Plan your Peru vacation to coincide with one of these and you will be treated to a visual symphony of colour and/or energetic traditional dancing in the streets and/or delicious morsels of native cuisine and/or humbling displays of religious fervour. The choice is yours!
Fiesta de la Santa Tierra (Festival of the Sacred Land), Lake Titicaca.
3rd Thursday in January Many tourists take a two-day tour on Lake Titicaca, spending the night on the beautiful Isla Amantaní. If you time your visit right, you may see how the island population splits in two, with one half at the Temple of Pachamama (representing Mother Earth) and the other half at the Temple of Pachatata (representing Father Earth), to pay homage to the bounty of the earth.
Marinera Dance Festival and Contest, in Trujillo
Last week in January The marinera, a flirtatious traditional dance of seduction, originated in Trujillo but this festival sees competitors flock from all over Peru to take part. As well as the colourful dance competitions, there are parades throughout the city and dancing in the Plaza de Armas. Contact a travel professional today, to include this in your Peru vacation packages.
Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria (Festival of the Virgin of Candelaria), Puno
First two weeks in February The Virgin of Candelaria is Puno’s patron saint and, every February, the city comes alive to honour her with a huge, brilliant, flamboyant festival of traditional dancing. The costumes are dazzling, the musicians rambunctious, and the dancers tireless.
Festival Carnavalesco or Carnaval (Carnival), throughout Peru
Begins 40 days before Easter Sunday, so dates change each year Everyone has heard of Rio’s famous Carnaval, but the action gets pretty lively in Peru as well, with Cusco, Puno and Cajamarca all fun places to be. The festival gets underway with the “Day of Compadres”, featuring flowers, paint and water, as well as colourful parades of dancers. Expect to get drenched by water bombs so buy a can or two of spray foam or silly string and join in the fun! This is one of the highlights of the Peru festivals calendar and is a great time to plan Peru vacations.
There is also a traditional aspect to the festivities, a local ritual called the yunsada or yunza, where locals dance around a tree adorned with gifts, before it is ritually cut down. Although this is more common in outlying areas, it can be witnessed in the suburbs of cities like Cusco. And, on the eighth day after Carnival, the octavo, another, even larger procession of dancers is held in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas.
March / April
Festival Internacional de la Vendimia (La Vendimia International Wine Festival), Ica
Second week of March Grapes are grown in the region around Ica – famous for its wine and pisco brandy – so what better reason to have a festival that the grape harvest. Locals celebrate with a parade of colourfully decorated floats, beauty contests, a fair, music festivals and, of course, a plentitude of food and drink.
Senor de los Temblores (Lord of the Earthquakes), Cusco
Monday before Easter, so date changes each year You may be aware that much of Peru is prone to earthquakes. In 1650, a massive quake hit Cusco and the legend goes that the tremors stopped when a painting of Christ was carried around the Plaza de Armas. This miracle is commemorated each year with a solemn procession of an image of the Lord of Earthquakes and the faithful of Cusco.
Semana Santa (Holy week – Easter week), throughout Peru but particularly in Ayacucho and Cusco
Dates change each year An important time of the Peru festivals calendar. Easter is a global Christian celebration, of course, and, in Peru, the celebrations are a curious mix of the international and the traditional, though events show the strong influence of the Spanish colonial era. On Good Friday, unlike the traditional fasting, family and friends gather for a feast of twelve special dishes, twelve for the Twelve Apostles.
In Ayacucho, a city famous for its 33 churches but a rather long bus journey from Cusco, the celebrations are particularly reverential and last for over a week. Ayacucho is internationally acclaimed for its Easter ceremonies, for the devotional processions of effigies of Christ and the Virgin Mother, covered with thousands of lit candles, and for the piety of its people.
Peruvian Paso Horse Festival, Pachacámac, near Lima
15 to 20 April The Peruvian Paso horses are special, quite small but very elegant because their gait is that of a pacer not a galloper. This festival celebrates Peru’s special breed with national competitions in rider-controlled and hand-guided movement. Their grace is complemented by the elegance of their riders and handlers, dressed in flowing ponchos and broad-brimmed sombreros. A beautiful display of heritage and tradition, and an easy Peru vacations add-on from your base in Lima.
Virgen de Chapi Festival (Virgin of Chapi Festival), near Arequipa
1 May Although the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Chapi is located about 45 kilometres from Arequipa, many devout Catholics from throughout Peru undertake a religious pilgrimage to the Sanctuary on foot as a sign of their reverence and devotion. The faithful often walk through the night, carrying beautiful handmade candles to light their way and leave at the shrine. The following day, a replica of the Virgin is processed, and then the faithful celebrate with traditional music and dancing, feasting and fireworks.
Fiesta de las Cruces (Festival of the Crosses), Cusco, Lima and Ica
2 to 4 May This religious festival is celebrated in much of Spain and Hispanic America but, in Peru, indigenous traditions have been assimilated into the Catholic practices. On 2 May, the Day of the Descent, small, portable crosses are taken down from the hills and sanctuaries to the houses of mayordomos, the people who are willing to pay for the festivities and new ‘clothes’ for the Cross. The people feast and enjoy live music until the following morning, when the Cross is dressed in new fineries and taken to a special mass. On the third day, 4 May, called the kacharpari, a farewell mass is held, after which the cross is returned to its normal resting place and more feasting and partying takes place.
Festival Internacional del Cerveza Cusqueña (Cusqueña Beer Festival), Cusco
May / June (dates change) Cusqueña is the local beer of Cusco and every year, in May or June, the brewery sponsors a 3-day international music festival in Cusco. The festival attracts musicians and young people from all over Peru, and often features international artists as well. A great few days on the Peru festivals calendar and hugely popular with locals and tourists alike, the Cusqueña Beer Festival is a fun addition to all Peru vacations.
Carnival in Cusco, Peru
Carnival in Cusco
Christmas Eve in Cusco, Peru
Corpus Christi Cusco, Peru
Corpus Christi in Cusco
Inti Raymi Festival Cusco
Inti Raymi, Cusco
New Years Eve Cusco, Peru
Merry Christmas, Peruvian Santa Clause
Virgen del Carmen in Pisac
Corpus Christi in Cusco
May / June
Señor de Colloritty/Qoyllor Riti (Lord of Qoyllor Riti), near Cusco
Approximately one week before Corpus Christi As many as 10,000 pilgrims take part in this annual event, climbing to the snowline on Mount Ausangate to worship the Apus, the spirits that the indigenous people believe dwell in the mountains. The pilgrimage is a curious mix of traditional and Catholic ceremonies, with performers in costumes representing mythical creatures dancing in veneration of the mountain gods, and some of the more intrepid locals climbing to the mountain’s summit to bring back blocks of ice, to be used as holy water for purification in Catholic ceremonies.
Corpus Christi, Cusco
9th Thursday after Easter The Corpus Christi celebrations in Cusco are a complex blend of Catholic ceremony and Inca tradition, celebrated 60 days after the resurrection of Easter Sunday but also coinciding with the high point of the Inca ceremonial calendar, when crops are being harvested and ceremonies are held to honour the Sun gods and Inca ancestors for their bounty. The Spanish assimilated the Inca tradition of parading the mummified bodies of their ancestors into their Catholic Corpus Christi ceremony, in which fifteen saints and virgins from various parishes in and around the city are paraded through the streets.
Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun), Cusco
24 June (and celebrations throughout the preceding week) Prominent on the Peru festivals calendar this hugely popular, world-famous event is the highlight of the year in Cusco. The festivities re-enact the Inca rites of the winter solstice, starting with early morning ceremonies at the Qorikancha Temple of the Sun, followed by a procession to the Plaza de Armas for further ceremonies, then a full afternoon of rites and dancing at the nearby Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman. Inti Raymi is the culmination of a week of exuberance in Cusco, with daily displays of traditional dancers in vibrant costumes in the central city. During the week before and proceeding the Inti Raymi festival hotel availabilityin Cusco can be particularly difficult, so planning Peru vacations with plenty of anticipation (4-5 months in advance) is advised.
Fiesta de San Pedro y San Pablo (Feast of Saints Peter and Paul), throughout Peru
29 June Although this saints’ day is celebrated with parades throughout Peru, the major celebrations take place near Lima and Chiclayo as these are the patron saints of fishermen and farmers.
Virgen del Carmen (Virgin of Caren), throughout Peru but particularly in Paucartambo and Pisac
15 to 18 July The Virgen del Carmen, the patron saint of the mestizo population, is honoured and celebrated with four days of celebration in the towns of Paucartambo and Pisac, near Cusco. As with most Peruvian celebrations, there are traditional performances by dancers dressed in the most amazing psychedelic costumes, parades through the streets, copious amounts of alcohol and food are consumed, and the loud booms of fireworks fill the night air.
Fiestas Patrias (Peru’s Independence Day), throughout Peru
28 & 29 July Peru’s independence from Spain in 1821 is marked throughout the country by official parades, followed by much merrymaking in the form of parties in homes and restaurants, as well as entertainments like cockfighting, bullfighting and even Peruvian Paso horse exhibitions in some towns.
Andean New Year, Cusco
1 August August is the month dedicated to Pachamama, the Earth Mother. Homage is paid to Pachamama throughout the month, in the form of private offerings of food, drink and some precious items. The most obvious sign that the Andean New Year has begun is the sight of the yellow confetti that is sprinkled around the outside of people’s homes and properties.
Fiesta de Santiago (Festival of St James), Isla Taquile on Lake Titicaca
25 July and 1 & 2 August If you happen to be on the island of Taquile on these dates, you will be treated to vibrant displays of dancing in honour of St James.
Fiesta de Santa Rosa de Lima (Festival of Saint Rose of Lima), throughout Peru but particularly in Lima
30 August As Saint Rose is the patron of the police and armed forces, their personnel take part in solemn processions to honour their patron. The major celebration takes place in the Plaza de Armas in Lima.
Fiesta de la Virgen de Natividad (Festival of the Virgin of the Nativity), throughout the Cusco region but particularly in Chinchero
8 September The Virgin of the Nativity’s special day is celebrated by her devotees carrying her statue through the streets, accompanied by flamboyant dancers and cacophonous musicians. The evening is a haze of eating, drinking and making merry. The most dazzling festivities take place in the small rural town of Chinchero, near Cusco. Discuss your travel plans with a Peru Vacations expert and include a visit to Chinchero during this important time on the Peru festivals calendar.
Senor de Huanca (Lord of Huanca), near Cusco
14 September Although the 14th is the main day, the celebrations at the Sanctuary of the Lord of Huanca last a full week and include an overnight pilgrimage from Cusco, daily masses, self-purification by the faithful in the waters of the spring behind the Sanctuary, and a huge fair where stallholders sell all manner of religious paraphernalia.
International Spring Festival, Trujillo
Last week in September Celebrate the coming of Spring with parades of decorated floats, displays of marinera dancing, and dancing in the streets, in the colourful city of Trujillo.
El Señor de los Milagros (Lord of the Miracles), Lima
18 October To celebrate an image of Christ that survived the devastating 1746 earthquake and many subsequent disasters, both natural and man-made, many thousands of devotees, all dressed in purple, form the largest procession in South America, and parade the depiction of Christ through the streets of Lima for almost 24 hours. Combine this prominent day on the Peru events calendar with a trip south along Peru’s coast and take an over-flight of the mysterious Nazca Lines.
Fiesta del Señor de Luren (Lord of Luren Festival), Ica
3rd week in October As with most other religious celebrations, the wooden image of the crucified Christ of Luren is carried in procession through the city of Ica, in this case from dusk till dawn of the following day. The celebration dates from 1570, when the image was lost while being transported from Lima to Ica, only to reappear in mysterious circumstances.
Todos Santos (All Saints Day) and Dia de los Muertos (All Souls Day), throughout Peru
1 & 2 November These two days honour the saints and the dead, and are commemorated with days of prayers and Masses in churches throughout the country, as well as night-long candle-lit vigils with deceased loved ones in cemeteries. All Saints Day also involves the preparation of special food: bread is baked in the shapes of dolls and horses and taken to the cemeteries, and families feast together on pork.
Puno Week, Puno
1st week in November Coinciding with the Day of the Dead celebrations, Puno holds a festival to celebrate the legendary Manco Cápac, the Inca who supposedly surfaced from Lake Titicaca to found the Inca empire. Thousands join a procession from the lakeside to the town stadium, where the celebration continues with music and dancing and much drinking. Our Peru Vacations team can help combine this fun day with a trip on Lake Titicaca.
Fiesta de la Purisima Concepción (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), throughout Peru
8 December The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is honoured by devotees with parades and processions, special Masses and cultural festivities, and feasts of traditional foods with family members.
Chocolatada, throughout Peru
Throughout the Christmas season The chocolatada is an essential part of Peru’s Christmas celebrations, especially for those who are less well off, from impoverished children to poor pensioners. Churches, charitable organisations, businesses and well-off individuals give cups of hot chocolate and panatone (a type of sweet bread containing dried fruits) to the underprivileged to bring a little Christmas cheer into their lives. Speak with your Peru Vacations representative about how you can be a part of this important time during the Peru events calendar.
Santikuraray (“the selling of the saints”, an artisan’s fair), Cusco
24 December On Christmas Eve, Cusco’s Plaza de Armas is closed to traffic and, instead, filled to bursting with stalls selling all manner of arts and crafts. Stallholders also sell all the ingredients the locals need to make nativity scenes in their homes, from wooden mangers, straw and moss to figurines of the characters who were at the birth of Christ. These nacimientos (nativity scenes) can be found in most homes and churches until 6 January, the date of la Bajada de los Reyes (the arrival of the three wise men), the traditional date for the taking down of Christmas decorations.
Christmas, throughout Peru
25 December Like Christmas around the world, this is a time to be spent eating and drinking, spending time with family and, for the religious, attending Mass in your local church.
New Year’s Eve, throughout Peru
31 December Yellow is the luckiest colour in Peru, so it is traditional to wear yellow underwear on New Year’s Eve and to festoon your home or business with yellow-coloured decorations and flowers. As in many countries around the world, there are parties to welcome in the New Year, in homes, bars and restaurants, and people gather in the main squares to enjoy music and dancing, and to count down the hours, minutes, seconds to midnight, when deafening fireworks announce the beginning of a new year. Our Peru Vacations advisors can help you arrange your trip during this fun time of the Peru events calendar.
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