The 7 best typical festivals to visit in Peru
Peru celebrates more than 3 thousand festivities a year. Even in the smallest town there is a holiday that invites people to celebrate. Most are celebrated in honor of a patron saint or protective virgin. The origins go back to colonial times and, in some cases like the Inti Raymi, to the same time as the Incas. The most recommended festivities to visit are the carnivals of Cajamarca, the festival of San Juan in the jungle, the grape harvest in Ica, Holy Week in Ayacucho and more. You dare?
Festival of the Virgin of Candelaria in Puno
The Blessed Virgin of Candelaria is one of the most adored religious figures in Peru. Although it is celebrated in almost the entire country, it is in the city of Puno where the festivity shines brightest. There the dances, music, gastronomy and culture of the Aymara and Quechua population are mixed. It is a festivity that mixes western religiosity with the traditions of the original peoples of Puno.
The festival takes place from the 1st to the 14th of February. However, February 2 is the central day. That Sunday, at the Enrique Torres Belón stadium, the typical dance and costume contest is held, where up to 40,000 dancers and 200 musical bands participate. Then throughout the city (especially in the Main Square), massive celebrations are held. . In 2014 the festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria of Puno was registered in the representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
- Date: Every year on February 2 (central day).
- Place: Puno city
The Inti Raymi in Cusco
The Inti Raymi is the main Cusco festivity. Its origins date back to Inca times when Emperor Pachacutec established the Wawa Inti Raymi festival. The date also dates from the Inca period: June 24 when the sun is closest to Earth (winter solstice). The Incas worshiped the sun with religious ceremonies preceded by the Inca. Today, the people of Cusco make a massive representation of this ceremony.
The Inti Raymi takes place in three settings: the Coricancha temple, the Plaza de Armas (Huacaypata) and Sacsayhuaman Access to the first two scenarios is free for everyone. In Sacsayhuaman an entrance ticket is required. The Inti Raymi congregates thousands of people, including foreign tourists. That day is a holiday in all of Cusco. Each staging has a meaning that is related to the Inca ceremony.
- Date: Every year on June 24.
- Place: Cusco City.
Carnivals in Cajamarca
There are carnivals all over Peru. However, in Cajamarca the celebration acquires a different color thanks to the multitude of dancers and musicians dressed in multicolored costumes, exuding joy throughout the city. The event is so big that the city is called ‘Capital of the Peruvian carnival’. The festival lasts from February 3 to 20. However, the central days are February 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22.
There are many activities in the Cajamarca carnival. The contests of couplets, patrillas, allegorical floats stand out, as well as the election of the queen of the carnival. In addition, it is worth noting the burial of the ‘Ño carnavalón’, a colorful person who symbolizes the king of carnival, who directs the celebrations. On the last day he is paraded through the city and buried in the Baños del Inca. To visit Cajamarca on that date, you must make an advance reservation of lodgings.
- Date: The central days go from the 18th to the 22nd of February.
- Place: Cajamarca City
The festival of San Juan in Pucallpa
The festival of San Juan is the most anticipated celebration in the vast Peruvian Amazon. Although it is celebrated in important cities such as Iquitos and Tarapoto, in Pucallpa it acquires more color and ‘jungle flavor’. There they dance, eat and sing with friends around the bonfire where bad memories are thrown out in the form of paper.
The central date of the festival of San Juan is June 24. However, on the night of the 23rd, the ‘Night of San Juan’ takes place with joyful parties throughout the city. The festival is in honor of Saint John the Baptist who baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. In Pucallpa, the residents also like to cool off on the banks of the river. There they participate in the ‘blessed bath’, symbol of the baptism of Jesus by Saint John the Baptist.
- Date: The ‘Night of San Juan’ is celebrated every year on June 23.
- Place: Pucallpa city and the entire jungle of Peru.
Harvest Festival in Ica
The Harvest Festival is the celebration of the grape harvest in the Ica region. It was established in 1958 and, year after year, it gained great value due to the excellent wines and piscos that are produced in the Ica lands. The festival lasts from March 2 to 10. However, the central days are March 10 or 11. March 10 is a holiday in the Ica region for the celebration of the Harvest.
Harvest celebrations are varied. They include marinera contests, horse parades, beauty contests, dance shows, music, and cockfights. On all these days wine and pisco tastings are held. The central day the Queen of the Harvest is chosen and a general festival is held for the population around the ‘yunza’ (tree loaded with sweets, ornaments and gifts).
- Date: The central day is every year on March 10 or 11.
- Place: In the city of Ica as well as in the entire region of the same name.
The festival of the Virgen del Carmen in Paucartambo
The festival in honor of the ‘Mamacha’ del Carmen de Paucartambo is one of the most popular in Cusco and Peru. The celebration takes place between July 15 and 18 with a series of activities in honor of the Virgin. However, the central day is July 16. The religious image of the ‘Patroness of the Mestizos’ has many devotees. In 1985 she was crowned by then Pope John Paul II.
The festival is characterized by comparsas, groups of dancers in multicolored costumes (sometimes masks) who accompany the image of the ‘Mamacha’ del Carmen through the streets of the town of Paucartambo. The saqras (devil) dancers who do risky pirouettes on the roofs of houses are famous. Paucartambo is located 105 kilometers by road from the city of Cusco.
- Date: The central day is every year on July 16.
- Place: In the town of Paucartambo in the Cusco region
Holy Week in Ayacucho
While Holy Week takes place throughout Peru, in Ayacucho it is done with an astonishing display of faith. Its origins date back to colonial times. Today is a multitudinous festivity that shows colonial aspects with the Ayacucho Andean culture. According to the religious calendar, it lasts approximately 10 days. The date is movable, between the end of March or the beginning of April.
Throughout its more than 150 years of history, Holy Week in Ayacucho has more or less the following development: Friday of Dolores, Saturday of Passion, Palm Sunday, Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Encounter Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Friday Holy, Glory Saturday (central day with popular festivities, bonfires of chamizo and parades of the morochucos) as well as Easter Sunday.
- Date: The date varies each year (at the end of March or beginning of April).
- Place: Huamanga city in Ayacucho
By Machupicchu Terra – Last updated, March 15, 2023