Festivals of Peru

The country’s many cultural festivals make visiting a celebration

By: Marissa Tinloy

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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 raucous, celebrations.

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 Lima.

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 place.

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.


General Tours

Peru Gateway Travel