Uruguay Cowboy Festival at Tacuarembó

Uruguay’s one of those places that rarely makes it to the top of a bucket list. However those who make the effort will be rewarded with a safe, welcoming and above all beautiful destination. Time your visit for March and you’ll be there for the Uruguay cowboy festival at Tacuarembó. Why am I telling you now? The town’s limited accommodation options book up fast. You’ll need to make some reservations well in advance, unless you plan to camp.

Hanging out at the corral. Uruguay cowboy festival
Hanging out at the corral

Uruguay Cowboy Festival – Gauchos, Chaps, Musical Chairs and Ranches

Don’t forget to try Uruguayan Asado

Known locally as the Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha, the festival’s has been going for about thirty years. Gauchos and their families flock to this tiny north Uruguay town, for a week of socialising and activities encompassing all aspects of ranch life. It’s here that you’ll jostle for space at the bar with horses and their riders. Chow down on delicious chorizo and juicy steaks at one of the many pop up asado restaurants. Kids barely young enough to walk command the respect of horses twice their height. That’s hardly a surprise where riding into town might be the only form of transport for those too young for a driving licence.

Chorizo on the grill. Uruguay cowboy festival
Chorizo on the grill

Watch Cowboys in Action at the Festival

All the action takes place around a lake just outside the town centre. Recreations of old-style ranches draw the curious. Myriad market stalls tempt those with cash to splash with traditional knives, leather chaps, soft felt berets and highly polished horse bridles. If you’re the kind of person that likes to dress the part, then it’s possible to buy the whole outfit there and then.

Not even a saddle.Uruguay cowboy festival
Not even a saddle!

Only for the highly skilled – Musical Chairs on Horseback

The highlight of the Uruguay cowboy festival is without a doubt the rodeo, that takes place in the main arena. It’s a chance to hold your breath, whoop and cheer as everyone from seasoned gauchos to teenage girls demonstrate their skill. Bucking broncos tip their riders into the dirt in disgust at their attempts to tame them. Ladies riding in elegant wide skirts reveal a distinct lack of manners, as they weave between barrels and achieve impossibly tight turns. The most fun, for participants and spectators alike, is undoubtedly musical chairs – on horseback.

Check in to a Ranch for a Long Weekend

If a visit to the fiesta leaves you wondering whether you could hack it as a gaucho yourself, then there are a couple of ranches an hour or so out of town. You can test your mettle, at places like Panagea and Yvytu Itaty ranch. Pangaea is anything but a dude ranch, as I soon realised when I checked in for a long weekend. Visitors are expected to muck in – literally. Stay and you’ll be able to join in with ranch activities, such as herding cattle, administering medicine to sick animals and dipping for ticks. It helps if you have basic riding skills, but they’ll teach you to at least walk and trot if not. Boots and helmets are provided and the horses are docile. And after you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll be pleased to learn that the food is hearty and decidedly more-ish ranch fare.

Panagea ranch. Uruguay cowboy festival
Panagea ranch

Whether you’re up for a personal physical challenge, or looking for a tourist-free fiesta well off the beaten track; then this Tacuarembó, Uruguay cowboy festival won’t disappoint.

About JuliaHammond

Website: http://www.juliahammond.co.uk

Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel’s Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt’s Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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