Peru Festivals

The Peru festivals are so numerous that the chances are good that you will come across at least one during your Peru vacation. From the desert coastal region and Andes Mountains down into the Amazon jungle, Peruvian festivals add extra vigor and color to an already rewarding vacation. Every year, some 3,000 Peruvian festivals are celebrated, many of which mix Spanish religious influences with ancient native traditions. Significant agricultural and myth-related Peru festivals are celebrated throughout the highlands and the jungle year round, so depending on the dates of your visits, you will likely have the chance to experience one. Song, dance, drinking and singing are just some of the activities that pervade Peruvian festivals, and in terms of colorful dress and inspired attitudes, these events are among the most interesting in the world. Since there are so many Peru festivals, we will only discuss some of the major ones in this article, but if you are planning a Peru vacation, it is a good idea to examine the festival calendar for your intended destinations.

If you are going to be in Cusco at the end of June, you might want to book accommodations at one of the Cusco hotels well in advance. The second-largest South American festival, after Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Inti Raymi reenacts an Inca ceremony that was intended to pay homage to the Inca gods, most prominently of which figured the sun god, Inti. The first Inca king, Manco Capac, was borne of the sun god and rose from Lake Titicaca to found the Inca Empire at Cusco. In the southern hemisphere, the Winter Solstice occurs between June 21 and June 24, and these days are the shortest of the year. Fearing that their beloved sun might be preparing to abandon them, the Inca organized the Inti Raymi celebration to honor and appease it. This ancient ceremony was eventually stamped out by the Catholic Spanish invaders, but beginning in 1944, actors and native descendants have been putting on an elaborate re-creation in Cusco on June 24. Free to the public, the main Inti Raymi festivities are centered at the ruins of Sacsayhuamán, with concerts and celebrations taking place on the days leading up to and following June 24.

Another of the significant Peru festivals that take place in Cusco is the celebration of Corpus Christi. This celebration begins 60 days after Easter Sunday, thus occurring either in late May or early June, depending on the year. Representatives from nearby churches take part in the main day procession, bearing their patron saints in a Semana Santa like procession bound for the city’s main cathedral. On the eve of the main procession, it is customary to prepare 12 typical dishes, among which figure cuy chiriuchu (guinea pig), cornbread, beer and chicha (fermented corn beverage). Just four hours from Cuzco, one of the more raucous Peruvian festivals is celebrated every July in the town of Paucartambo. 3-5 days of colorful celebrations mark this festival, which pays homage to the Virgen del Carmen. She is the patron saint of the mestizo peoples, and the scary costumes worn by those in attendance are intended to represent the demons that the Virgin of Carmen eventually drives away. If this festival sounds attractive to you, you will also likely enjoy the Peru Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Celebrated the week of Easter (mid-April) throughout Peru, it is one of the main staple religious holidays in any Latin American country. Top Peru cities for Semana Santa include Ayacucho, Chiclayo, Arequipa and Huaraz.

If you don’t mind getting a bit soaked, the February Carnival celebrations in Peru are celebrated throughout Peru with significant fanfare and revelry. During the Peru Carnival, perfect strangers soak each other with water, most often in the form of water balloons and water guns. It is not rare to find yourself the aim of such a liquid assault, and getting mad about it won’t help any, so the idea is to go with the flow, quite literally. The Andean Peru towns are known to throw the liveliest Peru Carnival celebrations, with the northern highlands city of Cajamarca earning special distinction. If you are a fan of song and dance, the January National Marinera Dance Contest is not to be missed in Trujillo. A big part of Peruvian culture, it features a beauty contest, a regal horse display, and the famous dance contest. Some 500 people of all ages perform at the dance contest, with winners claiming the highly sought-after colored handkerchieves.

All Souls Day and Christmas are additional Peru festivals that pertain to religious customs. All Souls Day falls on November 2, and it follows the November 1 All Saints Day celebrations, which culminate along coastal cities with candlelight vigils at local cemeteries. Rather than being somber, the All Saints Day and All Souls Day celebrations are rather jubilant. The village of La Arena, which is found in the northwest coastal department of Piura, is among the most colorful All Souls Day celebrations. Christmas is surely one of the major Peru festivals, perhaps taking the top spot in terms of importance. Christmas in Peru mixes both Spanish and Indian traditions, and as such, colorful processions eventually give way to a more solemn Christmas Eve mass. For residents of Lima, the country’s biggest bull fight of the year might be how they choose to celebrate Christmas. In Cusco, lines of people waiting to buy hot chocolates for needy children is among the Christmas scenes. We have merely just scratched the surface when it comes to Peru festivals, so remember to research them a bit before you go.

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