit the Corsódromo, the main street for the colorful parades of Carnival. (BLD)

Day 4

We return to Buenos Aires this morning. After settling into our hotel near the Recoleta District, our base for the next four nights, we visit the Sunday market at San Telmo to photograph street artists and La Boca for tango dancers on colorful Caminito Street. Dinner this evening includes a tango performance! (BLD)

Day 5

We drive a short distance north of Buenos Aires to the gaucho town of San Antonio de Areco. At the old Estancia El Ombú de Areco we photograph gauchos on horseback, folk dancers and other activities, and enjoy a traditional Argentine asado (barbecue) with local wines for lunch. Return to Buenos Aires in the late evening. (BLD)

Day 6

A private boat takes our group into the Paraná River Delta, one of the largest deltas in South America. This is an amazing glimpse of colorful boats and a hidden lifestyle in a little-known aquatic net of channels, rivers and islands. Lunch today is at Los Pecanes Lodge where a variety of colorful hummingbirds congregate at the feeders. We continue our exploration of the delta before returning to Buenos Aires this evening. (BLD)

Day 7

We spend a full day in Buenos Aires, visiting the Congress, Plaza de Mayo, the Rosedal (Rose Garden) and the Recoleta Cemetery—the number one tourist destination in Buenos Aires! Late in the afternoon we walk on the Puerto Madero waterfront and cross the picturesque Woman’s Bridge. (BLD)

Day 8

An early morning ferry takes us across the Rio de la Plata to Colonia—the oldest city in Uruguay. This quaint World Heritage site is much sought-after for its tree-lined plaza, city gate and wooden drawbridge, plus the ruins of a 17th-century convent and the oldest church in Uruguay. In the afternoon we drive to Montevideo. This evening we photograph the parades known as Desfiles de Llamadas. Colorfully-costumed performers playing huge ceremonial drums call the community to the beginning of Carnival. Many of the dances and songs originated with West African slaves brought to Uruguay during the 18th century. Dancing and singing in the streets continues long after the procession. (BLD)

Day 9

A visit to the picturesque Mercado del Puerto, Independence Square and the Old City occupies our morning. We spend the early afternoon at a local winery, tasting some of their fine wines during lunch. The evening is reserved for another opportunity to photograph the Llamadas parades, and to visit several districts within the capital where local groups are known for their colorful street festivals. (BLD)

Day 10

We board a flight to Buenos Aires early this morning; then return to Gualeguaychú for another opportunity to capture the magic of Carnival at the Corsódromo. This day is also a backup day, in case of less than ideal weather at Gualeguaychú on the previous Saturday! We wind up our shoot and drive to our hotel. (BLD)

Day 11 (Feb 5)

We journey back to Buenos Aires. The tour ends at the international airport for flights home. (B)

Day 12

Arrive home.

Tour Details

Jan 26–Feb 6, 2012
$5,395 from Buenos Aires, Argentina

Terms & Conditions

"The Carnival parade was overwhelming; I never imagined it could be so INCREDIBLE on multiple levels and perspectives."
—D. McIver

"The Carnival was an experience of a lifetime—intense, thrilling, something for all the senses. The photography experience left nothing to be desired."
—C. Wilson

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. P.O. Box 655, Vashon Island, Washington USA 98070
Phone: (206) 463-5383 Fax: (206) 463-5484 Email: info@photosafaris.com
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