Most of the events listed below are more traditions than organized events -- there's not, for instance, a Día de los Muertos PR Committee that readily dispenses information. In many cases, I've given a more detailed description of the events listed in the appropriate destination. Beyond that, you can contact the Ecuadorean Tourism Ministry (tel. 02/2507-559; www.vivecuador.com). Your best bet is probably to contact hotels or tour agencies in the destination where the event or festivities take place.
Carnaval (Carnival), nationwide. Public concerts, parades, city fairs, and heavy drinking are all part of the festivities. In many cities, water, egg, and/or flour fights are part of the tradition. The city of Guaranda is particularly famous for its Carnaval celebrations, as are Esmeraldas and Ambato. During the week or so just before the start of Lent.
Holy Week, nationwide. Religious processions are held in cities and towns throughout the country. Quito's Good Friday procession through Old Town is especially large and ornate, with large floats, thick clouds of incense, and numerous devotees, some of whom quite vigorously flagellate themselves. Week before Easter.
Inti Raymi, countrywide. The indigenous peoples of South America have always revered the sun. The Inca have left intact their celebration of the summer solstice, or Inti Raymi. It is celebrated nationwide, but especially throughout the northern Sierra, with Otavalo having the most famous celebrations. In Otavalo, Inti Raymi festivities blend into and overlap with the Catholic celebration of San Juan de Batista (St. John the Baptist) on June 24.
Fiestas de Guayaquil, Guayaquil. The country's largest city throws a large party for itself each July. Wild street parties, concerts, fireworks, and overall festivities last for at least a week on and around the official holiday, although in many ways, this party is merely a prelude to the October celebrations of the city's Independence Day. July 26.
Fiestas de Mama Negra, Latacunga. This generally sleepy central Sierra city comes alive with a vengeance during its celebrations of the Virgen de la Merced (Virgin of Mercy), better known locally as Mama Negra (Black Mama). Each year, Ecuadoreans flock to Latacunga and fill its streets with dancing and parades, fireworks and carnival rides. The festivities are unique in their mixing of indigenous, Spanish, and even African influences. September 23 and 24.
Independencia de Guayaquil (Guayaquil Independence Day), Guayaquil. Some say these are the largest civic parties in the country. Quiteños would probably disagree, but suffice it to say that Ecuador's largest city throws an appropriately large party to celebrate its independence day. Festivities include parades, rodeos, fireworks, and street parties, for several days on either side of the actual date of October 9.
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), countrywide. Ecuadoreans honor their dead with flowers and joyful remembrances. Many head to cemeteries, but the vibe is far from somber. November 2.
Fiestas de Quito, Quito. The capital city pulls out all the stops in early December to commemorate the city's founding. Celebrations last through the first and most of the second week of December. Concerts and street fairs can be found all over the city. Bullfights are held in the Plaza de Toros, with famous bullfighters coming from Spain and Mexico. A general air of celebration pervades the entire city. December 6 is the official date.
Christmas Eve, Cuenca. Obviously, the entire country celebrates Christmas, but the colonial city of Cuenca is famous for its Christmas Eve tradition of holding elaborate parades, with nativity scenes and other religious iconography on massive floats. December 24.
Años Viejos (Old Years), countrywide. In addition to the general debauchery and celebration, New Year's Eve is marked by an interesting tradition throughout Ecuador: Puppets and effigies symbolizing all that is bad or negative from the previous year are constructed, using old rags, sawdust, gunpowder, and fireworks as stuffing. Throughout the night, they sit on doorways and sidewalks. They are set on fire at the stroke of midnight, as part of the celebrations. December 31.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.