Cuzco’s Senor de Huanca festival
is a popular celebration.
Even with terrific natural beauty, ancient Incan ruins and
delicious regional cuisine, one of Peru’s greatest draws is its
culture in particular its cultural festivals. With one look at the
year-round calendar of events and celebrations, the country’s
energy and zest for life is evident.
A celebration can almost always be found somewhere in the
country. The schedule of Peruvian festivals is based largely on the
Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, which dates back to the
country’s indigenous roots in the highland villages, and functions
in conjunction with the agricultural harvest cycle.
Flying into Lima on the first of the National Independence Days,
also known as the Fiestas Patrias, I could not have planned my
immersion into Peruvian festivals any better. The largest of the
fiestas is in Lima, where for several days Peruvians commemorate
the liberation of their country.
I found myself standing on the main street of the Miraflores
district alongside thousands of cheering Peruvians, mesmerized by
impressive floats, flashing lights and choreographed dances, and
swept up in the people’s enthusiastic spirit. The celebration
extended throughout the city, such as in the picturesque district
of Barranco where pisco (the national liquor of Peru) vendors
offered free samples and musicians serenaded the central plaza.
For travelers interested in taking part in the country’s
National Independence Days, a wide range of tour operators offer
packages to Lima, where some of the largest parades take place on
July 28-29. General Tours World Traveler offers a three-day Lima
FreeStyle package with a wide selection of accommodations for
clients to choose from in the city, and the package is good for
travel on almost all dates of the year.
The city of Cuzco, located in the heart of the Sacred Valley
near many famous ancient ruins, also hosts some of the country’s
biggest and best events. With a history dating back to Manco Capac
in the 12th century and in its current role as the link to Machu
Picchu, this city provides the perfect venue for religious, and
On the Monday before Easter, Cuzco’s cobblestone streets and
central Plaza de Armas open to a procession commemorating the
earthquake of 1650.
Also hosted in Cuzco, Inti Raymi is the city’s biggest and most
important festival. Held on June 24, the Festival of the Sun
simultaneously celebrates the winter solstice (the transition of
seasons and shortest day of the year), and the Sun itself, a
prominent god in Incan culture.
The all-day parades and street dances culminate with the
reenactment of the Incan winter-solstice festival, including the
sacrifice of two llamas, just outside the city at the naturalistic
site of Saqsaywaman. People from all around the world come to
participate in this festive, yet reflective, demonstration of
Peruvian culture and living heritage.
Festival-specific vacations include Peru Gateway Travel’s two
Inti Raymi tours, both a six-day and a 12-day package. The six-day
tour starts at $742 per person and includes a Cuzco city tour,
participation in the Inti Raymi celebration and a tour of Machu
Picchu. The 12-day tour includes a shorter Inti Raymi itinerary in
combination with an exploration of Puno, Lake Titicaca and
The tour departs in conjunction with the date of the festival
and includes accommodations, entrance fees, specified meals and
scheduled transportation. Both tourist-and first-class
accommodation options are available.
Outside of Cuzco, thousands of devotees gather for the Senor de
Huanca ceremony every Sept. 14. The annual gathering, known
especially for its large turnout, begins with a four- to six-hour
trek from Cuzco and concludes at the base of beautiful Mount
Pachatusan. Participants, who come from all over Peru and its
neighboring countries, receive a blessing in a culturally sacred
Other notable events on the country’s calendar include the
six-day New Year’s festival in Huancayo; the merriment of the
sample-friendly Wine Festival in southern Ica; the International
Spring Festival in late September in Trujillo; and November’s
costume- and dancing-filled Puno Week near Lake Titicaca.
Well worth planning into your clients’ itineraries, Peru’s
cultural festivals exude a joy that will be remembered long after
your clients go home.